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End of Term Report 2021 – Part 7 07/06/2021

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

27- Christian Kabasele

I feel as if I make this point a lot…  but it does come to something when a player as accomplished as Christian Kabasele is not only still at the club a year after relegation, but is still far from a guaranteed start.  No, he’s not perfect.  Yes, he’s got a mistake in him.  But he’s still a phenomenal athlete whose presence in the starting eleven doesn’t raise any kind of red flag.

It was an odd season for him.  A regular part of the miserly defence in the first half of the season, he was injured in Vladimir Ivić’s final game and the emergence of Francisco Sierralta played a part in him being restricted to the bench on his return at the beginning of April until everything was Sorted.

What you’ve also got with Christian is a tremendously good bloke, which I maintain matters quite a lot as far as the players playing for your team is concerned.  Community Ambassador of the Season for a non-native, local man or otherwise, tells you a bit about his character, his grin at the centre of the post-Millwall celebrations betrayed no frustration or reservation at his lack of involvement.  We’re lucky to have him.

Next Season:  We are, as discussed, well stocked at centre back, and with Pollock adding  to the mix you do wonder if all will be retained.  Kabs has three years left on his contract though, so one assumes he’s unlikely to be the fall guy if there is one.  Hurrah.

28- Carlos Sánchez

There’s something very reassuring about a mallet.  Simple tool for a simple job, does it very effectively.  Doesn’t pretend to be anything fancy like a spanner, let alone anything as pretentious as a spirit level.  Mallet.  Hits things.  Hard.

You might be able to see where this is going.  Fifteen years ago Al Bangura did a similar job for a promoted Watford side…  the cork up the arse of the midfield and frequently off the bench: sit deep, shield defence, win ball, shift it on, repeat.  Hit something.  Wallop.  But Bangura didn’t do it on the back of 88 caps for Colombia, and he didn’t have thighs that spanned postcodes.  The significant win over Reading owed a lot to Isma’s stunning quickfire brace, but an awful lot to Sánchez’s 45 minute “nothing to see here” masterclass.

Next Season: Carlos Sánchez was a high quality mallet…  did the job asked of him, no more, no less.  Did it well.  Having been released he’ll hopefully be doing the same job for someone else.

29- Étienne Capoue

If I was writing about the entirety of Étienne Capoue’s Watford career this would have a very different feel.  

Fabulous footballer.  In arguably our most successful season in living memory he was the driving force, standing out not just by the standards of Watford but by the standards of the Premier League.  He’s a midfielder who can do any job you ask of him…  astonishing engine, fabulous range of passing, reads the game impeccably, anticipates everything.  Without doubt one of the best footballers to have worn the shirt.

But I’m writing about 2020/21, or the first half of it in this case, and here the story was quite different.  There’s no question whatsoever that Étienne Capoue is too good to be playing in the Championship;  nobody could begrudge him wanting to leave, least of all at the age of 32.

But he didn’t need to play in a way that betrayed that.  His haphazard involvement in the first half of the season contained very few highlights, quite a lot of indolence and, in the away trips to Birmingham and Huddersfield, lazy negligence.  He wasn’t the only player in the squad capable of playing at a higher level, probably not the only one who wanted out, but he was the only one who played like it, a transformation all the more stark given the height of the drop in standards.

I found the desire to either identify an alternative candidate as the subject of Scott Duxbury’s pointed dig, or alternatively to make excuses for his behaviour on behalf of many unfathomable.  Even if Duxbury had said nothing, even if Tommy Mooney hadn’t made a similar point in the wake of Capoue’s departure, you had the evidence of your own eyes, right? You saw that smirking embarrassment at Huddersfield? And the fact is… Duxbury did make the comment.  It can’t be rare for players to agitate for moves after relegation, to be disruptive even.  It’s certainly rare for such revelations to follow a player out of a club.  Plenty of things contributed to our improvement in fortunes, I don’t doubt that Capoue’s departure was one of them.  

Next Season:  Capoue is a Europa League winner with Villarreal, having won Man of the Match in the final to the surprise of nobody.  Significant, though, that online congratulation from Hertfordshire seemed restricted to supporters rather than his former teammates.  Capoue is a great footballer.  We’re better off with him elsewhere.  The two aren’t inconsistent.

31- Francisco Sierralta

Here’s an easier one.

Seems extraordinary that as recently as Boxing Day, Francisco Sierralta had made no impression at all.  Had scarcely had the opportunity to do so.  To be filed under “ones who came over from Udinese but never quite fit”, alongside Jean-Alain Fanchone.

I got a warning of what was to come.  I’m the Watford Researcher for a popular management of football simulation game.  The Watford, football and lots of stats elements of this role appealed to me.  The “everyone telling you you’re an idiot” bit wasn’t so obvious when I signed up.  The Chilean researchers who contacted me to advise me of this particular inadequacy in representing Sierralta’s defensive capabilities were very polite about it, and in fairness I’d scarcely seen our man in action at that point having inherited the various assessments of his abilities from the Udinese researcher.

But they were right, obviously, as soon became clear.  Within five minutes of his league debut against Norwich on Boxing Day it was clear that we had a fearless booterer on our hands.  A dominant centre-back whose forehead sucked up whatever the Championship’s widemen cared to lob into the box.  Every intervention demanded a Batman-style “Kerpow” caption bubble, he was the action hero at the back for the second half of the season.

You wonder how well he’d cope alongside a less authoritative partner.  There’s a suspicion that he’s the doer, but needs a talker, an organiser alongside him.  We’ll see.  You’d also like to see a little bit more threat at set pieces…  he kind of OUGHT to be a monster in both boxes, no?  Rather than just a sort of distraction?

That’s picky though. Francisco Sierralta turned 24 at the end of the season, and already looks like the bully that we’d craved at the back for years, the player we’d hoped Craig Dawson would be.  Utterly magnificent.

Next Season:  The only concern is that he’s somehow only got a year left on his contract.  You’d hope that Steps are being Taken to address this forthwith.


1. Peter - 07/06/2021

Sierralta signed a 3 year contract when he joined in September 2020, which means that he has two years left on his contract. Some football websites have mistakenly reported that his contract ends in 2022.


Matt Rowson - 07/06/2021

Thanks for this.

2. Back from Hammerau - 07/06/2021

It took three readings of the section about Carlos Sánchez, before I realised it didn’t begin with “There’s something very reassuring about a mullet”.

3. Hazza - 08/06/2021

I agree with your assessments completely.

I know. Minor miracle for a sagacious father to agree with a wayward son.It will be reported in the Watford Observer, I’d venture.

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