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End of Term Report – Part 6 14/06/2019

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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27- Christian Kabasele

I have to confess to finding Christian Kabasele hugely frustrating.

This isn’t a long-held belief, an ongoing bugbear.  Indeed, I only realised the depths of my aggravation on sitting down to write this piece and thinking about what to say.  But when you look at it…  at 28, whilst the youngest of our senior centre-half options, he should be at the peak of his powers.  And he is brilliant.  Powerful, dominant, decisive, defiant.  Except…  and here’s the problem…  except when he isn’t.

And the “isn’t” bits are the problem.  Not in that they’re imperfections – heaven knows we’ve all got those.  It’s that they’re seemingly avoidable.  Just bloody brainfarts when he seems to lose focus and do something really stupid.  That’s not lack of ability, a deficiency in terms of acceleration or physical strength or touch that he’s never quite going to overcome.  That’s mental resilience, concentration…  the sending off against Bournemouth one obvious example this season, there have been others.  Avoidable.

Despite which…  to scroll back a few lines…  yes.  He’s great.  Most of the time.  But it’s the fact that it’s only most of the time that means he’s merely spent the last season swapping in and out with Mapps instead of nailing down a starting spot.  But he’s great.  Sorry, Christian. I’ve had a bad day…

Next Season:  With Britos gone and Prödl a strong candidate to follow Kabs will surely face new competition for a starting spot.  If he irons out his lapses in concentration he’ll see such challenges off with ease.  If he doesn’t, he won’t.

29- Étienne Capoue

And as the perfect follow up to that Kabasele piece, here’s Étienne Capoue.  A player who for several years of his Watford career was arguably even more frustrating in his inability to maintain his best form.  Not in quite the same way as Kabs…  his failing a fluctuating intensity rather than wayward concentration.  But frustrating in that when he was good he was so good….

And this season, finally, at the age of 30, we’ve seen Capoue deliver that form not just on a consistent basis but virtually unbroken all through the season.  His monstrous form seemed to develop a momentum all of its own, independent of the rest of the side.  At times when the rest of the team was wobbling Capoue himself seemed propelled along on the crest of a ferocious wave that he wasn’t in control of and was unable to resist even if he’d wanted to.

Part of it is finding his role in the midfield.  Sitting deeper, not breaking into the box as I’d mistakenly believed was his strongest card.  No longer the bloke who’s asked to do whatever job needs doing.  But an absolute monster of a defensive midfielder, simultaneously a rock for opponents to break on, a dynamo howling after possession and a nimble, elegant footballer.  Johnno, Hessie and Micah rolled into one.  For those that remember. Sigh.

Next Season:  Capoue professes to have had the best season of his life.  Can only hope that this continues… there are certainly plenty snapping at his heels if it fails to do so.

37- Roberto Pereyra

The thing with Roberto is that he looks the part.  The Matador gleam in his eye.  The ridiculously showy haircut. The disdainful look.  He’s exactly what an Argentine winger ought to look like.

And a lot of the time he plays like the classic Argentine midfielder in your head.  The times when he floats past opponents like they’re not there.  When he can dummy you off your seat from the other end of the pitch with a drop of the shoulder.  When he flicks the ball over Rui Patricio with the outside of his boot, yawns, stretches, scratches the back of his neck.

A consequence of this is that the times when this doesn’t happen contrast markedly.  The time when he’s merely digging in.  Providing an option. “Being normal”.  It looks… a bit lame in comparison.  Stands out for its mundaneness.

Which isn’t to say that he hasn’t had hot and cold streaks.  It’s rather that his cold streaks aren’t quite as cold as has been suggested in some quarters.  A side like ours doesn’t thrive in mid table with a passenger in midfield.

Next Season:  Persistent rumours of returns to Italy do seem to focus around Torino and that bundle of joy and light Walter Mazzarri.  You rather suspect that if there was truth in the “wanting to be back in Italy” thing it would be more than just Torino that the stories would be discussing.  Assuming he stays, the further competition for wide positions that has been suggested will be no bad thing, but his staying will be no bad thing either.

Javi Gracia

It’s difficult not to simply eulogise at this point, and eulogies do tend to be rather dull so I’ll try to restrain myself.  There’s just so little not to like about this man based on what we see of him.  Humility, but confidence.  A gentle manner, but steel in his eye.  Most of all, an ability to encourage the best out of his players and mould a likeable, effective team that made a mockery of the annual portents of our relegation.  Which will no doubt rock up again come August based on, you know, the cup final and everything.  And be wrong again.

It’s not been perfect, obviously.  The ability to mastermind eye-catching results against the bigger clubs foretold by a track record of such at Málaga was not in evidence for one thing;  three points against the big six, albeit a very fun three points, plus that rather cruelly unrewarded League Cup exit “away” at Spurs was all we managed.  The performances, it could be argued, were better than that though and until the wheels came off a bit at the very end of the season, only at Anfield had we been properly stuffed.

Meanwhile our record against everyone else was by some distance the best of the everyone else.  This isn’t to be taken lightly, even if we did slip into the bottom half at the end.  Much is made of Wolves’ fine record against the big six, “surely relatively straightforward for them to improve their record against the weaker sides, watch them push on”.  Wolves are a very decent team.  But the other side of that coin is that replicating the points they did earn from the same sources is a much taller challenge than our equivalent.

And then there’s the cup, of course.  And yes, we could have had a tougher draw.  Could have played Man City sooner, say.  But there’s a deceptiveness in how easy we made it look.  Winning at St James’ Park, say, is not to be taken for granted.  Standing up to a robust QPR side.  Having the edge over Palace.  Holding our collective nerve against Wolves.  The unfussy shuffling of the pack that made so much of it possible.

We’re lucky to have him.

Next Season:  Javi has made it clear that he’ll return to Spain at some point, but it seems fairly clear that this won’t happen this summer.  He’s linked with the Chelsea job repeatedly (to howls of complaint from those too daft to know a good thing when they see one).  In reality he’s only likely to be offered that job if it becomes too hamstrung by circumstances to attract a flashier name, in which case he’d be stupid to take it and probably wouldn’t.  This gem is surely ours to enjoy for a while yet.  Hurrah.

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Comments»

1. Harefield Hornet - 14/06/2019

Great Stuff – enjoyed all of these reports over the last couple of weeks. On Bobby P – My favorite player and I also find him our most frustrating player – but as you’ve said – only because we all know what he’s capable of, and I get annoyed with his many detractors who sometimes seem to pick on him just for the sake it when things aren’t going well. But he’s our very own Argentine international Hornet for gods sake – and should be cherished as such!

2. Vaughn Smith - 14/06/2019

Well summed up as ever Mr R. However, I’d have to say you’d have to add an essence of Steve Palmer with Johnno, Hessenthaler and Hyde. On this season’s showing, Capoue’s as close to the finest midfielder I’ve ever seen play for Watford in the 41 years I’ve been coming…Roger Joslyn…no…Ray Train…no…Martin Patching (could have been but)…no…Kenny Jackett…yes…the Jackett/Capoue love child – imagine that…

3. Robert Hill - 15/06/2019

Matt, that was a terrific summing up of our season. I liked that you put into perspective our consistency, of not knowing how we will play in the next game. If we can hold on to our main and consistent players we can take another step forward following our 11th placed highest finish in the Premier League. In my thoughts it seems that since we were promoted into the Premier League we have continued to grow and compete with growing confidence. I hang my hat and thanks on Gino and the Pozzo family. I always think back to thank Gino and Father to choose us. For now our club is being well run and thoughtful to our supporters. Long live Gino and the Board and a special thank you to Javi who has been a model of calm and preparation as we’ve gone through the season. Can’t wait to see what is in store in 2019/20. Matt thank you for your measured and accurate game summing. There was not a lot I could dispute, but lots to agree with.

Matt Rowson - 16/06/2019

Thanks Robert 😊

4. Jeff Lloyd - 17/06/2019

Great summary of the season Matt.
We all have our favourites and, erm, unfavourites, and it’s hard to be fully objective when you have these preconceptions and solid views, so kudos on that front.
We have, as detailed in the media, the oldest average age starting line up and it will catch up with us if we don’t recruit in the right places.
A new centre half would be the minimum requirement (maybe 2?).
It’s hard to be ruthless with fan favourites but I can’t say I’m made up to see Mapps in the line up on any given matchday despite the fact that he always gives it his best and is never flashy and rarely gets shredded.
I’ve much preferred Janmaat at RB to Kiko – I think his delivery on the run is way superior to KF and has a greater scoring threat but he seems to have slipped down the pecking order (KF more versatile maybe?).
Onwards and upwards!

Matt Rowson - 18/06/2019

Kiko is quicker, and I don’t think there’s much in the way of quick outlets in the team. That decides it for me.


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