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End of Term Report 2022 – Part 6 20/06/2022

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

29- Cucho Hernández

Sometimes the how is as important as the what.

There’s a tendency, particularly with a struggling side, to champion the triers.  Application over ability, a frantic charge around over deft touch.  I can hear Rupe sneering “oh yes he tries hard“.  This should be a minimum requirement, and certainly not sufficient in itself.

But in a season like this one, where we had such an excess of untapped, unchanneled ability and such a deficit of leadership, of drive, of oomph, Cucho Hernández was very welcome indeed.  He doesn’t carry the ability, threat or experience of some of his attacking colleagues, but Roy Hodgson’s decision to briefly promote Cucho to a regular starting slot (until injury curtailed his season) was both noteworthy and completely justified.

Nor was it just effort, garnished as it was with personality and ability.  This much was evident from his opening salvo against Villa, followed up with the ridiculous corner to cue up Juraj Kucka’s equaliser at Goodison Park and the ferociously defiant strike at home to Manchester City.  These were the highlights of course, and Cucho’s staccato involvement reflected the variable form of a young player adapting to a very different environment.  But one of few attacking players to come out with credit.

Next Season:  When I wrote this piece I gleefully reported here that early rumours linking Cucho with a return to Spain had been beaten away and hurrah for that.  Now it seems that he’s being lined up for a move to the MLS with Columbus Crew.  I’m progressing through stages of grief, can understand that the reported fee is reasonable for a player who wants to leave with two years left and so on.  Still.  Disappointing.

31- Francisco Sierralta

So this wasn’t entirely expected either.  Francisco Sierralta’s promotion season hadn’t been perfect… but it hadn’t been far off, even if he did seem reliant on a senior partner, William Troost-Ekong, telling him where to be.  Enthusiastic reports from his international exposure with Chile spoke positively of the scope for him to step up to Premier League level.

A series of injuries – calf strains, hamstrings – haven’t helped and his occasional forays into the first team didn’t inspire great confidence, but at a time when most of the team was struggling, Sierralta’s extraordinary physical attributes being seemingly cheaply cast aside was very odd.

“Odd” just about sums it up.  Odd that we saw so little of the dominant figure of last season.  Odd that he was given scant chance to recover his form.  Odd that there was as much as a rumour of a move to Israel to be denied, unthinkable a year ago.

Next Season:  If Rob Edwards sticks with three centre backs and wingbacks, the central “have it” role should be made for Francisco.  The summer’s passage will suggest whether last season’s disappointment was rooted in injuries, or in something more complicated.

33- Juraj Kucka

At around 4:25 on August 14th last year many of us held misconceptions.  We were (briefly) 3-0 up on Aston Villa at a sun-bathed Vicarage Road and, in man of the match Juraj Kucka, we had a new midfielder who looked like a nightclub bouncer but exhibited the deftness and grace of a ballerina.

In truth, that’s (probably) the player he used to be.  We caught glimpses of that sort of form as the season progressed, as if he was humming a half-remembered tune but at the age of 34/35, his best days were clearly behind him.  This was most consistently evidenced by his inability to sustain an endearing level of belligerence for anything like ninety minutes.

Pre-season, he had declared a willingness to be employed as a utility player;  on that basis he was a decent signing being experienced and capable of filling into a number of midfield roles.  As it turns out he featured in two-thirds of our Premier League games, starting most of those without, in all honesty, us suffering any more bad fortune in midfield in the injury stakes than might be considered par.

His good bits were good, and there was enough application there for his Watford career to be reflected on in the same unmemorable but just-about-positive terms as Moussa Sissoko once divorced from the season in which it was cloaked.  With a halfway acceptable set of midfield options, he’d have been a perfectly adequate option off the bench.

Next Season:  Nominally back in Serie B with Parma, although his contract in there is up in June.  Not, in any case, at Vicarage Road.

39- Edo Kayembe

Sometimes I get to do really interesting stuff at work.

A few years ago I was involved in a study (and a publication) studying the evidence of transmission of happiness via chemosignals.  “Do we sweat happiness?”, loosely.  The study involved collection of sweat from individuals in a frightened, happy, or neutral state.  Sweat collected under the three conditions was pooled and presented to a separate set of subjects, “blind” to whatever it was that they were smelling.

Remarkably, frightened sweat prompted frowning, on average, in the facial muscle movements of those exposed, and a tendency towards focus on detail, a stressed response, in a cognitive task. This was not altogether a surprise, others had done similar previously. But Happy sweat prompted muscle movements associated with smiling, and a greater chance of “big picture” responses in the same cognitive task.

A big challenge – not my bit – was identifying stimuli to provoke said conditions.  “Frightened” and “Happy” were easy-ish…  Horror clips/movies and comedy respectively in a slightly warm viewing room.

But the neutral control?  What does neutral look like.  Neutral isn’t bored….

But I’m neutral on Edo Kayembe.  I’m not sold, completely, but I’m not writing him off either.  I quite like his defiant oblongness, there’s something there…

Next Season:  ….but whether it’s enough to forge a memorable Watford career, we’ll have to wait and see!

That’s your lot as far as the school report goes.  Season Preview will start going up the weekend before the start of the season.  Enjoy what’s left of the break.  Yooorns, etc.



1. John - 20/06/2022

Thanks Matt, as with all your match reports, they have been an insightful and enjoyable read. Also, I wish I had been able to write performance appraisals as well as these end of term reports! Thanks again!

Matt Rowson - 20/06/2022

🙂 Cheers John

2. Tapps - 20/06/2022

As one of the ‘bastards’ that voted for the ‘End Of Year Report’, I thought it only right that I should offer my thanks for the time and effort put into these enjoyable and perceptive player performance reviews. The highlight of following Watford in 21/22 has been reading BHaPPY – let’s hope that’s not the case for 22/23 if you see what I mean!

Matt Rowson - 20/06/2022

To be clear Tapps, “bastards” applies to ALL readers for failure to come to consensus, not to “End of Year Report” voters in particular. No offence intended, obviously, some of my best friends are bastards.

3. crisb - 20/06/2022

thanks for that Matt!

i do feel that with Kucka and Cucho off we’ve lost two sources of fun in the championship. If there’s one thing we’re well stocked on its ‘no fuss’ quiet types (on the pitch in terms of both talking and playing style, as well as off the pitch). We could do with some characters to inject some life.

4. Sequel - 21/06/2022

I’m one of those ‘bastards’ who didn’t vote, because I couldn’t decide which I preferred, review or preview. I look forward to both with equal enthusiasm, and enjoy them immensely.

Matt Rowson - 21/06/2022

Many thanks

Chris W - 22/06/2022

I’m with Sequel, too much of a Sophie’s Choice with both so additive to the experience. Thanks for providing the the details and subjectivity we crave Matt. Enjoy your Summer

Matt Rowson - 22/06/2022

Thanks Chris

5. Fez - 21/06/2022

Thanks Matt, very much appreciated. Good of you not to discuss the coaches, that whole aspect of our season is bad for the blood pressure!
It never ceases to amaze me how succinct and insightful your musings are. It’s a bit annoying really, I continually have to bite my lip and read what you have to say first just in case I shoot from the lip (keyboard) in an unjustified rant… shame your readership isn’t larger or your words heeded better: the Wobby comments site might just be a better, or at least less toxic, place to visit.

I’m intending to be more active on Twitter on match days… always about the day out for me: journey, ale, food, people, atmosphere;
Football is secondary, it often gets in the way. Having been cooped up from away-days for too long (the defeat at Palace before the first lockdown being my last away match, alas) I’m intending to resume my usual 10+ away-days this season.
Holidays and work are the usual limiting factors, cost will also be a factor, but there are some uncharted football territories this season (Blackburn, Preston, Rotheram, in particular) and some old favourites (Huddersfield, Millwall, Stoke) and perhaps I’ll see you along the way (we chatted outside WBA a few years ago, last meeting) so I am looking forward to it! Cheers!

Matt Rowson - 21/06/2022

cheers Fez, look forward to it

6. Aled Walker - 23/06/2022

Well I’m not neutral on your writings Matt – a fantastic and accurate read as always, really appreciate your efforts. I laughed out loud multiple times while catching up on these this morning, Cathcart as a suitcase and wishing Masina was just “a little” better at football being particular highlights. As you say about Kiko though, if these players didn’t have some of these flaws then they wouldn’t be playing for us, and that’s what I kind of love about (most of) them.

I live in Brussels so only get to come back 4 or 5 games a season, looking forward to being able to follow from afar again next season with your match reports. COYH.

Matt Rowson - 23/06/2022

Thanks Aled

7. Steve G - 23/06/2022

Unfortunately, Matt, we appear to live in times when consensus has become a bit of a dirty word – but maybe that’s a discussion for another message board rather than a footballing one. So thanks for accepting the lack of decisiveness of us bastards with good grace and providing another excellent end of season review – I hope that you do realise by now just how much your dedication and the quality of your writing is appreciated by the readership.

As you say above, however much the decision may have some logic behind it, it’s still sad to see Cucho departing. I guess we should also have hopes for at least some of the returning loanees.

I also met up with an old friend last weekend who knew Rob Edwards from his time at Wolves and gave him a very positive reference, saying that he was a thoroughly decent bloke. Hopefully he’ll turn out to be an inspiring coach as well as a nice guy.

Matt Rowson - 23/06/2022

Thanks Steve. To contradict your earlier point, “Rob Edwards is a good bloke” DOES seem to be a consensus.

8. James Robinson - 28/06/2022

A fantastic read AND the promise of a season preview to come. Thank you so much for everything you write and share.

Matt Rowson - 28/06/2022


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