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End of Term Report Part 7 11/06/2018

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

30- Orestis Karnezis

Orestis Karnezis is an experienced goalkeeper.   He’s played over 100 games in Serie A for Udinese, and been capped 49 times by Greece including all four of the national side’s games at the World Cup Finals four years ago.  His Watford career has not been unremarkable, beginning as it did with a cataclysmic collapse at Goodison and proceeding, two months later, with Karnezis replacing the initially injured Heurelho Gomes for the last three months of the season up until the final day.  In the bulk of his performances – following the disaster at Everton – Karnezis looked extremely competent,  unflashy, occasionally outstanding.  A more than adequate performance by a loan signing and nominally a back-up keeper.

And yet.  And yet…  he’s a bit like the contractor in the office who nobody bothered to introduce you to.  You nod as you pass each other in the corridor but he leaves no lasting impression and I doubt many Watford fans would recognise him if they passed him in the street.

Next Season:  …and to be fair, the professional indifference seems to be mutual, with Karnezis reportedly courting a move back to his native Greece.  Good luck to him, whoever he was.

33- Stefano Okaka

A very odd season for Stefano Okaka, who scored what was to be his only goal of the campaign with a fine header eight minutes into it and was immediately dropped as Marco Silva ummed and ahhed between Troy and Andre Gray.  Okaka was afforded one minute (plus injury time) in the bedlam at Goodison Park over the next four months and whilst used more frequently by Javi Gracia he nonetheless only started three games throughout the campaign.

The problem with Stefano is not that there are things that he’s not good at.  The same is true of all strikers to varying degrees.  The problem is that he doesn’t deliver on the things he IS good at with anything like sufficient reliability.  So… you want him to be roughing people up, to be charging after possession, to be attacking the near post and he has done all of these things but he has also all too regularly not done all of these things and a mardy so-and-so who isn’t delivering is far less endearing than one who is.

Next Season:   Perhaps a year later than might have been ideal for all concerned, it seems likely that Stefano will be heading off to play his football elsewhere next season..

37- Roberto Pereyra

Whilst Roberto Pereyra’s second season at Vicarage Road saw him play a lot more football than his injury-hit first, you feel that we still haven’t seen the best of Roberto Pereyra.  Twice during the season he has played himself into quite magnificent form, twice seen it interrupted by first a (relatively brief) injury and then by the end of the season.

In between there’s been quite a lot of Roberto playing pretty well – and hell, an Argentinian international, a player of this quality playing pretty well is still a fine thing.  But just… a little bit within himself, a little bit contained.   Not lazy, not indifferent, he’s a hard-working guy just…  not bold enough, not nasty enough, not in charge enough.

Because when he’s that good he really is that good.  At Stamford Bridge it was Pereyra that flayed Chelsea’s defence, absolutely irrepressible before departing with injury after 65 minutes with the Hornets 2-1 up.  In the last home game of the season he was aflame again with a mischievous performance scoring the opener and setting up the second.  Would just be nice to see him take a game between his jaws a little more often.

Next Season:  An area of the team where there’s all manner of competition, Bobby’s versatility should guarantee he’s near the top of the pile.

Marco Silva

Really, there’s not an awful lot left to be said that hasn’t been said before, but let’s say it all again anyway.

Marco Silva seemed to be a bit of a coup when he arrived in Hertfordshire last summer.  There were early warning signs when he publicly objected to the loan of Nordin Amrabat to Leganes despite, one assumes, being both fully aware and informed of the lay of the land and the extent of his influence on transfer dealings when he got here.  Nonetheless, we started the season in fine form playing positive assertive football and losing only two of our opening ten games – one, spectacularly to Man City and the other, the tenth, at Stamford Bridge having put Chelsea to the sword for much of the game.  The same run yielded six points from goals scored in dying minutes via draws with Liverpool and West Brom and late winners over Swansea and Arsenal.

And then things went wrong.  It’s tempting to remember Everton as the game where everything pivoted;  actually the Stoke defeat the previous week had been a miserable affair, the only away win the Potters would earn before Swansea on the final day.  It’s beyond dispute, however, that Everton’s approach negatively impacted our season;  you could argue that this was always a risk with a coup like this, that he would move on again very quickly if his stock held but…. surely not this quickly.  Not unless he was mercenary enough to want to walk away from a contract he’d only signed ten games earlier.

But other factors were at play also.  Silva’s high intensity game yielded thrilling results but demanded a lot of the players, and there was evidence of fatigue as early as October, particularly from Richarlíson who had played for a long time without a break.  I’d contest that the wheels would have come off in any case had Everton not made an approach, in part reflecting injuries to key men such as Nathaniel Chalobah, in part reflecting over-reliance on some other members of the squad and limited rotation, in part, frankly, reflecting Marco Silva’s inability to apply corrective action.  Rather surprising that in a situation where Silva appeared to retain the favour of much of the squad and, to a degree, the support (if not the boardroom) he wasn’t able to coax more than three league wins out of his final sixteen in charge. The more cautionary assessments of his time at Hull had suggested that the apparently lost cause before he arrived cast a favourable glow on all that he achieved. Undeniably, the end to the Tigers’ season in which they won one – against the Hornets – and lost five of the final seven suggesting an inability to right the ship or to manage his preferred intensity over a prolonged period sound familiar, albeit in a different context.

Next Season:   Silva’s departure was inevitable, perhaps the more so given how things have transpired over the summer.  Watford’s peevishness in the light of his departure was both unseemly and completely understandable.  It’s quite possible that the growing list of Hornets being linked with Everton is mere paper talk, but if it has any validity it reflects poorly on Silva’s judgement – both in terms of how strong he believes his new hand is, and in the narrow focus of the players on his shopping list.  Everton’s visit to Vicarage Road won’t be for the faint hearted.

Javi Gracia

It perhaps says a lot how little it’s possible to say. That despite Javi Gracia having presided over three and a half months’ worth of games, the majority of which I was able to see, I’ve not got a clear picture in my head.  Not of his style, not of how “good” he is.  Certainly his approach seems more conservative than Silva’s, albeit that the switch from the enterprising back three with wing-backs to the more solid back four had first been implemented by Silva after the Huddersfield debacle in December.    Certainly he brought stability and a degree of conviction to a side which had precious little when he took over, and his achievement in that regard shouldn’t be taken for granted.  He also oversaw that magnificent win over Chelsea, giving credence to a reputation earned in Spain for upsetting more exalted opposition.

The cause for concern is of course that we only won three more games thereafter, and only one of them in the closing nine from mid-March onwards.  So…he’s more likeable than his predecessor, he says the right things, and he kept us up, something which didn’t look a given when he took over despite our good start.  But the jury’s still out.

Next Season:  A proper pre-season to implement his requirements – something which, as players have pointed out, no Watford manager has had since Gianfranco Zola in 2013 – and a running start rather than the firefighting after his appointment provide a more reasonable basis to assess Gracia.   That rumours of his departure this summer after only a few months didn’t turn out to be accurate doesn’t mean that his position will be secure if we don’t start well.

* * *

That’s it.  Thanks for bearing with this series and enjoy the World Cup…  if I can get my act together we’ll be back with the Season Preview in early August.


1. Jeff Lloyd - 11/06/2018

Have enjoyed this review – great work.

Interesting about Karnezis. When I mentioned his name in the office to my Chelsea-supporting colleague he furrowed his brow and said ‘wouldn’t be able to pick him out of a line-up’ before I’d read your words 🙂

What his performances did highlight was how atrocious Gomes’ kicking is. Karnezis’ ability to ping a pass actually towards someone, rather than a giant banana-ing looping Gomes clearance was very refreshing. But, and this is the real heart of it for me, I didn’t ever think Karnezis would pull off miraculous saves, whereas I did think that of Gomes. I’d love us to buy a mid 20s already-decent keeper who wants to stay forever and be a legend. Don’t we all.

Okaka was the season’s nearly man. His ability to take a clearance on his chest whilst covered by defenders is unrivalled in the league. But his propensity to give away fouls by being a big lump was also unrivalled.

The best revenge we could serve on Marco Silva would be to ‘reluctantly’ sell Richarlison to him for £40m.


2. Robert Hill - 11/06/2018

I think Richarlison will very much come good this season. Let’s remember that he had been playing continuously for a very long time as the season in Brazil is virtually opposite to ours. Now with that rest and support from Gomes, I’m hoping that he has settled with us and that Silva is not the only person he can now rely on.

Silva has been a snake and will only look after himself. Nothing wrong with that until another more dangerous snake comes along and bites you. Moshiri will not be an easy man to please and can have massive venom. We will see how long Silva can last in a very hot seat indeed.

I hope everyone gets supportive for Javi Gracia now. He has displayed calm and has been an assured man and with a pre season with the players I believe he can really turn us around. There were definite good signs towards the end of the season. If he can manage to get the players buy in and play as a team, I think with one or two quality signings we could be a surprise next season, and include a double over that Everton mob, who think they can bully anyone insight.

reg - 11/06/2018

I agree with your comment about Richarlison, I would not want us to sell him for any price I think he can be that good, remember that before Brazil played in their friendly at Wembley there was talk of him being in their squad, if he recaptures his best form on a consistent basis he will become worth far more than £40m if selling players is your thing which we don’t need to do any more because of the tv money, and yes keep Gomes to mentor him and be our number 1 or number 2 goalkeeper and a generally positive influence around the place.

3. Edmund Johnson - 11/06/2018

I’ve been reading bHappy and BSaD for many years without ever commenting. I just realised I’ve been kinda taking it for granted. So I just wanted to say a huge thank you to the team for all the brilliant content over the years! As an exile in the South West I don’t get to many games, but when I do, I feel like I’m completely up to speed because of you good folks. Much appreciation and respect.

Matt Rowson - 11/06/2018

Thanks Edmund 🙂

4. Ian Lay - 11/06/2018

As always Matt a scintillating read. I don’t comment much these days but I still read all the articles.

Matt Rowson - 11/06/2018

Thanks mate, long time no see…

5. David Nelson - 12/06/2018

Terrific as usual, many thanks.

Matt Rowson - 12/06/2018

Thx David 🙂

6. Jeff Lloyd - 12/06/2018

I’d liken Richarlison’s season to Ighalo’s final season in many respects. For the first half he was unpredictable, different and hard to play against. Once the return fixtures came round he was no longer a surprise package and generally toothless.. That description really could be about either player.

Matt Rowson - 12/06/2018

Think it might be a bit more complicated than that wit Richarlíson, tho I accept the description of Ighalo’s trajectory. Lots of other factors (potentially) at play.

7. David Wheatley - 12/06/2018

Fascinating reviews Matt, thank you.

I personally enjoyed the 2018/19 season more than the previous two, despite the genuine lows of the home defeats by Stoke and Huddersfield.

The home wins/draws against Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Bournemouth, Spurs and West Ham coupled with the relief/satisfaction of the results against Leicester, West Brom, Brighton, Everton, Palace, Newcastle and Southampton were more than enough fun. I also enjoyed the games against the two Manchester clubs and even Burnley where I saw enough to convince me that Gracia was having a positive influence.

I think that leaves 1 home game that falls into the “meh” category; Swansea at home where but for 3 individual errors, (one goal we should have scored and 2 defensive mistakes) we could have collected 3 points.

Matt, can you be encouraged to pen a few thunks on the very likeable England team?

Matt Rowson - 12/06/2018

Thanks David. Ummm…. no, sorry, outside the remit of this site I think. Very much looking forward to the whole thing tho, albeit that so many games are in work time. Priority for deciding future tournament hosts should surely be timezones that facilitate kickoffs between, say, 5.30pm and 10pm (tho I guess Brazil was reasonable in that regard. Greenland maybe?). Saturday, with four games nose to tail, should be particularly fun. My place on the sofa is reserved.

8. David Wheatley - 12/06/2018

I agree with your polemic on the time zones although there is something special about “staying up late” to watch international sport. Those countries to the west (apart from the USA obviously) are all good with me.

Matt Rowson - 12/06/2018

True enough. Fond memories of bartering with my parents for the right to stay up and watch silly o clock kickoffs during Mexico 86….

9. Old Git - 12/06/2018

Enjoyably thoughtful insights, Matt. However, am I the only BHappy reader who will not be enjoying the World Cup? And it’s not just because of that stupid and irritating BBC trailer. For me, this grotesque and bloated spectacle of corporate greed, obesity peddling sponsors, political posturing and shameless corruption (Russia? Qatar? FFS) is nothing to do with the values of a sport I grew up with.

Matt Rowson - 12/06/2018

Qatar, yes. Russia… less clear cut.

David Davies - 15/06/2018

I agree with your sentiments.Even more so when the 2026 competition is awarded to the team who can deliver the biggest profit to FIFA.

10. Old Git - 12/06/2018

Well, Matt, leaving aside the fact that Victor Mutko, who has been banned for life by the IOC for overseeing the Russian doping at various Olympic Games, has since been given overall control of this year’s World Cup, I suppose it is less clear cut.

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