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End of Term Report 2020 – Part 3 10/08/2020

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

11- Adam Masina

Adam Masina is a decent left back.  He’s an athlete.  He’s diligent.  He doesn’t hide.  He’s a tidy footballer.

But…  I don’t know.  Perhaps I’m too wedded to a particular, probably out-of-date stereotype.  I just want a bit more welly in my left back.  A bit more oomph.  Masina is a tentative footballer, a tentative individual.  At 6’2″ he should be a more intimidating opponent than he is.

And yet his background, his upbringing demonstrate his strength of character.  I just wish there was a bit more evidence of it on the pitch.  Masina established himself in the side at the start of 2020 but was carried along with the side’s problems rather than ever looking like the solution to them.  At best he’s looked decent.  At worst he’s looked frightened.

Next Season:  With Holebas departed he’s the only senior left back at the time of writing.  There’s a decent player there, but he needs some competition.

14- Nathaniel Chalobah

So easy to forget about Nathaniel Chalobah.  For all that he featured in more than half of our league games he was too often a placeholder, visibly holding the fort until Caps, or Doucs, or whoever got back.  Since returning from his heartbreaking knee injury he’s too rarely resembled the force of nature that we enjoyed all too briefly after he first signed.

It’s a lack of assertiveness in part, but also a lack of joy.  There was an effortless swagger about Chalobah at his best that hasn’t been seen enough recently.  He’s mobile now, he’s fit – he was in every Premier League squad bar one from August onwards.  He’s physically much stronger than the spindly boy who played for us in the Zola season. He now needs to get some of that joy back.

Next Season:  With midfield departures surely likely over the summer, now is Nathaniel’s time.  He needs to start dragging games along again, not merely riding the waves.

15- Craig Cathcart

It’s generally recognised that our defence needs surgery.  That being the case, some defenders will need to move on…   they might be decent players, but the wrong age, the wrong sort of player, in need of a change of scene.  Not good enough, even.  None of these statements applies to Craig Cathcart.

Without a shadow of a doubt our most accomplished defender.  His form had its first big wobble in the past season (whose didn’t), but he remains the master of being in the right place at the right time.  Unfussy, unflashy, merely very competent, and increasingly adept and deft at the other end of the pitch also.  The only caveat is that, oddly, Nigel Pearson barely used him after the lockdown when he’d played ever League game up to that point barring his thigh injury in September.  If it was merely a selection decision it was an odd one.  Otherwise, one of the bits that ain’t broken, and don’t need fixing.

Next Season:  Of the three centre backs (Dawson, Kabasele) of similar age and stature, Cathcart’s the one least likely to be poached and likeliest to stay – assuming he wants to stay.

16- Abdoulaye Doucouré

One of my other hats involves me donning the rather grandiose title of Assistant Researcher (Watford) for a well known football management computer game.  This exercise involves a thoroughly nourishing management of statistical records within the manufacturer’s database, and ongoing assessment of the capabilities of the playing squad in particular from the most established players through to the scholars.

A big reset happens every summer where I have to calibrate these ratings according to the Head Researchers’ assessment of the squad’s relative strength.  This, before you ask, the only reason why Watford aren’t up there competing with Barcelona and Bayern in your simulations.  But a central question in performing this exercise is how to distinguish form from class.

Case in point.  We know that Abdoulaye Doucouré is a brilliant footballer.  Amongst the neatest of the Pozzo purchases for Watford, he’s an absolute powerhouse, an all-rounder who would not look out of place in almost any Premier League midfield.  And yet…  last season was pretty miserable.  There were odd performances, sure…  Liverpool was one, you remember Sarr and Troy but Doucs was extraordinary.  That goal at Brighton.  And.  Ummm.

After the lockdown in particular, when we needed our big players to dig in, our stars to shine, he was one of those who we needed more from.  He’s capable of dominating a game, has done so many times for us over previous seasons, but was too often a bystander in these final fixtures.  An outstanding footballer.  Just not quite often enough.

Next Season:  His move, with the benefit of hindsight, is at least a year overdue.  We’ll probably pay for that financially, but it’s not hard to see that thought dominating his conduct in the final weeks.  If he wanted to stay and was committed, brilliant – he can dominate a Premier League game and would stamp all over the Championship.  Can’t see it though.  Shame if it ends this way.



1. Mr Peter G Gillions - 10/08/2020

Doucoure was getting well paid was he not? Most people are expected to earn their wages!

David - 10/08/2020

Doucs dip in form (I accept he is class) would be fascinating if it were not for the damaging consequences. If we had sold Doucs last summer and we ended up 19th, I would be telling everyone it’s because we didn’t replace the best centre midfield player watford had ever had.

It does show the balance of timing when a player leaves/joins is incredibly tough.

2. thanethorn - 10/08/2020

Hard to argue with any of these Assessment’s, Masina has played well sometimes and given his youth, seemed maybe a better option than Holebas.. problem is that Holebas has gifts that we missed in the post lockdown games especially. Masina suffered in some games with the teams loss of form , The Championship is no place for wallflowers and whilst Masina will have the quality in terms of skill to do well he will need to dig in be more aggressive agree cover needed hope it turns out to be this guy Eustupian but not likely according to reports
Hopefully relegation will give Chalobah a chance to get game time and back to his best would like to see Cathcart remain part of the side I like all our defenders but their form is variable and we can all see they didn’t function well enough as a unit . Ducoure maybe with Caps our best ever centre midfield when on form but I fear it is the last ell see of him yes a shame he ended with a whimper. unfortunately that’s modern football he played as if he had one eye on the exit at the end.

3. Pete - 10/08/2020

Your description of Masina could be the summary of the whole squad for the season – good player in their but lack of assertiveness sees then drift along with the malaise rather than looking to be a solution at any point. Great read as always

4. James - 10/08/2020

I think you’re rather harsh on Masina. Certainly he’s not the finished article yet, but I didn’t see any tentativeness in him. In fact this season I think he improved greatly in that area. In his early cameos he lurched between reckless aggression and useless passivity, but this season he mostly got it right.
The main thing we missed with the absence of Holebas, was in attack. Particularly delivery into the box, but also going beyond the opposing fullback. This is what I’d like to see Masina work on.

5. PEDantic - 10/08/2020

I would like to think the club held some kind of internal inquest after relegation, not into the season as a whole but rather what was missing after the restart. Your comments on Doucouré and Cathcart highlight two examples out of many. Why was Doucouré quite so anonymous and why was Cathcart suddenly out of the team? Were the circumstances too much for them? It’s hard to believe so many would have not been ‘up for it’ normally, but every game bar the last had the same tepid start. The worry is that those same players won’t be able to raise their game next time round.

6. Ben - 11/08/2020

So true about Chalobah. Since his full recovery, I’ve been struggling to understand why he rarely looks the part. The lack of joy is evident. We know he could be a superb player but for a man of his potential, he is regrettably on on a path to footballing mediocrity. I think there’s something missing in the England DNA (the FA mandated coaching approach prevalent for the last 10 or so years, most of which is excellent).Technically he’s superb. Physically, he’s superb, so why does he look like he’s playing in between the more important thing he had to do in the morning, and the thing he’s looking forward to doing in the evening? He’s missing passion. Joy. There are players, far inferior players, who you’d rather see in the shirt, because they play like it matters. I want it to matter to Chalobah. He has the fanbase on his side, still. He’s earned that. We saw how he could play in the first 10 games under Marco Silva. He was outstanding. But time is ticking.

NickB - 12/08/2020

In terms of the players’ attitude after the restart, one thing that really struck me during lockdown was the mood music coming from the high-ups, notably Duxbury and Pearson. Putting aside the superb effort to accommodate the club’s under-pressure neighbours and focusing purely on the footballing aspect, it was simply appalling and led to a feeling that we were sleepwalking towards relegation.
I’m not at all surprised that the players seemed to take a cue from this.

7. thanethorn - 11/08/2020

We can only hope that a break after the disappointment of going down, and Professional pride will make those who stay work hard to do well, Some of the fringe players like maybe Gray, Success, Chalobah and Quina could be real assets in a promotion battle if they stay
Young players like Pedro and Wilmot will come into the reckoning
will be a big challenge with lots of potential departures, hope we can get the right balance for a good season, we all need it
James re Holebas just what I thought shame he didn’t get the chance to do more in those last games

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