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End of Term Report 2021 – Part 8 10/06/2021

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

32- Marc Navarro

Yes, I know.  But he’s been here three seasons (two, if you skip the suitably inconspicuous year at Leganés) and has only made seven starts.  Three in the league. He’s not a kid any more, he’s nearly 26 but still looks a long way from challenging for a place in the team.

There’s something there.  You can see what the idea was, at least.  He has a good touch, he can cross a ball.  He’s nearly a decent player.  But he seems beset by an almost total lack of assertiveness or urgency and has rarely convinced defensively, even against relatively moderate Championship wingers.

Where Marc Navarro is perhaps most interesting is as a symptom of the “Pozzo model”.  A side effect.  Long contracts on young players moving internationally are a bit of a gamble and gambles aren’t always going to pay off.  Sometimes unproductive gambles are more conspicuous – in an Isaac Success kinda way.  Sometimes less so, as here.  It can happen for all sorts of reasons – unrealised potential, difficulty in settling in a new country, a poor fit.  But it will happen sometimes.

Next Season:  Marc has two years left on his contract.  It would be tremendous if those arcing crosses could be coupled with a bit of oomph, a bit of doggedness; if they are we might have a player.  As it is, it’s difficult to see someone who made limited impact in the Championship establishing himself in the Premier League.

44- Joseph Hungbo

Joseph Hungbo is tremendous fun.  Strong, quick, direct, brave.  What’s not to like?

Part of the slightly odd influx of Under-23s in the summer of 2019, Joseph has bucked the trend in simply still being at the club.  Prolific from the wing for the junior side, he made welcome, excitable incursions into the starting eleven from the turn of the year. The suspicion that he was simply filling one of the many spaces on the bench was quickly dispelled, the inconvenient detail that we’d signed him from Palace at the age of 19 overlooked in the enjoyment of a youngster “breaking through”.

As discussed it’s a crying shame that he pulled a hamstring twenty-four energetic minutes into the game at Brentford, scuppering what would surely have been an opportunity to rack up consecutive ninety minutes that will be harder to come by in the thinner fixture list of the Premier League.  Nonetheless.  Joseph Hungbo, who speaks with he eloquent confidence of a veteran, is a contender.

Next Season:  A loan, one suspects.  We’ll watch with interest.

Vladimir Ivić

It seemed like a bit of a coup.  Recruited on the back of success in Greece and Israel, the fact that we hadn’t heard of him wasn’t an impediment to our optimism in itself.  We know the drill after all, and I was perfectly prepared to accept that the people who’d appointed him knew a bit more about the new guy than I did and were better able to judge.

He was inscrutable, and his joyless demeanour would have been hugely enjoyable had the football itself been a little more fun.  It wasn’t, so it wasn’t.

But the annals shouldn’t judge him too harshly.  He inherited a hugely turbulent situation…  any relegated squad is going to be volatile to an extent, but the amount of perhaps overdue tooing and froing was considerable by any standards and, oh yes, we were in the throes of a global pandemic as Vlad moved across Europe. COVID had stymied the end of the previous season affording the new man the briefest of close seasons in which to get his new charges into shape.

So to be there or thereabouts for as long as we were shouldn’t be taken for granted.  We might have been painful to watch, but we were painful whilst picking up points, and if his refusal to switch to a 4-3-3 in the absence of a recognised left back was another manifestation of his caution, he did at least recognise that the need was there.

Which doesn’t alter the fact that the brave move to remove him was the right decision;  it would take a surge in form to get us promoted, a surge that was never going to happen under Vlad.  But perhaps we shouldn’t judge his football too harshly now that we don’t have to endure it.

Next Season:  Vlad’s almost total restraint in front of a camera probably contributed to his failure to get another gig before the end of the season.  Will be interesting to see how his next job goes when it comes.


All of which should underline the danger inherent in taking Xisco’s achievement for granted.

There’s a danger, I think, in looking at the situation, looking at his relative inexperience and youthful, almost boyish demeanour and concluding that all he really did was to cheer everyone the hell up.  That does him a grave disservice I think.  A “facilitator” can be a successful manager when presented with an exceptional group of players, sure.  A group of players demonstrably better than their competitors who are adept enough to manage their own game when given room to do so and free cakes at elevenses on Fridays.  Zinedine Zidane has had this charge levelled at him, and Real had a degree of success under his guidance I understand.

I don’t think we were in that position.  An outstanding squad by the standards of the division, sure.  But not so outstanding that our surge was any kind of inevitability, that our success from February onwards was some sort of natural order that Ivić had somehow been blocking or screwing up.  We know what the challenges were, or many of them.  Some of these were remedied independently of the head coach, but some of them needed more that a sympathetic ear.

After the QPR defeat Xisco put his hands up and admitted tactical errors.  Such an admission, however candid, would have garnered more sympathy if he had any kind of track record with us.  He didn’t. So to turn it around from there, now-legendary post-Coventry conflap or otherwise, betrays a resilience that isn’t immediately obvious from his cheerful demeanour.  Further, to question his tactical acumen overlooks the success with which he made light of the challenges that kept coming – suspensions and injuries that might have been disruptive became almost irrelevant.  João Pedro was fielded in midfield against Forest, implausibly successfully.  Philip Zinckernagel’s teething problems were accommodated and polished and tucked away in places where they didn’t compromise his ability to pick a pass…. whilst still doing the feelgood stuff too, witness the shrug that followed the combustible defeat at Bournemouth (snigger).  If we’re going to criticise – indeed, dismiss – Vlad for failing to get the required tune out of his charges it does seem less than even-handed not to praise Xisco for harmonising the piece, and indeed the entire club.

Next Season:  It’s possible that Xisco will prove not to be up to the new challenges in front of us.  That’s not where my money is.  Nor, more relevantly, the money of those with money at stake who after all weren’t shy about making a change at this stage six years ago when they evidently did harbour such doubts.  Vamos Xisco.

That’s your lot.  Thanks for reading this far.  We’ll be back soon enough for preview-y things and – heavens – perhaps even a match report from an actual football match in an actual football stadium.  Steady.  Enjoy the summer.

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.

End of Term Report 2021 – Part 6 03/06/2021

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

23- Ismaïla Sarr

“So…  will he stay then?”.

“I hope so…  sounds like we want to keep him…”

“Yeah, but…  Watford….. or Liverpool….  Watford…  or Liverpool?”.  Paul is grinning, tipping is head from one side to the other as if he’s putting himself in Sarr’s position, weighing up the options.  He’s only half-joking.

The thing is, that’s where we started the season.  Of all the many decisions, some of them difficult, some of them easy, some of them brave….  this was maybe the most courageous.  Braver even than the decision to change head coach mid-season.  Because you can decide to hang on to your star asset, the guy whose dismantling of the Champions elect has just caught everyone’s attention.  You can twist, effectively, gamble everything on him making the difference between going up again and not.  You can refuse offers that don’t meet your valuation despite being in ostensibly a weak negotiating position.  And then you can find that your star man really doesn’t fancy the Championship.  Won’t put in a shift.  Doesn’t like the inevitable kicking he’s going to get.  Can’t help but feeling a bit peevish that he wasn’t allowed to go to Liverpool or United (or Palace.  snigger).

So yes, it took a while.  It’s not quite true that it took Xisco;  six assists and three goals came before the Spaniard took over. But it took a while, a little bit of adjustment.  And yes he did get kicked, and fitting the narrative it was Lloyd Kelly of Bournemouth who executed the most cynical, violent attempted hatchet-job of the season.  But before long he was battling through the physical stuff, and became the cheat code that we all knew he could be.  At his best he was simply far, far too good… the two devastating goals against Reading, most memorably, were the difference between a very tricky evening and a straightforward victory in a critical fixture.  A highlight of the season, Adam Masina’s free kick at Cardiff, was preceded by Sarr receiving the ball wide at the end of a gruelling game from which a point wouldn’t have been a disaster, and turning and committing two markers to draw that free kick.  Fast, direct, brave, relentless, Sarr’s ability and character completely vindicated that brave decision to stand firm on our valuation.

Next Season:  Watford… or Liverpool.  Watford… or Liverpool.  Having accommodated our desire to keep him in the Championship it’s far from a given that he’ll be rocking the boat in the Premier League.  He wouldn’t be the first outrageously talented winger to give us more than we had a right to expect before (eventually) moving to Anfield after all.  Though admittedly, if we get six seasons out of Isma we’ll be doing well…

24- Tom Dele-Bashiru

No, there’s not much to say here.  But that doesn’t mean that we don’t say it.

Tom’s season lasted 64 minutes.  Slightly under half-an-hour off the bench in the win over Luton, slightly more than half-an-hour at Reading a week later in his first League start.  For me… that latter half hour was when the penny dropped.

He’d arrived with a minor fanfare…  a kid from City’s academy, City had wanted to keep!  And he came to us! His cup appearances in his first season were fine, decent, nothing more.  But here, against Reading, he looked… everything. Powerful, assertive, dynamic, tidy.  Wow.  What a weapon to unleash on an unsuspecting Championship.  And then… his knee twisted the wrong way. Everyone winced.  And that was that.

Next Season:  I have a proud track record of getting carried away with the opening salvos of fledgling football careers that don’t live up to their earliest promise.  Chris Pullan and Anthony McNamee to name but two.  Nonetheless.  If post-injury Tom, who came across as grounded, focused and likeable on his Hornet Hive outings, is anything like as good as that half hour at the Madejski suggested, we’ve got a player.

25- Stipe Perica

We never really sorted out the centre-forward position did we, promotion or otherwise. JP was great, but… is he really an out-and-out striker?  Troy… tremendous in so many ways but…. not mobile enough, restricted by injury or otherwise.  Andre… not clinical enough.  Isaac…  not reliable enough.

Stipe Perica was quite a lot of fun, and probably the option you’d have chosen to see more of.  In that sense he was unfortunate to pick up injuries when he did, in particular that arm injury following his one goal for the Hornets against Bournemouth.  What we did see was a suggestion that Stipe’s appearance was deceptive;  at 6’4″, he’s a poacher in a target man’s body.  Surprisingly quick, his tremendous goal against the Cherries and the harshly disallowed header against Brentford betrayed a goalscorer’s instinct…  but his use of his body was often clumsy and undisciplined, resulting in a red card at Newport and a number of near misses along the way.

Next Season:  So… we still don’t know what Stipe Perica is for, likeable and curious as he might be.  But having struggled for match time in the Championship – he managed scarcely 45 minutes’ worth over six sub appearances under Xisco – it seems unlikely that we’ll be finding out in the Premier League.

26- Daniel Bachmann

So this surprised me.

Perhaps it shouldn’t have.  After all, whilst the role of a deputy goalkeeper is an odd one, and there’s certainly a value in the willing deputy who prefers the lower-profile understudy-cum-training-buddy role to the pressures of first team football, it should have said something that we were hanging onto a goalkeeper who will turn 27 in the close season.  He’s not a veteran by goalkeeper’s standards, but long past “promising kid”.

Then there was the loan spell at Kilmarnock.  I don’t doubt that many talented players wilt in the spotlight, but goalkeepers more so.  Such a unique position, such a requirement to be strong-willed and self-confident.  Nowhere to hide.

And yet he’d thrived in Scotland by all accounts.  And we hadn’t shipped him on, mid-twenties or otherwise, despite his years loitering in the formidable shadows of Ben Foster and Heurelho Gomes.  So I shouldn’t have been surprised.

His penalty heroics against Oxford were a clarion call.  “Hello, what’s this?”.  And then when Ben Foster injured his finger and Bachmann was suddenly lined up for a long stretch between the sticks we inhaled and thought, “OK, let’s see what you’re made of”.

And we did see.  And what was perhaps most impressive was the degree of improvement… the early nervousness under aerial assault was a distant memory by the end of the season.  Bachmann kept thirteen clean-sheets in 25 League starts, and if that in part reflects the miserly opportunities that our opponents were offered then you can add supreme concentration, the concentration required of a goalkeeper in a successful side, to his list of attributes. Implausibly, the popular, experienced, charismatic Foster didn’t get his place back until the race was run.

Next Season:  Bachmann will surely start the campaign as first choice.

End of Term Report 2021 – Part 5 28/05/2021

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

18- Andre Gray

You know that thing about, “does a high transfer fee put pressure on a player?”…

Four years on, the case for the prosecution.  The transfer fee, widely reported as £18 million but elsewhere as £11.5 with the potential to rise still influences our judgement I think.  Had he come on a free, even if out of contract and effectively costing a lot more in salary and agent’s fees because of his negotiating position he would have been judged a lot less severely.

That said, his transfer fee isn’t the only thing making life harder for Andre Gray.  His surly manner, his transgressions during lockdown – once, understandable if not forgivable, twice suggesting contempt.  On the pitch…  once again, he’s looked like a half-decent player playing badly a lot of the time, either working hard for little return or just not fitting.  It’s been difficult to shake the old thing about his being too inflexible a tool, only useful at doing one particular job, incapable of adapting to what the team needed him to be.

He impressed pre-season against Spurs until a hamstring pull ruled him out for the first two months of the campaign after which he would start only 14 of 46 Championship games, his involvement spasmodic from the off.  It would be wrong to say he is or was awful… life isn’t as black and white as that.   Very occasionally he spluttered into life, and could be relied on to put a shift in off the bench.  It never felt like enough.

Next Season:  At his most effective Gray is waspish and belligerent.  Too often recently his frustrations have been channelled negatively. Rarely can a player have been in such severe need of a fresh start.  

19- Will Hughes

As discussed many times, a number of inconveniences collaborated to relegate us at the end of the 2019/20 season. However if we got a lucky break that summer, the hope left blinking from the bottom of Pandora’s box, it was Will Hughes’ unspecified “medical procedure”.  It kept him out for much of the season – he never started a game under Vladimir Ivić – but his absence from view may have dissuaded a Premier League club from moving in, leaving him free to pick up the baton at the back of the midfield.

From that point he was the side’s conductor, setting the beat, dictating the rhythm.  He’d been every flavour of midfielder in his Watford career up to the point… a ratter, a wide player, a continuity player, a bullet-loader behind the forwards – flexible in exactly the way that Gray isn’t, I guess –  but suddenly he was the most indispensable component of the side, and indeed didn’t miss a game from Bristol City until the final day. The only thing he’s ever missed is a bit of pace, and playing the metronome role that’s all but irrelevant.  A glorious half-season from a very fine player.

Next Season: It’s difficult conceive of many sides at any level that wouldn’t be improved by Will Hughes.  Tough, ‘cos he’s ours…

21- Kiko Femenía

This never seemed likely.  When we went down…  not someone you’d necessarily have expected to jump ship, but a return to Spain was rumoured and felt horribly credible.  Collateral damage of our relegation.

The move didn’t happen. Kiko stayed.  And not just that, but he didn’t skip a beat… whether filling in for Masina’s absence on the left or thundering down the right flank.  No sulking. No, “I’m better than this”.  Just an absolutely relentless, irrepressible overlapping machine.  My vote for POTS, for what it’s worth, since however temporary and forgivable the early frustrations of his partner in crime down the right flank they were frustrations that Kiko didn’t let hamper him in the same way.  Only at Kenilworth Road, of all places, did his levels slip.

But that right flank wasn’t half a terrifying thing once it got going. Doubling up on Sarr might have seemed like a good idea for any opponent until the first time Kiko charged past on the outside to hoover up the pieces.  It was devastating, exhilarating, and slightly unfair.

Next Season: There’s a credible argument suggesting that Kiko is a more effective right back in a dominant side, a side that will enjoy a lot of possession such that his attacking tendencies aren’t as exposed.  Whatever.  Kiko has three years’ Premier League experience and is huge fun.  We’re lucky to have him.

22- Isaac Success

Lots of good bits and lots of iffy bits.  If Isaac had just arrived, say, like Zinc, you’d be quite excited.

As it is… even those of us keen to see him harness his strength, touch and personality into a coherent, credible footballer are running out of patience. This was evident in the lack of sympathy, lack of allowance for the fact that Isaac had been out for over a year before returning to the side in March.  That’s not trivial.  A A Will Hughes, a Sarr or a Deeney would have taken time to get back into gear.

Isaac’s issue was perhaps that he’s never been in gear for long enough for folk to hanker after his top form.  His most convincing spell was perhaps as a centre-forward in Troy’s absence early in the Cup Final season… I do think that he’s more effective as a target man, holding up play, being a totem, than as a winger.  But we’ve not seen enough of anything for a sustained spell.

There’s clearly something there.  Xisco clearly felt so, giving the Nigerian a reasonable amount of match time on his return to the fold.  And if you wanted to squint at it a certain way there were reasons for optimism…  but for every neat touch or clever through ball there were instances of Success not making the run, not making the challenge.  Hugely frustrating.

Next Season:  The Swansea goal was everything good and bad about Isaac.  Good, because of the power, the control, the ferocity of the final goal of the season.  Bad because…  for pity’s sake.  This is what he’s capable of.  How rarely do we see it.  Isaac needs to pull his finger out before his career fizzles out altogether.  He’s already had several chances to do so at Vicarage Road and may not get another.

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

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

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.

End of Term Report 2021 – Part 3 24/05/2021

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

11- Adam Masina

I do still wish he was more aggressive.

I appreciate that times have changed, that the archetypal full-back in my head – Stuart Pearce, Robbo, Julian Dicks – doesn’t really exist any more.  To an extent they never did – all three were better footballers than the pastiche in your mind’s eye leaves them, all three would have “adapted” to the changing game.  Indeed Robbo, who only retired three years ago after all, demonstrably did.   Nonetheless.  Adam Masina is a big bloke and I’d like him to be scarier.

In every other respect however, he’s tremendous.  We appreciated this most in his absence, and not just when/because we were short of cover at left back.  For whatever reason this is such a difficult role to fill;  centre-forwards, yes, are precious and expensive, elite players in any position are sought after.  But looking back over the years, how many times have we been caught without a reliable left-back?

Masina ticks every box.  He’s not spectacular, not a star of the side, but he’s strong, quick, honest and reliable.  There are baubles to his game too, an increasingly reliable line in sweeping cross field passes for one, the ability to pull off extraordinarily precise, keyhole surgery tackles like the one that stole the ball off Teemu Pukki’s toe another, the ability to hit the ball really quite hard with entertaining results (Forest, Cardiff) another.  Significant that earlier in the season with Masina out, Ivić desperate for a left-back and his former charge Dimitris Giannoulis (who has just joined Norwich after a successful loan) seemingly lined up, we held fire.  There were plenty of reasons not to spend money that perhaps didn’t need spending of course, but we showed later in the season that we were prepared to do so where deemed necessary.  The passing of time justifies the decision not to do so.

All of which without considering the backstory.   There are player’s you’d root for less, put it that way.

Next Season:  Adam will need competition for his place.  No concerns at all beyond that.

12- Ken Sema

In 2020 there were all sorts of little (and big) things that colluded to get us relegated, but for any one of which… (not that we’ll ever know).  This season it’s as easy to list things that were all, individually, critical to promotion; Kenzema is certainly on that list.

When he left for Udinese after a vaguely but not startlingly encouraging first season you kind of suspected that that was that.  He kept gamely popping up on the left hand side of their Serie A line-up though and when we went down, with Gerry vacating our left flank and Adam Masina injured, he went from being a fringe player in 2018/19 to absolutely fundamental this year. He was a left wing-back when we needed him to be, a left-winger when we needed him to be, and other bits and pieces as well on a less frequent basis.

The nature of his involvement changed throughout the season.  Early on, when we were solid but less than prolific, his ability to dig out one cast-iron chance in the flattest of games by barrelling down the left touchline, his massive shoulder span prohibiting any marker from getting close enough to the ball to nick it away from him, got us out of jail any number of times.

His cross on the final day dropped onto Andre Gray’s head to put us ahead against Swansea… but before that he hadn’t created a goal since the win over Norwich on Boxing Day.  Instead, with Sarr flaming on and leaving scorch marks down the Championship’s right flanks Sema became the man on the end of those moves;  all five of his goals in the League came after the post-Coventry turnaround.

His performance levels wobbled at times, but given that he had a spell out with COVID I think that can be forgiven.  All that he achieved he managed with a grin on his face – and I think it does help, writing immediately post Bournemouth’s tragic demise at Brentford, to have good blokes as well as good footballers in the team.  It’s good to want to root for the guys in yellow without reservation.

Next Season: Ken may not be a first choice in the Premier League, but he’ll be there or thereabouts wherever and whenever needed.

14- Nathaniel Chalobah

Another one of those little bits that combined to get us promoted came at around quarter past three in Cardiff on March 13th.  After the defeat at Bournemouth (snigger) we’d regained our footing through a couple of accommodatingly timed home wins without looking totally comfortable.  Cardiff had been on a thunderous, heavyweight run since Mick McCarthy’s arrival and the match felt pivotal.

Adam Masina’s late free kick got the headlines.  Just as significant was Nate’s involvement.  In the absences of both Troy Deeney and Tom Cleverley it was the returning Chalobah who took the captain’s armband and appeared to revel in the responsibility.  Cardiff took the lead after breaking down the left, but the grim silence of the stadium meant that all of those watching on heard his “stay cool” shout as the game resumed.  Within a minute he was walking the walk, winning his dance-off with City’s defence and planting the ball into the bottom corner.

How often does a glimpse of a star remain just that?  We saw a hugely promising seventeen year-old on loan nine seasons ago, but four years away, three years back, a knee injury and an England debut later the jury was still out at the start of this season.  Hell, halfway through the season I was being accused of being too kind to Chalobah in reports on this site.  The question wasn’t whether he could, but whether he would

By the time Nate was ambling down Occupation Road in the wake of the Swansea game, tipping his head back and bellowing “yoooorns” to the heavens (as we all have many times…) he’d ended all debate.

Next Season:  Nate can be a leader with the captain’s armband.  We need him to be a leader whether he’s wearing it or not.  He’s our physicality in the middle of the park in the absence of Doucs and Capoue, the one midfielder who can do anything.   We need him to do it all at once.  But in case this wasn’t clear, I think Nate’s bloody tremendous.

15- Craig Cathcart

Craig Cathcart is only (just) 32.  He’s a lot older than that in my head.

Perhaps because ever since his return on a permanent basis (one of four in the squad to have done so after a loan – none of whom loaned from Udinese…) he’s played like a veteran.  Always in the right place.  Always calm.  For all that there were widely perceived deficiencies in our defence prior to relegation they were just that – deficiencies, things the unit was missing rather than problems with what was there.

What the defence was missing was something big, ugly and Sierralta-shaped, and whilst Cathcart’s role became less prominent after his hamstring injury coincided with the Chilean’s emergence he was still absolutely reliable when called upon whether at centre back or, in extremis, on the right.  What’s not to like?

Next Season:  Although the evidence isn’t entirely convincing (three starts together in the middle, two defeats albeit Bournemouth and Brentford away), you wouldn’t rule out a Cathcart/Sierralta partnership entirely.  It fits the organiser/doer blueprint nicely, and the retention-of-possession concern with WTE isn’t an issue with Craig.  If not, one of the first names on the bench.  Hurrah.

End of Term Report 2021 – Part 2 20/05/2021

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

7- Philip Zinckernagel

Lots of good bits and lots of iffy bits.  If Zinc had been here five years, say, like Isaac, you’d be underwhelmed.

As it is, the focus is very much on the good bits.  The ability to cross a ball, to craft a pass.  The versatility.  The willingness to do whatever job is asked of him.  The ability to keep his head when all around are losing theirs.  And that’s without making any allowances for being parachuted into a season at a radically different level to that which he’s been used to and after minimal break after a full Norwegian calendar-year season (in fairness he’s no different from everyone else this year in that regard).  In the Premier League you kinda want players to be at least pretty good at everything, but being really good at some things is a good start.

The reservations are equally clear.  Zinc has been guilty of getting caught out defensively, sometimes calamitously so – although admittedly less so as time has gone on, either because he’s learning or we are.  He tends to want too much time on the ball, can disappear from games.

But at the very least there’s a lot to build on, a distinct type of weapon for our armoury, and the possibility that a summer break and pre-season will see an excellent player emerge merely than just a useful one.

Next Season:   The ability to chip out a goal in a tight game will make all the difference in the top flight.  We’ve got to hope that the rough edges continue to be smoothed out.

8- Tom Cleverley

At the end of last season in this piece I reflected on all the things that are great about Tom whilst lamenting that he was injured quite so often.  Tremendous therefore to be looking back on a season in which Tom has featured in 34 of 46 league games, and haven’t we benefitted from it.

Difficult to fathom that Roberto Martínez had Clevs marooned wide on the left when we visited Goodison Park on our last return to the top flight six years ago. Since his re-signing at Vicarage Road, fitness has been his only obstacle to being a force for good in the Watford side;  he’s a dynamo, and possesses the rare ability to be both an attritional pain in the arse and completely in control of his temper.  The Huddersfield goal was what I believe, in the modern vernacular, is referred to as “peak Cleverley”, the essence of the player in one moment;  the Norwich performance which won him display of the season the longer form version of the same narrative.

There are several players in this squad that you look at and think “how is he playing for us?”.  Tom is one of them.

Next Season:  A leader who has England caps, a Premier League winners’ medal, an eleven-year-old Watford Player of the Season award and who makes everyone else around him better?  I’m sure we’ll find a use for him…

9- Troy Deeney

He’s bled us white, the bastard.  He’s taken everything we had, and not just from us, from our fathers, and from our fathers’ fathers.

(And from our fathers’ fathers’ fathers)


(And from our fathers’ fathers’ fathers’ fathers)

Yeah, alright Stan, don’t labour the point.  And what has he ever given us in return?

(140 goals?)


(140 goals)

Oh. Yeah, yeah. He did give us that. Uh, that’s true. Yeah.

(Those penalties)

(Oh, yeah, the penalties, Reg. Remember what the penalties used to be like?)

Yeah. All right. I’ll grant you 140 goals and those penalties are two things that Troy Deeney has done.

(And the leadership)

Well, yeah. Obviously the leadership. I mean, the leadership goes without saying, doesn’t it? But apart from the goals, the penalties, and the leadership–

(Eleven years of service)

(Playing through injury)

(A bit of personality)

Yeah, yeah. All right. Fair enough.

(And talking straight, honesty)

(Oh, yes. Yeah..)

(Yeah. Yeah, that’s something we’d really miss, Reg, if Troy left. Huh.)

(Turning his life around.  Inspiration.)

(And it’s safe for our kids to take the field against Luton now, Reg.)

(Yeah, he certainly knows how to keep order. Let’s face it. He’s the only one who could against a team like that).

(Hehh, heh. Heh heh heh heh heh heh heh.)

All right, but apart from the goals, those penalties, the leadership, eleven years of service, playing through injury, a bit of personality, honesty, inspiration and protecting the kids against them up the road, what has Troy Deeney ever done for us?

(That goal against Leicester….?)

Oh. Leicester? Shut up!

Next Season:   None of that matters much of course, as regards Troy’s ongoing involvement.  If a sturdy track record was enough on its own, Gibbsy and Luther would still be in the side.  What matters is what Troy’s capable of now.  There’s been much suggestion that the skipper, the “Big Dog” according to Ben Foster, is past it, no longer able to contribute.  That may even be your opinion, or at least suspicion.  If it is… three things.  First, he’s more than earned the chance to prove you wrong.  Second, you’re going to need to be the one to tell him to his face.  Third, I think you’re mistaken.

10- João Pedro

The story’s a great one.  A kid from Brazil, identified, tied down before anyone – even, seemingly, his club Fluminense – realise quite how good he is.  We then have fifteen months of watching bigger clubs circling, with Fluminense asserting that being persuaded to sell their player before he’d even made his debut for less than he turned out to be worth was somehow underhand.  None of these threats get anyone anywhere and we get to feel very smug about the whole thing – the scouting, the decisiveness, the persuasive powers, the savvy, the end product.

Then he turns eighteen, and gets to sign terms and arrives in England. And with that sort of backstory… well, no pressure, son.  Within a couple of months of his arrival not speaking English and on the other side of the world to home everything goes pear-shaped, the world shuts down.  When it clunks back into gear again Watford are relegated and the Boy from Brazil is in a rather different environment to the one he perhaps anticipated.

It says a lot for Watford that he’s done so well.  It can only reflect well on the support afforded to him in circumstances difficult for those providing the support as much as for anyone else.  But it reflects well on João Pedro too.  In how many versions of this story does he flatter to deceive, or disappear into himself.  Maybe he’s got a trick but can’t communicate with or relate to his teammates.  Perhaps he’s just not able to show the ability that persuaded us to fork out that money for him.

Not a bit of it.  Nine goals and seven assists in his first full season, promotion secured in a campaign in which he was effectively a first choice throughout.  Sharp in front of goal, aware of what’s around him, a touch and control that allows him to float in possession, like he’s in some kind of protective bubble.  And he’s hard as nails too, no frail kid that’s going to get battered off the ball.  That goal at Derby… just ridiculous.  Outrageous. One of the best “go mental in the living room” moments of the season, so in control of the situation.

And he’s still a teenager by the way.  Yeah, he’ll do.

Next Season: That we need options up front doesn’t detract from the fact that João Pedro is a great option.  The only slight puzzle is in why, given the above, we’re not a little bit more excited…

End of Term Report 2021 – Part 1 17/05/2021

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

1- Ben Foster

Ben Foster’s bloody great.

When he first arrived on loan in 2005, as discussed about a year ago, he was embroiled in the uncertainty of that first summer.  Lewington had been sacked, Nigel Gibbs had been disposed of, it wasn’t entirely comfortable.  Ben Foster came in from Manchester United, but had spent a loan spell the previous season being relegated from League One with Wrexham.

He wasn’t expected to start the season, not by me, we had Richard Lee after all.  But there he was. The doubts didn’t dissipate immediately as Ben’s head was sometimes too far ahead of the action, looking for the throw before he’d recovered the ball and being caught out.  But then… a few months in, he was at Alec Chamberlain’s testimonial horseracing event, one of very few players who’d braved the masses.  That’s a decent thing for a loanee for Manchester United to do.  And by then, any doubts on the pitch had been dismissed too.

Fast forward sixteen years and Ben Foster’s latest YouTube instalment has him playing a round of golf with the same Richard Lee.  That YouTube channel has added another layer to this oddest of season’s, spent as it has been largely in front of a screen.  He’s been knocked for it, particularly when the results had a wobble, but as well as being entertaining it’s been a step towards personalising both Ben and his team-mates.  In an era when knocking people online has become painfully and occasionally offensively easy, dissuasion is surely more desirable than prevention.  Look, these are real people irrespective of how good they are at football.  Meanwhile, having spent a couple of years with Heurelho Gomes as his wholehearted deputy Ben’s handled being usurped by Daniel Bachmann with similar good grace.

As well as being a good bloke he’s still a very good goalkeeper, 38 or otherwise.  Inevitably, at some point, he’ll stop being quite so good.  Given this, there’s a bit of me that’s pleased that an injury has given Dan Bachmann the chance to come in when he has such that we don’t have to watch Ben not be brilliant any more.

Next Season:  Rumour has Manchester City looking at Ben as a benchwarmer; you can understand how that would suit them.  Whether it would suit him is difficult to predict. If Ben’s still at the Vic, either as first choice or as backup and cheerleader for Dan Bachmann, we’re all the better for it.

3- Jeremy Ngakia

You’ve got to feel a bit sorry for Jeremy Ngakia.   Committing to join the Hornets before relegation, then finding that Kiko Femenía wasn’t, as had been suspected, heading back to Spain and he’s ended up playing less football at a lower level than he might have anticipated.

He’s looked the part, mostly.  Lots of fun, quick, aggressive, dynamic.  For a 20 year-old full-back, more than good enough.  Get-attable, maybe, defensively.  And not a left back, although judging him for being torn up by Connor Roberts at Swansea is perhaps a bit harsh.  Ngakia was one of many fringe players to have gotten injured at the wrong time… like Perica, Success, Dele-Bashiru and, late in the day, Joseph Hungbo, he picked up a knock just when he might have gotten a run – in this case, due to Kiko pulling a muscle against Millwall.  As it stands, three of his four starts under Xisco have been on the left, which is perhaps a bit unfortunate.

Next Season:  But “not quite as good as Kiko” still gives Ngakia plenty of wriggle room.   Right back, one suspects, is no longer a recruitment priority.

5- William Troost-Ekong

So much to like about William Troost-Ekong. Before he’d even arrived the backstory was hugely encouraging…  grown up around Watford, married into a family of Watford fans.  Split Nigerian/Dutch parentage has seen him represent both nations, but then when Spurs didn’t offer him a contract he followed his nose to the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Turkey.  He was only in Udine for two years, but mastered Italian to the extent that he is able to use it to communicate with partner Francisco Sierralta.

So he’s smart, he’s open-minded.  He’s grounded.  But he’s also deceptive.  6’3″, but looks smaller (because he’s often standing next to Sierralta).  27, but plays with the nous of a 33 year-old.  Sierralta, you suspect, might not be quite the phenomenon alongside a different partner… the relationship echoes those of Holdsworth and Roeder, Brown and Galli, Demerit and Cox/Dyche.  The doer given a platform by the wise head, the organiser alongside him.  Significant that three of the five defeats since the turn of the year – albeit in challenging games at Swansea, Bournemouth and Brentford – came on rare occasions when Troost-Ekong was out of the side.

Next Season: The “but” of course is that possession is a more precious commodity in the Premier League than in the Championship, and Troost-Ekong has a habit of surrendering it cheaply and even calamitously.  That’s got to be a bit of a concern.  Very much in our interests to find a way to navigate it.

6- Ben Wilmot

“I don’t know what Wilmot has to do to get a game” was simultaneously a thoroughly understandable and completely baffling soundtrack to the second half of the season.  “Not be a centre-back in a squad in which five are competing for two places” would be the unsympathetic answer of course…  with WTE and Sierralta clearly, indisputably the first picks, Craig Cathcart smart enough and experienced enough to step in whenever and wherever and the force of nature that is Christian Kabasele to accommodate too, no mystery at all in Wilmot’s omission really.  Just who would you have left out?

And yet there’s so much to like here.  In the first half of the season, Wilmot’s single-mindedness often lifted him above the drabber performances.  Often being the best player in poor performances is damning with faint praise – Worrell Sterling was one who suffered from that in years gone by.  But it’s a positive thing – and grist to the mill of the suggestion that he’s a future captain – that Wilmot was able to be assertive in such situations.  Dragging a team performance along is much harder from the middle of defence than it is from midfield or up front, but Wilmot managed it more than once.  Nor, of course, is he exclusively a centre-back, having filled in reasonably convincingly at left back and more than convincingly in the deep midfield role with which he’s long been associated.

Next Season:  And yet he’s clearly the fifth cab off the rank at centre-back as it stands.  Like Kabasele he’s got a rick in him, but he’s not got the Belgian’s dominant physique.  He’s not the quickest.  But it’s imperative that we find a way to use him and exploit that talent, else someone else will.

Helping Hands 2020/2021 12/05/2021

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

The thing about assists is… there isn’t really an unique definition.  No “official list”, no panel of ex-players formalising decisions as there is with goalscorers.  So… my definition is on the generous side, hence the numbers of assists below are higher than you’ll find elsewhere.  I would include a critical pass even if it were deflected, a shot which is saved and the rebound converted.  I’d also include being fouled for a converted penalty (unless the penalty were converted by the same player – you can’t assist your own goal!).  This year I even got to decide whether to include being fouled for a converted free kick qualified;  since Ismaïla Sarr’s heroism in winning Masina’s free kick was so evident, that was a clear cut decision.  Other folks use meaner definitions.  They’re allowed to be wrong.

First off.  Like the goals, responsibility well-spread between all concerned.  Twenty goalscorers, but seventeen folk provided assists which is no less impressive.  Of particular interest is the folk at either end of the list.

Sarr, of course, is ridiculous.  A cheat code at this level, as has been discussed, but perhaps my favourite “assist” of this season above even the undefendable cross against Sheffield Wednesday and the countless committing of hapless defenders to win penalties was the one at Cardiff.  Last minute, everyone’s knackered, decent away point.  Sarr’s been kicked around, picks up the ball on the right flank and goes straight for the gap between two Cardiff defenders, crowbars it open and gets taken down on the way through.  As joyful a thing as what followed in stark contrast to his slightly stroppy arm flinging when things were difficult earlier in the campaign.

Earlier in the campaign.  A time when Kenzema’s nailed on once-per-game barrel into the box down the goalline yielded so many get-out-of-jail goals.  His last assist was that fabulous cross for Andre Gray on the final day, before that it was Boxing Day against Norwich reflecting that he flagged slightly towards the end of the season;  by then others were making hay.

Including Zinc.  There’s lots that needs sorting out here, but having arrived from Norway having already played a famously prolific March-November season to run up five assists in spasmodic involvement would have been great even if he hadn’t done an Almen Abdi tribute in the home game against Wycombe.

At the other extreme…  our two first-choice centre-backs didn’t get an assist between them, the three back-ups managed two between them and one of those when Ben Wilmot was pretending to be a full-back at Derby.  Assists not their job I suppose, which is perfectly fine if they’re sorting twenty-three clean sheets, negative shots on target and so on.  Adam Masina not getting an assist for the second season running is slightly more surprising;  he’s not the galloping threat that Kiko is on the opposite flank and missed the start of the season, but he’s got a long pass on him.

Yet more surprising is Will Hughes not being amongst the seventeen;  indeed, his only assist last season came in August 2019 at home to West Ham.  Withdrawn position or not, that’s a bit odd.  He’s clearly rubbish, that lad.  Statistics, eh?

Back soon with the End of Season Report.  Carry on…

Assists Apps Gls Assists vs
Sarr 13 40 13 BlR (H), Bou (H), Stk (H), PNE (H), PNE (H), Bre (H), QPR (H), BrC (H), BrC (H), BrC (H), Der (H), Car (A), ShW (H)
Sema 8 38+5 6 Mid (H), Lut (H), BlR (H), Stk (H), Cov (H), QPR (A), Nor (H), Swa (H)
João Pedro 7 32+8 9 Oxf (A – LC), PNE (H), Stk (A), BlR (A), BlR (A), Bir (H), Nor (A)
Femenía 7 36+1 0 BlR (H), Wyc (A), Rot (H), Hud (H), Wyc (H), Car (A), Rea (H)
Zinckernagel 5 10+11 1 Wyc (H), Rot (A), Rot (A), Mid (A), Rea (H)
Deeney 3 14+5 7 PNE (H), Rot (H), Stk (A)
Cleverley 3 32+2 4 Stk (H), BrC (H), BlR (A)
Gray 2 15+16 5 Swa (A), Rot (A)
Chalobah 2 34+6 3 Der (H), Rot (A)
Pussetto 1 1+1 0 Nwp (A – LC)
Perica 1 3+15 1 Bir (A)
Navarro 1 4+4 0 Swa (H)
Gosling 1 6+7 2 Bir (H)
Garner 1 13+8 0 Cov (H)
Wilmot 1 15+12 1 Der (A)
Ngakia 1 18+8 0 Bir (H)
Cathcart 1 20+5 1 PNE (H)
Crichlow 0 0+1 0
Peñaranda 0 0+1 1
Pochettino 0 0+1 0
Dawson 0 1 0
Dele-Bashiru 0 1+1 0
Agyakwa 0 2 0
Sinclair 0 2 0
Stevenson 0 2 0
Lazaar 0 2+3 0
Phillips 0 2+3 0
Murray 0 2+4 0
Hungbo 0 2+5 0
Sánchez 0 2+7 0
Success 0 3+7 1
Capoue 0 7+4 0
Quina 0 9+6 1
Kabasele 0 19+2 1
Masina 0 22+4 2
Hughes 0 22+9 2
Foster 0 23 0
Bachmann 0 26 0
Sierralta 0 27+2 1
Troost Ekong 0 32+1 1

Check out the 2019-20, 2018-19, 2017-18, 2016-172015-162014-152013-142012-132011-12, 2010-112009-102008-09 and 2007-08 equivalents by clicking on the links.

The List 2021. 09/05/2021

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

The List.  The Premier League list, by the way. Every player to have been linked with moves in or out since the closure of the January window. To be kept up to date until the closure of the window so bookmark if you Like This Sort Of Thing.  A very low bar of credibility is employed, but a mere “I think Watford should sign…” falls below it.  Previous windows’ lists linked at foot of article.

* Indicates player linked in previous windows

Running Total: 76


Adam Reach (Sheff Wed
Kadeem Harris (Sheff Wed
Kolo Muani (Nantes
Kean Bryan (Sheffield United
Fernando Llorente (Udinese
Jacob Murphy (Newcastle
Ashley Young (Inter)*                                                joined Aston Villa
Matěj Vydra (Burnley)* 
Alberth Ellis (Boavista
Karl Darlow (Newcastle
Joe Pigott (AFC Wimbledon)                              joined Ipswich
Saikou Janneh (Bristol City
Charlie Bell (Portsmouth
Ike Ugbo (Chelsea
Kwadwo Baah (Rochdale)                                                      SIGNED
Siriki Dembélé (Peterborough)*
Rodrigo de Paul (Udinese)*                            joined Atlético Madrid
Jens Stryger Larsen (Udinese)
Rafael Borré (River Plate)                              joined Eintracht Frankfurt
Ilias Chair (Queens Park Rangers)*
Mbaye Diagne (Galatasaray)*
Gaël Kakuta (RC Lens)
Yakou Méïté (Reading)
Lewis Ferguson (Aberdeen)
Daichi Kamada (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Jens Petter Hauge (Milan)
Josh Doig (Hibernian)
Ashley Fletcher (Middlesbrough)                                        SIGNED
Hugo Souza (Flamengo)
Sory Kaba (Midtjylland)
Mattie Pollock (Grimsby Town)                                              SIGNED
Darrin Enahoro (Stoke City)                                                 SIGNED
Arnaut Danjuma (AFC Bournemouth)
Osaze Urhoghide (Sheffield Wednesday)                 joined Celtic
Robbie Brady (Burnley)*
Jon Moncayola (Osasuna)
Danilo (Palmeiras)
Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal)
Adrián Embarba (Espanyol)
Imrân Louza (Nantes)                                            SIGNED
Sam Johnstone (West Brom)*
Harvey Elliott (Liverpool)
Kevin Bonifazi (SPAL)                                 joined Bologna
Daryl Dike (Orlando City)
Tammy Abraham (Chelsea)
Filip Đuričić (Sassuolo)
Danny Rose (Tottenham)*                                           SIGNED
Maxwel Cornet (Lyon)*
Glen Kamara (Rangers)
Seko Fofana (RC Lens)*
Jovane Cabral (Sporting)
Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Arsenal)
Dapo Mebude (Rangers)                                        SIGNED
Paul Onuachu (Genk)
Giovanni Simeone (Cagliari)*
Kelechi Nwakali (Huesca)
Amadou Onana (Hamburg)
Mario Lemina (Southampton)*                        joined Nice
Vincent Angelini (Celtic)                                   SIGNED
Peter Etebo (Stoke City)                                SIGNED ON LOAN
Pape Matar Sarr (Metz)
Isaac Hayden (Newcastle)*
Josh King (Everton)                                          SIGNED
Aaron Boupendza (Hatyaspor)
Harris O’Connor (Rangers)
Abdul Abdulmalik (Millwall)
Morten Thorsby (Sampdoria)
Aaron Ramsey (Juventus)
Matt Longstaff (Newcastle)*
Brandon Soppy (Rennes)
Adam Armstrong (Blackburn)
Trevoh Chalobah (Chelsea)
James Léa Siliki (Rennes)*
Matt Grimes (Swansea)*
Matthew Garbett (Falkenbergs)
James McGrath (St Mirren)


Francisco Sierralta (Palace, West Ham
Kiko Femenía (Trabzonspor
Ben Foster (Manchester City, Celtic
Ismaila Sarr (Liverpool*)
Ben Wilmot (Swansea City*, Stoke City)                       joined Stoke City
Ignacio Pussetto (Udinese*)                                   rejoined Udinese on loan
Cucho Hernández (Getafe*, Granada*)
Troy Deeney (Sivasspor)
Stipe Perica (Barnsley)
Will Hughes (Aston Villa, Fulham, Newcastle, Crystal Palace)
Filip Stuparević (Partizan Belgrade)
Philip Zinckernagel (Nottingham Forest)
Adalberto Peñaranda (Las Palmas)                     joined Las Palmas on loan
Andre Gray (Middlesbrough, Blackburn)
Kwadwo Baah (Sheffield Wednesday)
Bosun Lawal (Celtic)                               joined Celtic
Dan Phillips (Gillingham)                    joined Gillingham on loan
Daniel Bachmann (Arsenal, West Ham, Ajax)

2021   January
2020 Summer January
2019 Summer January
2018 Summer January
2017 Summer January
2016 Summer January
2015 Summer