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End of Term Report 2022 – Part 2 06/06/2022

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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5- William Troost-Ekong

William Troost-Ekong comes across as a very likeable bloke.

Intelligent, gutsy enough to pursue a professional career around every corner of Europe, a Watford fan (ish) for historical reasons too before he even signed up.  All good.

Also a leader.  Captain of his country, no less, and a voice of authority in a side sorely lacking similar.

Not enough, sadly.  Not nearly enough.  Despite our extraordinary (lest we forget) defensive record in 2020/21, there were concerns before we even started.  These were only exacerbated by a series of errors borne of vulnerabilities that top sides were always going to exploit.  That he was all but ever-present until New Year’s Day reflected the painful lack of leadership, of a voice, elsewhere in the defensive line.  That he managed a mere twelve minutes at Selhurst Park thereafter reflected his perceived limitations.

Next Season:  Despite his role at the centre of a promoted and miserly defence a year ago it would be a surprise to see Troost feature as prominently this time around.

6- Imrân Louza

There are ways of looking at this that don’t do Imrân Louza any favours.

The biggest transfer outlay of an unsuccessful summer’s shopping isn’t a great start.  So comprehensively bullied by Yves Bissouma on his debut that he wasn’t allowed anywhere near a Premier League midfield again for three months and even then didn’t complete a full ninety until February.  And despite set piece duties, despite his apparent touch and range of passing… no assists all season, let alone goals.  He’s top of our shit list, right?

Except that he’s not, quite obviously, which just goes to show something quite profound but I’m not sure what.  However comprehensive our inadequacies over the piece this season Imrân Louza is one of very few universally recognised as part of the solution rather than part of the problem.  His visible increase in robustness contributes to this transformation;  sitting at the back of the midfield he’s deft and clever but also waspish and aggressive.  One element of our dysfunctional midfield to retain and rebuild around, you’d hope.

Next Season: To which end, in contrast to the ever growing list of suitors for our more headliney assets it’s reassuring to note that, at the time of writing, Imrân seems to be flying under the radar.

7- Joshua King

There were times when Joshua King really looked the part.  Periods in the season when he was the glue holding the forward line together with an ability to hold the ball up and bring others into play that occasionally threatened to mobilise all the tricks and – yes – nutmegs elsewhere into something potent.

Not often enough though.  Not reliably enough.  It was never reasonable to expect Joshua King to be Troy Deeney for all that he saw himself as a number 9 (as an aside the two did play up front together – albeit for only twelve minutes at Brighton – which kinda blows my mind.  As if you were telling me that Luther had played with João Pedro).  But you can’t be diffident and passive if you’re leading the line.  That doesn’t work.

The Goodison Park anomaly makes the failure over the whole piece all the more frustrating.  Yes, Everton were particularly accommodating that day but there was also a fire in his play and an arrogance in his finishing that would have been useful a little more often.  As comfortably the most experienced forward in our armoury we needed him to be a leader, and he was never that.

Next Season:  A release clause is only going to be invoked if someone else is prepared to offer a suitable contract.  Given his experience and that he’s a forward you’d expect that this will probably come but after a couple of iffy seasons it’s not a given.

8- Tom Cleverley

The casual “get rid of the lot of them” lack of analysis of the Watford squad I find crass and aggravating, however unsatisfactory the season has been.  Tom Cleverley, for instance, has spent seven seasons with Watford including winning a Player of the Season trophy… if it is time for him to move on then “get rid” really isn’t the tone.

And whether it’s time or not really isn’t a given.  This is a former England international after all, and a player whose attitude and honesty is beyond question.  That there’s a value in the latter should surely not need emphasising after last season’s debacle.  In the last promotion campaign his quiet authority was invaluable, the keeping everything calm and on track-ness and in a summer during which our midfield is likely to need rebuilding yet again a bit of steady continuity shouldn’t be taken for granted; nor should a player who is able and willing to graft or create or fill in as required.

On the other hand, it’s no secret that Tom struggles to last ninety minutes;  he managed that five times last season, being subbed sixteen times.  He will turn 33 in August and despite a career which has rarely seen him start anything close to a full house of League games for whoever he’s playing for – meaning that there ought to be miles left in those legs – we can’t rely on Tom as a regular starter.

With two years left on his contract, I’d want to hang onto a low maintenance member of the squad.

Next Season: …but his future may well depend on what he wants.  A bit part older head role at Watford?  Or the chance to be more of a mainstay elsewhere (in as much as his legs will allow)

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