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End of Term Report – Part 2 30/05/2019

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

6- Adrian Mariappa

There’s a popular line of argument which goes something along the lines of “if Aidy Mariappa’s our first choice centre back, there’s something wrong”.  It was expressed vociferously and at some length in a pub in Brighton. Not by me. You know who you are. There’s the curio about Mapps and Cathcart having been our centre back partnership ten years ago against Scunthorpe in the second tier and so surely there’s a problem, how can they still be our first choice pairing in the top flight?  This misses several points of course, principally that they were then 23 and 20 respectively, one of them on loan from Manchester United, the other already having captained the side and embarking on his record-breaking run of consecutive starts.  They were good young defenders then, they’re good defenders now with ten years more experience.

Nonetheless.  If there’s an area of the side that needs re-enforcing…  bearing in mind that we had the oldest side in the Premier League last season and all four of our five senior centre backs were over 30 (the other, Christian Kabasele, a youngster at 28)… it’s the middle of the defence.

You’d still have Mapps tho.  You’d always have Mapps, as an option.  Versatile, a leader, he rejoined the club nominally sixth choice and worked his way up… but isn’t one who’d throw a paddy about not starting. Defensively he’s one of those who’s better when he’s busy, better when he doesn’t have time to think.  A David James of his generation.  Kinda.  But nonetheless. A Watford legend.

Next Season:  There or thereabouts, thirteen years after his Premier League debut.

7- Gerard Deulofeu

I think I’ve probably been unfair on Gerard Deulofeu.

After all, he’s our leading scorer despite only kind of being a striker but not really.  He’s extravagantly talented, and a big game player – that semi final performance was the stuff of legend.  Frighteningly quick but… more than that.  Gone are the days when we couldn’t attract or retain players that were quick and something else useful too.

Then there’s the fact that he’s here at all.  This is a guy who was brought up in the rare surroundings of Barcelona, who has played and impressed for Milan.  OK, so he’s slummed it at Everton for a bit but… nonetheless.  This isn’t the sort of player we should expect to be signing for Watford.  That he chose to, that he wanted to play for us rather than, probably, not play for Barcelona say speaks volumes for his lack of pretension and level headedness.

So what’s the problem?  Perhaps it’s years of conditioning to appreciate the grafter, the trier.  And it’s not that Gerry doesn’t try, he’s not lazy.  But he has been guilty of not raising his game for every encounter.

Then there’s quite what you do with him.  He’s too good not to be involved but… the end product isn’t quite there as a winger despite his pace, and yet he’s not really a striker either.  In a sense he reminds you of Tommy Smith – albeit of a more refined standard – in that Smith was never obviously one or the other for different reasons.

Next Season:  Such is his ability that clubs with deeper pockets would be remiss not to be testing the water.  That’s why there are four years left on his contract (well done Gino/Scott.  Again.).  Meanwhile, just as Smith became a better player as he got older and cleverer there are signs of the same from Gerry.  He’s a privilege for as long as we have him.

8- Tom Cleverley

It was always going to be a tough season for Tom.  All but a year out through injury is enough on its own… then you’ve got to come back into a high intensity area of the team, an area where we are arguably most overladen with talent and work your way back into contention despite lack of pre-season, despite a year’s rustiness.

Despite which – and bearing in mind that for obvious reasons, as well as an unfortunate calf injury late on, he only started four Premier League games – he did well.  Always a force for good – ten minutes just calming everything down against Everton case in point – the undoubted highlight was that special winner at Selhurst Park in a fixture that had seen him sent off the previous season.

Next Season:   On the back of a pre-season, and despite the competition in the middle of the park, you’d hope and expect to see a lot more of Tom.  Like Ben Foster and Aidy Mariappa, old hands brought back to the club since promotion, he’s a leader, a bloke you root for, and a good guy to have around. The only concern is whether the need to create space for Chalobah, Quina, Wilmot might count against him… nonetheless, you’d be loathe to give hm up.

9- Troy Deeney

Kevin Affleck has made this point more eloquently than I could… but that penalty.  That penalty.  Goal of the Season for me, despite the outrageous impudence that preceded it and the flowing, cathartic, decisive finish that was to follow.  That penalty.  So much that is good about Troy Deeney in the space of five minutes… showing for something, fighting for something and then… leadership.  Single mindedness.  Just breathtaking nerve, even in hindsight, even knowing how it would shake up.  Then…  the ability to kick the ball really hard and celebrate like your head’s going to explode.

There are less good things, obvs.  The whole Arsenal thing is getting a little bit tiresome, the occasional inability to contain his intensity, the occasional silly decision.

Not the candour.  Not the saying what he thinks thing.  Heaven knows if any of us said everything we thought we’d be in trouble, without being under the spotlight like Troy but… you can’t take that out of him and still have Troy.  And frankly I’d rather have Troy.

Next Season:  In what is surely a testimonial season (?) Troy will take some shifting.  He’s not the best player in the team, but as the miserable run without him demonstrated he’s the least disposable.


1. JohnF - 31/05/2019

Good considered analysis Matt. Mapps has done remarkably, or should I say unexpectedly, well but he does struggle on occasion in trying to be constructive when row z would be the best option. I have to say he isn’t the only one. Next season I’m sure that we will have a strengthened defence in which he will have a part to play.

I do think we have missed Tom Cleverley this season because when he is fit he brings something of a right-footed Hughes option, winning the ball back, and he does help to protect the defence.

I sometimes wonder if Troy might drop back into defence eventually to extend his playing life as he isn’t a bad defender. He wouldn’t be the first centre forward to make the transition.

2. Keith endean - 31/05/2019

Tommy Smith in the next line to me at Wembley.

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