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End of Term Report 2020 – Part 4 13/08/2020

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

17- João Pedro

It’s a smart trick, but despite having been at the club since January and despite the odd cameo João Pedro has retained the sort of mythical does-he-actually-exist status that mooted signings like Sergei Clescenco and Jerren Nixon once possessed, back in the day.  Odd that he’s only 18 still in a way, since his mythology seems to date back at least eighteen years.  Perhaps in a sense he’s a Promised One as spoken of in legend.

All in all it’s difficult to make a judgement, beyond that his cameos have been tantalising.  A skidding, impossible run and shot that nearly started his career with a bang against Tranmere.  A tidy lay-off against Southampton.  A breathtaking slalom against Arsenal.  Beyond that, we’ll see.

Next Season:  That Arsenal performance made you wonder quite why he’d been kept so tightly under wraps when we’d been crying out for impetus, often on that left hand side, in the run in.  One can only hope and expect that we see more of him this time around.

18- Andre Gray

When I was sixteen, my first girlfriend dumped me.  We’d been going out for about a month.  I was devastated, and still am a little bit more than thirty years later.  But I went to town on being dumped.   I was much better at being dumped than I had been at going out with her.  I was born to sulk, waiting for something suitably monumental to sulk about.

You can see where this is going, I hope. Andre Gray is not a bad striker.  He’s scored some valuable goals in his Watford career; ten of the thirteen before this season have been decisive in earning results.  But even in his more successful spells there’s been a sulker waiting to get out.  The goal at Newcastle which he celebrated angrily at St James Park only three stuttering months into his Watford career told that story lucidly.

And this season, when the shit really hit the fan and we needed Gray to dig us out of a hole with other strikers unavailable he struggled.  No surprise, he’s rarely looked comfortable in a lone role or without Troy alongside.  But he struggled.  And never looked more in his skin.

Next Season:  It has been argued that Andre would thrive in the Championship, that he’s one of the large group of strikers plenty good enough for this level but not at the level of the tier above.  Whether after three years he will be testing that theory at Vicarage Road remains to be seen.

19- Will Hughes

A relatively straightforward one this.  No need for context or mitigation or on-the-other-hands.  Will Hughes was one of the stars of the season, such as it was, and the star of the post-lockdown run.  Again, a low bar.  Nonetheless, in the more withdrawn position that gave greater release to the snapping and snarling alongside the industry and the deftness, Hughes thrived.

I still struggle to believe that we signed Will Hughes, Premier League side or otherwise.  He was always talked about as destined for a club like Liverpool…  a lesser Liverpool at the time, perhaps, but nonetheless, Hughes was a great catch at the time that we caught him, injury record or otherwise.  Now, he looks like a captain.

Next Season:  No of course we’d choose to keep him.  As above, if Troy moves on he’s the most obvious next cab off the rank for the armband.  But there are lots of average-sized clubs in the country and those of them who have risen to the top of the pile didn’t do so by being bloody stupid.  Do hope that Will likes Hertfordshire.

20- Domingos Quina

Whatever you’d have predicted from Quina last season, it wasn’t this. In your wildest dreams, he’d build on the season before and establish himself.  He’d flex his outrageous skills, overcome the tendency to get bogged down in a crowded midfield and become a favourite.  Or he’d go out on loan and wreak havoc somewhere.  Or maybe he’d pick up an injury and be sidelined, one twist too many.

Not this.  Not disappearing into irrelevance.  Four Premier League cameos of less than ten minutes each under three different managers.  Admittedly we’re blessed in midfield, relatively speaking.  But that none of our head coaches this year saw fit to give him a run says rather a lot.

Next Season:  Quina is only twenty, but in leaving West Ham as he did is clearly a man in a hurry.  You’ve got to hope that he finds a way to channel that ability, and that he does so at Vicarage Road.

21- Kiko Femenía

Little mystery here either.  You know what you’re getting with Kiko…  if Gary Neville’s “he’s a footballer, but not a defender” is destined to be his epitaph it’s not something that we didn’t already know.

Kiko is dogged and brave.  He will show for things, he doesn’t hide, even when things aren’t going well.  He’s viciously quick and has extraordinary stamina.  He’s about as adept at defending the far post as an ear of asparagus.

In short, he’s a wing back.  When afforded a run in that position, allowed to trade off his assets without his startled brand of defending being exposed, he’s looked better than good.  But it doesn’t seem that that our long-term plan requires wing backs.

Next Season:  Kiko is an asset even if we’re not playing with wingbacks.  On the left, on the right, at the back, in midfield.  The rumours are that he’s looking to head back to Spain.  Our loss.  Probably.


1. David - 13/08/2020

Lovely analogy about Grey and following your line of thought, I think we would have to drop at least two divisions before he could “do a job” playing up front as a loan striker. Playing 2 up front is very unfashionable now so it remains to be seen if he can be accommodated.

Talking of fashion, the same can be said of Kiko, clearly a talented footballer but on balance I would prefer a Nyom/Doyley who can defend the far post and be in the right place at the right time to put the ball in row Z. Unless you are an elite team there is still a place for water carriers and artists.

2. SteveG - 14/08/2020

It’s the trade-offs in team selection that are tricky here. There’s no doubt that a Deeney/Gray or Deeney/Welbeck combination up front would look better than any one of those three as a lone striker. Kiko as a wing back in front of a back three is definitely a better option that relying on his defending in a back 4. The problem is that once you’ve done both of those things you then have 13 players on the pitch and for some ridiculous bureaucratic reason they won’t let us do that.

Addressing any one of the obvious issues on the pitch has managed to create another elsewhere. We did defend better under QSF but then carried almost no attacking threat at all, a situation that was exacerbated by injuries of course.

The second half against Arsenal suggested that a reversion to 4-4-2 with a two striker model might be at least as good a compromise as anything else that’s been tried, but to some extent it depends on the personnel that we have available when the season kicks off. It would be great if we could manage to field Deulofeu, Deeney and Sarr upfront again in the new season, but that combination seems unlikely to be with us and available.

But anything that means we return to being a team that at least bears some resemblance to the sum of the parts would be great. This still looks like a very decent squad to me – it’s just that we didn’t often look like a decent team on the pitch.

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