Last season saw Watford return to the Premier League after eight years. They secured a midtable finish and avoided a relegation scrap under Quique Sanchez Flores. But the Spaniard was unjustly sacked by the board at the end of the season. Can the Hornets better last season under new manager Walter Mazzarri?
So what do they have to better?
Last season saw Watford finished 13th, securing 12 wins, seven draws and 17 losses. The Hornets started the season well picking up 29 points from their first 19 matches. This saw a good run over the Christmas period which included a 3-0 win over Liverpool five days before Christmas Day lifted them in the table. This period also saw the start of their FA Cup run which lead them to the semi-finals which they lost to Crystal Palace. Yet apart from the appearance at Wembley there was little to celebrate in for Watford fans in the second half of the season which saw them secure only four wins between January and May.
It is well known that Walter Mazzarri likes to play with three out and out center-backs often in a 3-5-2 or 3-4-1-2 formation. The change in formation will have little effect on the strikers and attacking midfield but will be dramatic for Watford's defence. When played correctly the formation can see a secure defence with an attacking threat from the wing-backs who create width on the flanks. The three centre-backs create security for the wing-backs to get forward, yet use of wing-backs means that the formation can easily shift to five at the back to help stop oncoming attacks. However the task that lays ahead of the Watford defence is massive has if this system is used incorrectly it can be self-destructive as centre-backs can be dragged infield and caught out of position.
In terms of attack little will change for Watford as Mazzarri prefers two strikers upfront, which will undoubtedly be Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney.
The transfer window, a Success...?
The biggest success for Watford this transfer window has been their ability to ward off bids for their striking duo Ighalo and Deeney. Watford rejected a combined £60m deal for the two players over the transfer window and saw their captain Deeney sign a new five year deal. The Hornets have also brought in a number of players, most notably 20-year-old forward Isaac Success. The Nigerian will hopefully add a new dimension to Watford's attack as will Jerome Sinclair, a talented youngster who joined from Liverpool.
Watford could have done with securing Nathan Ake on a permanent deal after his successful loan spell, which saw him become an influential member of the team and crucial in defence. The Hornets however missed out on the full-back who has since joined Bournemouth. Overall Watford have added strength in depth while also ridding any deadwood within the team.
Strengths and weaknesses?
The Ighalo and Deeney partnership upfront was stellar last season and is the biggest strength of the team. The two have shown excellent understanding between each other as well as composure in front of goal. The two contributed 28 league goals last season, which is 70% of the total scored.
While the two strikers were on form in front of goal the other players were not. Only three other players scored more than two goals last season for the Hornets, which could be a problem if either striker was to fall out of form.
Last season Watford’s defence conceded 50 goals yet even behind a shakey defence Heurelho Gomes was also solid in goal making crucial saves when needed.
To date Watford have won two, drawn two and lost one preseason friendly, with Lorient still to be faced. The loss came to Championship side QPR and saw them dismantle the Hornets defence far to easily. With a new new formation being implemented fans can only hope that the players get to grips with it before the season starts.
Watford face Lorient in their final pre-season game on August 6.
Who will be influential for the Hornets?
It’s obvious but Ighalo and Deeney will be a key players for Watford this season. Ighao scored 15 goals in all competitions while bagging three assists. The striker's link up play has been astounding as both produced goals. It is likely that the two will improve on that this season.
On top of this the relationship of the field between the two players will help keep the spirit up in the team. With a handful of new attacking players coming into the squad it will be key for them to be welcomed by the duo and this would have an effect on the pitch. Especially with Deeney as the captain, who is the driving force behind the squad he will have an influential role on and off the pitch.