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End of Term Report 2020 – Part 1 03/08/2020

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

1- Heurelho Gomes

Heurelho Gomes, baby.

Here’s the thing.  Heurelho Gomes has played in one Premier League game since January 2018. In 2018/19 he was a prominent figure in our FA Cup run, but this season his on-pitch role was restricted to the League Cup.  In a way his role has been a bit like Steve Sherwood’s under Tony Coton in the eighties, a relic of a previous era.

And yet.  And yet.  When it was all finished.  After the frustration of the post-lockdown performances, the unwanted and bitter spotlight offered by Pearson’s sacking, the hand-wringing and outrage as we fumbled our fate  and left it in others’ hands, after the final whistle at Arsenal, after all of that there was Gomes in tears.  And suddenly, for me, perspective changed.  The performances were no less awful, our relegation no less miserable.  But I was no longer looking at the team in frustration, with anger at having been let down.

Certainly we could have, should have been better.  But these were the same guys who a year ago were celebrating surely the most successful Watford season in thirty years, being heralded as perhaps the best Watford squad of all time.  Seven of those that played at Arsenal played in the Cup Semi Final against Wolves.  Things haven’t gone well since, the lustre has tarnished, plenty have underperformed, the team has underperformed.  But these are still our guys.  Don’t look at those pics of Gomes in tears and tell me they’re all a disgrace, that they’ve all let us down.  I’ve had days, weeks, at work when I’ve been a bit shit too, frankly.  Fortunately those who govern my fortunes aren’t as fickle and merciless as football supporters.

Heurelho Gomes was once a very good goalkeeper.  With the passing of years he’s probably not at that level any more (though it’s hard to judge…).  He remains a tremendous bloke, quite obviously a credit to the club and a guy who everyone benefits from being around.  One of us.

Next Season:  Seems that it’s really it this time, although there had been rumour of a further extension being offered.  If that had happened the club would have been all the better for it.   As it is Gomes deserves to leave with overflowing credit in the bank.  Obrigado, Heurelho.

2- Daryl Janmaat

I think we missed Daryl Janmaat this season.  His Watford career has been relatively low key really – rarely singled out for praise or criticism particularly.  But whilst he’s been fallible at right-back – like Kiko, he tends to prefer going forwards than backwards – he’s a solid option and a strong character.

In the first half of the season, before picking up the injury at Norwich that would ultimately curtail his campaign, he was one of the few players to perform at a consistently high level.  Of the nine games he featured in only two – Wolves away and Chelsea at home – ended in defeat.  There’s a bloody-mindedness in him that was painfully lacking in the squad elsewhere in the season, that would have been useful, and his fine cross to set up Doucs at Spurs was one of precious few from the full-back positions.

Next Season:  With Kiko seemingly looking to head back to Spain and some doubts over his fitness following injury there are reasons to believe Janmaat might stick around.  He was notoriously less than enamoured at dropping to the Championship with Newcastle in 2016 however, has often been quoted as hankering after a return to the Netherlands and as an older and slightly injury-prone option might be another that gets shipped quietly out.  I think that would be a shame.

4- Craig Dawson

It concerns me when defenders are conspicuous.  This isn’t entirely rational…  a defender can be both outstanding and conspicuous, or can be conspicuous for if not positive then certainly entertaining reasons (hello José).  But a defender who is conspicuous on both his good days and his bad days feels like a risk, and Dawson falls into that category.

Where any assessment of Dawson is harsh is that he suffers from having only been associated with the club for one bad season without it being reasonable to hold him accountable for it.  He’s not drastically inferior to Cathcart or Kabs overall, but he’s never been associated with a successful Watford side and therefore doesn’t have the brownie points to trade off.  This isn’t necessarily insurmountable in itself…  in 1987 Mark Morris was brought in by Dave Bassett, asked to lumber around midfield for a bit and bore the brunt, along with Trevor Senior and his manager, for the realisation that we weren’t good any more but ended up finishing second behind McClelland in the player of the season ranking having switched back to his natural central defensive role.

Dawson comes across as a decent bloke and is certainly a potent and intimidating attacking weapon at set pieces.  He occasionally looks ponderous in defence however, as if his concentration goes every now and then, and that’s not a winning attribute.

Next Season:  Like Cathcart and Kabs he’s signed to a long-term deal, but is probably the likeliest of the three to move on after a difficult first year.

5- Sebastian Prödl

Yes, I know.  But it seemed wrong to forget about Seb’s departure and not book-end his Watford career which ended formally in January more than eighteen months after he’d last managed a full ninety minutes in the Premier League.  There’s your issue, really.  There’s no question that a reliable Seb would have been a useful thing this season, a season when leadership at the back has been so lacking.  Indeed his Premier League involvement this year told the same story, brought into the first team by Quique having been largely unused by Javí he looked terrific at the heart of a three-man back line in a formation that neutralised Sheffield United, and then hobbled off injured just before the hour mark.  His last appearance was in the League Cup defeat at Goodison three weeks later.  This time he lasted 65 minutes.

So, a fit and reliable Seb would have been an asset.  He hasn’t seemed to be able to stay fit, though, and he’s the sort of bloke who needed to be playing to stay match sharp in any case.  He was never going to be the sort of bloke who’d be handy off the bench.

Next Season:  Seb signed an eighteen month contract with Udinese within a week of leaving Vicarage Road.  He’s yet to feature for their first team.

6- Adrian Mariappa

I don’t really get that there’s any debate about Adrian Mariappa.  Had we remained in the Premier League… there might have been an argument that he’s no longer of the required standard.  But only might have been.  The issue with Mapps has never really been Mapps, it’s been that the paucity of options has left him more prominent and more involved than might have been ideal.  Even then, what’s not to like about a player who is home grown, has been involved in however many promotions, however many cup runs, lead by example, captained the side at however many levels and – here’s the clincher – re-signed for the Hornets four years ago expecting to play a back up role.

Someone prepared to play a back-up role who is versatile, home grown, a great influence and utterly competent is an asset.  The more so after what is likely to be a turbulent summer, you need some kind of constant.  It’s eight years since Mapps played in the Championship and he was 25 then not 33, but looked a class above the rest of the side in Sean Dyche’s season.  I’d keep him, no question.

Next Season: Given that Mapps’ contract extension expired on Friday we’re likely to learn about the lay of the land here sooner rather than later.  What happens here might depend on the futures of other defenders, several of whom as above have long contracts but Mapps is a leader, and an asset.



1. johnsamways28 - 03/08/2020

Your comments about each of these players, Matt, illustrate beautifully your gift of seeing the ‘bigger picture’ rather than allowing your views to shaped by initial reactions. It is this gift which is acknowledged match after match and, importantly, is one laid before us as we all ponder the uncertainties of the coming months (on and off the field!). If ever there was a time for all of us to recognise the value of measured judgements, in all realms of life, it is right now!

I’m glad you’re not responsible selecting the team each week, leaving a ‘gap’ at the back would prove costly – especially No 3(!) ……. otherwise, totally spot-on about the other players, all are good men who brought qualities which benefited the Club > their limitations.

Keep up the good work – thank you.

Matt Rowson - 03/08/2020

Very kind John, many thanks. But the lack of no 3 was a deliberate omission – these are shirt numbers, and we didn’t have a #3 this season !

johnsamways28 - 03/08/2020

So very apt, Matt, when every match (bar one?) a player or three ‘went missing’! Now that would be an interesting reflection on each match – who went missing? I wonder who would win the ‘trophy’?

2. Stephen Simmons - 03/08/2020

Matt taps into emotional aspects of our players, which tends to be a rarity in these days of money means everything. In an emotional game supported by emotional fans that is relevant and something we seem to have lost in recent times.

3. Jeff Lloyd - 03/08/2020

Mapps is the biggest emotional rollercoaster for me. Like you, I see all those great aspects (home grown, versatile etc) but…whenever he’s been introduced in the past couple of seasons (less so when starts) it NEVER bodes well. Need to close out a game (something we’ve not been good at for years) call for Mapps?
Janmaat has been one of my favourite WFC players since he joined. His delivery is first class and he’s often a goal threat. Neither are particularly applicable to Kiko. I hope he stays.

Jez Fayerman - 03/08/2020

I don’t really agree with this. You would think Maps is 4/5/6th choice centre back and 3/4th choice full-back – possibly a useful bench option in terms of versatility…and yet the team usually seems better with him in it – even if the stats don’t show why (in terms of passing/tackling etc). Witness the second half at West Ham for example (I accept it couldn’t have got much worse!). Sometimes players, especially defenders, just add something without it being obvious what that thing is. Oh for a full back who could defend like Lloydinho at many points this season, for example, even though most would say our current options are much better players than he ever was.

4. NickB - 03/08/2020

Fine portraits, as always. Have to admit, though, that I’m somewhat mystified by the thought that the 2018/19 squad might have been considered by anyone to be the best in the club’s history.

Matt Rowson - 03/08/2020

We’d come close to Europe and reached the Cup Final. The early eighties team might have been better, but squads were much much thinner. Which squad do you think bears comparison?

You don’t have to agree with the suggestion. But “somewhat mystified” is disingenuous.

5. NickB - 03/08/2020

Just trying to be polite 🙄. Actually, I’d taken your comment as relaying the thoughts of others, as opposed to it being a personal view. The concept of a squad has obviously changed since the eighties, as everybody seemed to be virtually ever-present back then, bar the odd Barnes hamstring tweak, and rotation had yet to be invented. I’d say no real comparison at team/ first 14 level, but clearly a fair bit closer if we’re looking at today’s depth of squad.
An interesting exercise would be to name the best XI from the two eras.

6. Brian Goldsmith - 05/08/2020

A pretty good summing up I think. I just hope the board have an ambitious target and don’t sell too many good players to give us a chance to bounce straight back after they get the habit of winning again.. we really have to have a good start to the season to build confidence

7. PirateTawnee - 09/08/2020

A kind and gracious set of reports, far kinder than I suspect I’d be, unable as I am to shake that nagging feeling that if you buy enough players who’ve previously been relegated from the EPL, it possibly forecasts your trajectory.

Matt Rowson - 09/08/2020

🙂 To which the counterpoint is always 2005/06 when we signed a striker from each of the clubs relegated from the Championship the previous season and somehow got promoted (King from Forest, Henderson from Gillingham, Junior from Walsall who didn’t stay long admittedly…)

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