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End of Term Report 2021 – Part 4 27/05/2021

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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16 #1- James Garner

James Garner looked the part.  Slightly awkward, skinny, with a look that told you that he’d been obsessed with being a footballer since forever.  He was, we were advised, hot property.  We were lucky to get him, he was going to be a star.

He might still become a star.  Unfortunately for both parties, his loan was a case of wrong place, wrong time.  A young loanee looking for his first run of first team football, however talented, needs some semblance of stability to thrive in.  He wasn’t going to get it at Vicarage Road at the start of the season.

He looked the business, occasionally.  Clearly a good touch, good awareness, not scared of a tackle, liked a set piece.  And yet… as the team’s attacking shape struggled to form around him he wasn’t up to helping it develop.  Too often he disappeared in games;  you can’t disappear in central midfield, however young and promising you are.  We were in no position to accommodate his growing pains and asking a kid to be the one to take control was too much of an ask as it turned out.  That role fell to the recovered Will Hughes.  Garner returned to Old Trafford and was then moved on to a less volatile, more accommodating City Ground while the Hornets went for experience;  it was the gnarled old boots of Carlos Sánchez and Dan Gosling that were brought in to get us over the line.

Next Season:  No shortage of takers.  Safe to assume we won’t be high on the list.

16 #2- Dan Gosling

This didn’t go down well, if you remember.  Out of left field.  Conor Hourihane and James Léa-Siliki were the names touted as Étienne Capoue left the building;  instead we signed someone ostensibly not good enough for Bournemouth.  “Underwhelmed” was the prevailing response, to put it gently.

Which is worth bearing in mind the next time we make a signing that looks a bit odd.  Not that we’re always going to get it right… but this isn’t the first time that scepticism has been proven unfounded.  Five games into his Watford career any doubts were assuaged as Gosling let his former teammate Jefferson Lerma know exactly what he thought of his histrionics during the carnage at Dean Court, following up with a forthright interview to much the same effect.

That sealed the deal.  Dan Gosling doesn’t smile much.  He’s a serious, focused, bastard with a good amount of everything… good engine, aggressive, doesn’t waste possession, and the timing of his runs into the box betrays the two years he spent training with Tim Cahill at Everton.  We’ll take “unflashy” all day long.

Next Season:  Dan might not be a regular starter.  But he’ll be an utterly dependable squad player for a Premier League club.  Instead of, you know…

17 #1- Glenn Murray

There was some sense in the idea.  Faced with the prospect of losing Troy and/or Andre, and you’ve got to assume that both or either seemed likely given that Murray was brought in, we would have been short of experience and leadership in attacking positions.  Murray, evidently an intelligent man, “good in the dressing room”, ticked both boxes.

So as soon as the transfer window closed it was clear that we had a surfeit of such strikers, and that Murray was going to do well to get much of a look in.  Such opportunities as he did get seemed hamstrung by our insistence on firing grenades at him as if he was a target man rather than a slightly ungainly expert poacher.  Ball to feet he was fine with, a dominant aerial presence he wasn’t.  The ball didn’t stick, Murray got scant opportunity to do his thing.

That, even in his pomp, Murray has always looked about 15 years older than he actually is probably didn’t help his cause but “good in the dressing room” or not, you can’t blame him for not fancying spending a big chunk of what one presumes is the close of his career kicking his heels.   No surprise when his loan was cut short as a bad decision all round.

Next Season:  Murray’s liveliest outing in a Watford shirt was arguably his last as he came off the bench at Wycombe.  On his first start for Forest at the same venue he scored a brace, making Watford’s simultaneous 0-0 at Coventry all the more miserable.  Neither match proved portentous of respective fortunes… the Hornets’ turnaround started the following Saturday, Murray was destined not to score again for Forest in 14 appearances (seven off the bench).  38 in September, it’s unlikely that the master poacher will feature at Championship level again.

17 #2- Achraf Lazaar

In fairness to Achraf, it’s not many of us who can claim to have been the second best Moroccan left back at Vicarage Road.

Lazaar arrived as part of the concerted mid-season effort to beef up the squad with experienced cast-offs.  We needed cover for Adam Masina at left back, here was a guy who we had been linked with on our promotion in 2015, and who had subsequently been good enough to hang around at St James Park for five years without ever quite fulfilling undoubted potential. Surely good enough to be a fall-back full-back for a few months.

And he was, just about, a couple of excitable and problematic wobblinesses notwithstanding.  We weren’t going to bring in Paolo Maldini on a free as cover mid-season after all, what with left backs being so thin on the ground and all.  You’d have worried about having to rely on him for any length of time, but we didn’t need to. He was clearly much happier with the going forward bit than the defending bit and against Swansea, at the very end, we got an insight into what the excitement had once been about… a vibrant, pulsating performance that displayed on the pitch for the first time the sort of character that was already very evident in his position as cheerleader-in-chief off the bench.

Next Season:  Not enough to win him a longer contract with us.  But hopefully with someone else.

Comments»

1. steven fewster - 27/05/2021

When I read these it hammers home what a basket case we were at the beginning of the season, and some credit to Ivic that we were still in with a shout when we terminated his contract.

I’m not ashamed to say that I was totally confused at us signing someone not wanted by a direct rival, but Gosling I think has been magnificent. Whether it’s because of his actual contribution compared to what I thought it would be, I’m not sure – but I’ll be remembering his celebration at Norwich for a long time after he’s gone. He’s a hornet 🙂

2. petebradshaw - 29/05/2021

Pleased to see Achraf’s performances have earned him a recall to the Morocco squad.


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