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Watford 2015/16 Season Preview

August 3, 2015

| The Hype Train |

Chop and change has been a formula used by Watford in the last year and a half. Five permanent managers have overseen the Hornets from the dugout, but yet the London based club still managed to achieve Premier League status. Thriving amongst the constant uncertainty, ruled by one of the wealthiest Italian families, the project at Watford is built on ruthless business decision making. As FPL Managers, it’s time to put on the Pozzo hat, and determine if there are any worthy additions for the upcoming Fantasy Premier League season.

 

 

If you’re an outsider that doesn’t follow the Championship, only drawn to England’s top division, you might not know many names at Watford. The uneducated would probably be familiar to a couple of names. Troy Deeney is one, a viral sensation after a last-gasp play-off goal against Leicester, just moments after Mattie Jones had missed a penalty for the opposition, sent Watford to an unsuccessful play-off final against Crystal Palace (look at where they’re at now). Football fans might also recognise Gomes in-between the sticks, a prominent flop at Spurs, famed for his goalkeeping mistakes. Yet a part of the solid foundation at Watford. Elsewhere, devoted fans will know of the prowess of Ighalo, and the majesty of Vydra, and the direct nature of Watford’s game.

 

As you dig deeper into their story, the dominating issue, above the players and the football itself, is the family owning the club. They might not have a necessary part in the FPL – We don’t pick the Pozzo family in our squad of fifteen – but ownership is a huge deal at the top level. Even more so in the second division. Putting it kindly, Watford have proven erratic at a managerial level as they attempt to find the perfect coach to fit the model so well utilised at Udinese, the club the Pozzo family own in Italy, a club that has arguably bolstered Watford’s ascension back up the second division ladder.

 

Before we divulge any further, let’s take a quick glance at the managers who have come and gone at Watford in recent times.

 

Recent Manager History

Giuseppe Sannino (Dec 13 – Aug 14): P31, W13, D8, L10

Óscar García Junyent (Sep 14 – Sep 14): P4, W1, D2, L1

Billy McKinlay (Sep 14 – Oct 14): P2, W1, D1, L0

Slaviša Jokanović (Oct 14 – Jun 15): P35, W21, D4, L10

Quique Flores (Jun 15 – Present): Yet to take charge of a competitive game.

 

If we’re talking purely from a managerial point of view, Watford are going to prove a tricky customer on paper for FPL players. There are certainly key players that are going to rise in price, Deeney at 5.5m is an obvious shout, but this article is a challenge at the actual potential of Watford. All you’ve got to do is a simple search-bar search, and you’ll find dense literature about the state of Watford football club. All of it behind the scenes. A ruthless political regime that takes no prisoners has been adopted, but the fans are grateful. Ecstatic even. A season at least in the most lucrative economic league in the season. One season away from the bumper TV deal with Sky ant BT.

 

The Pozzo family have invested £20 million into the London club, consolidated and cleared much of their debt. Prevented the club from administration. Recently tied captain Troy Deeney, linked with a move away to the likes of Everton and Newcastle, to a bumper new deal. Would he have realistically stayed for another season had a big offer come in? We’re not sure. The support at a localised there is there, the regime works, despite the casualties along the way. As a London club, they can offer players from the world a home in England’s capital, and a potential gateway into London’s historically bigger clubs.

 

On top of the ownership, Watford aren’t new to the Premier League, unlike Bournemouth, so they have a wealth of former veteran players that can give greater analyse to the Pozzo family, should they need an earful about how to survive in Europe’s alpha league.

 

But despite the unlikely resurrection of a side more famed for their top flight efforts in years past, FPL Managers are not convinced. Most will pin Watford for relegation. A small minnow club from London, run by owners that have had more managers than they have hot meals. 

 

Recent History in the Premier League

Watford’s last ride in the BPL was in the 2006/07 season. The season prior, they were promoted via the play-offs, going up alongside Reading and Sheffield United. Their most recent season, quite frankly, ended in disaster.

  • Five wins from 38 games. 13 draws. 20 defeats.

  • They only scored 29 goals, the joint lowest in the league with Manchester City (before the money).

  • It took eleven games to win a match, at home, 2-0, verses Middlesbrough.

  • Ashley Young was sold to Aston Villa in the January transfer window.

  • Hameur Bouazza finished as top scorer, with five.

2006/07 was the first ever FPL season, and it was not kind, it never will be to a side they only managed 28 points. But there can be no stark contrast to the sides of then and now. It’s a completely different club, so should be based off its own merit. Today they have Deeney, then they had Marlon King. A major upgrade on paper, but in reality it’s going to be a testing season for the Hornets.

 

Watford’s Promotion Team

In the same light as Bournemouth, the Watford team that achieved second place, was not regarded as a title challenger. Derby were the season favourites, followed by Norwich, Fulham, and Middlesbrough, but the Championship’s best quality is its wild unpredictability, and Watford proved just that last season.

 

The regime under Slaviša Jokanović utilised a counter-attacking based 3-4-3 formation. With a new manager in place, the formation will change, but given its success of last season and these players still at the club’s disposal, there could always be a revert back to basics should Flores and his pre-season favourite, the 4-2-3-1, prove ineffective.

 

First is the line-up in their promotion winning fixture, away at Brighton, and the second is the 11 that conceded an injury-time goal by the hands of Sheffield Wednesday that prevented the Hornets from lifting the Championship crown.

 

 

 

Matthew Connolly, an expert at promotion in England’s second tier, was brought in to do just that and played a pivotal role, but is no longer at the club. Anya and Paredes were the lone wingmen in the side whilst Abdi almost consistently played behind captain Deeney. The support for Troy was heavily rotated, and we expect the same again this season. A combination of this season’s attacking units, Vydra, Ighalo and Forestieri, all inter-changing their roles depending on the given opponent, and whether the Hornets were playing home or away.

 

Watford Appearances 2014/15

For our Bournemouth and Norwich articles we dedicated a section to rotated players, but instead for Watford, given the constant change in management, it’s best to look at the team as a whole in regards to appearances. Only players of relevance, or with more than one start have been included into the stats.

 

All appearances have been ranked in order of appearances, with substitute appearances appearing in brackets.

 

Goalkeepers

Heurelho Gomes: 44 (0)

Jonathan Bond: 2 (1)

 

Defenders

Juan Carlos Paredes: 32 (7)

Gabriele Angella: 32 (3)

Craig Cathcart: 28 (1)

Joel Ekstrand: 23 (1)

Tommy Hoban: 20 (7)

Daniel Pudil: 19 (4)

Miguel Layun: 14 (3)

Sebastien Bassong: 11 (0)

Marco Motta: 7 (2)

Gabriel Tamas: 6 (1)

Lloyd Doyley: 5 (1)

Matthew Connolly: 4 (2)

 

Midfielders

Daniel Tozser: 34 (11)

Almen Abdi: 28 (4)

Ikechi Anya: 27 (8)

Gianni Munari: 21 (7)

Ben Watson: 19 (1)

Adlene Guedioura: 13 (4)

Lewis McGugan: 5 (1)

Lloyd Dyer: 4 (10)

Keith Andrews: 4 (5)

Sean Murray: 2 (4)

Diego Fabbrini: 2 (0)

 

Forwards

Troy Deeney: 37 (5)

Matej Vydra: 31 (11)

Odion Ighalo: 22 (13)

Fernando Forestieri: 10 (14)

 

Analysis of Watford’s squad last season means that based purely off appearances alone, the team operated in a 3-5-2 formation with Anya and Paredes at the wing back position, with Toszer, Abdi and Munari in the middle of the park supporting a trio of Vydra, Deeney, and Ighalo. It’s interesting to note that only Deeney, Tozser, and Vydra, and Gomes, are the only players to reach the 40 game mark. 

 

Heurelho Gomes: 44 (0)

Juan Carlos Paredes: 32 (7)

Gabriele Angella: 32 (3)

Craig Cathcart: 28 (1)

Daniel Tozser: 34 (11)

Almen Abdi: 28 (4)

Ikechi Anya: 27 (8)

Gianni Munari: 21 (7)

Troy Deeney: 37 (5)

Matej Vydra: 31 (11)

Odion Ighalo: 22 (13)

 

That 40 game mark be the basis to base and FPL additions on. FPL managers absolutely hate the idea of player rotation. Full backs mostly fall into this equation. Azpi, Bellerin, Clichy and Kolorov, are all examples of managers lacking faith in players wobbling on the playing tight-rope, even if it’s just for one game.

 

Watford’s Key Men & Stats

Only one minute away from lifting the second division crown, Watford have perhaps been overlooked by some FPL managers, with general consensus pointing towards the Cherries being in a much better position as they aim to beat the drop in their first ever season. The FPL seems to believe that is the case. Matt Ritchie, prices at £6.0 million, is pricier than any Watford player. Deeney, as you’re about to see in the stats, proved lethal in the second division, and begins at 0.5m lower than Ritchie. 

 

Goals

Troy Deeney: 21

Odion Ighalo: 20

Matej Vydra: 16

Fernando Forestieri: 5

Daniel Tozser: 5

Craig Cathcart: 3

Adlène Guédioura: 3

Gianni Munari: 3

Gabriele Angella: 2

Matthew Connolly: 1

Joel Ekstrand: 1

Ben Watson: 1

 

Watford were only behind Champions, Bournemouth, in the goal-scoring charts. The yellow and black scored a highly impressive 91 goals, whilst shipping 50 past the net of Gomes.

 

• Watford were awarded 8 penalties last season. Deeney only took half of them, scoring three. Vydra took two, scoring both. Ighalo missed his only penalty whilst Daniel Pudil scored one.

• Ighalo scored more home goals (12), than Deeney (11).

• Almen Abdi scored 6 of his 9 goals away from home.

• Deeney scored 10 away goals, the 4th highest number in the league – behind Daryl Murphy (13), Callum Wilson (12), and Chris Martin (11).

• Deeney and Ighalo both score a hat trick during the 2014/15 season.

• Two or more goals in each of nine consecutive away games (Feb 10 to April 25) – surpasses a club record of 111 years

• Seven goals in one half vs. Blackpool at home – club record

• Troy Deeney’s third consecutive season scoring 20+ goals – club record

 

Assists

Troy Deeney: 11 assists

Ikechi Anya: 8 assists

 

Perhaps the only telling assists of any note worthiness once again falls into the domain of supporting the notion than Deeney is going to be pivotal for any FPL side. 11 assists proves that Watford had great link-up between their forward players, with everything going through the captain.

 

It’s also an excuse to discuss Anya. The arrival of Jose Holebas means that the days of playing wide left-back in a 3-4-3 formation, Anya could take on a more forward role in the squad, perhaps playing on the left with Holebas. This will only be positive encourage for FPL managers looking to take on a left-field wildcard option. 8 assists from 46 games for a player in an isolated position is not bad, especially given that Anya was not on set-piece duty. The only set-back might be the risk of rotation. Anya, though one of Watford’s main starters, didn’t see 30 starts during the course of the season. With Abdi, Vydra, Ighalo all potentially dropping into his potential position, to compensate for Deeney, Anya could be one of those stories of you screaming at your computer as he’s taken off in the 59th minute on a yellow card.

 

Clean Sheets

Watford’s number one, Gomes, played all but 2 games last season. Bond, now at Reading, was the Brazilian’s understudy, playing the other 2 games on offer. Racking up a total of 15 clean sheets is an impressive feat, especially given that Watford conceded 50 goals last season. If a team in the Premier League concedes fifty goals, they’re lucky to break 5-10 clean sheets. If they’re lucky (it’s not easy).

 

Dimitrios Konstantopoulos (Boro): 19 clean sheets, 40 games

Keiren Westwood (Wednesday): 17 clean sheets, 44 games

Artur Boruc (Bournemouth): 16 clean sheets, 37 games

Heurelho Gomes (Watford): 15 clean sheets, 44 games

David Forde (Millwall): 15 clean sheets, 46 games

 

 

Based off these stats, Boruc would have been rivalling the top in terms of clean sheets had he played all of the games, but in the FPL, we’d all rather pick Gomes over Boruc because unlike Watford, there are legitimate defensive options at Bournemouth. Should Francis, Bournemouth’s right back play as expected, most FPL managers won’t bank on two defenders from lower down the league ladder that are in the same team. So Gomes by default almost, out of the three promoted keepers, would be our choice for rotation. Watford have two of their first three games at home, but more on that later.

 

Disciplinary

Watford attained 77 yellow cards during the course of the season, with 7 red cards, 3 of which that were for straight red offenses. Leading from the front, is Deeney. It’ll be interesting to see if this statistically rough and tumble striker will defend from the front, much like Costa at Chelsea. This could potentially offset interest in the 21 goal machine.

 

For the sakes of this article, we’re only going to list the top offenders. The entire squad pretty much picked up at least a yellow.

 

Troy Deeney: 7 yellow

Almen Abdi: 6 yellow

Craig Cathcart: 6 yellow

Daniel Tozser: 6 yellow

Gabriele Angella: 5 yellow, 2 red

Juan Carlos Paredes: 5 yellow

Fernando Forestieri: 4 yellow

Adlene Guedioura: 4 yellow

Tommy Hoban: 4 yellow, 1 red

Gianni Munari: 4 yellow

 

Those tinkering with the idea with Deeney need to realise right now that at some point in the season he’s going to be a suspension risk. If these stats are anything to go by, he’ll get stuck in, particularly in the second half where he acquired 6 of his 7 cards. Time-wasting tactic or frustration, which means Watford will most likely play the tactical game if they’re winning. They’ll happily settle on a lead, and aren’t fazed if their key players pick up cards in order to stall on potential points. All of the top card getters though were the most featured players throughout the season, so it’ll be no surprise to see Abdi or Deeney at the top of the disciplinary table. 

 

Deeney may very well one of those strikers who has a lot of single pointer Gameweek’s. That’s just not acceptable for players who’ll eventually be breaking into the top 1000 players.

 

Overall Record

In a season that began as a potential mid-table assault, three managers in and Watford lingered around the play-off places. The London side didn’t lose any of their last seven games, ensuring a total points haul of 89. They achieved 46 points at home, 43 away. Ighalo was lethal at home, Deeney reliable away from Vicarage Road.

 

• Watford earned just 13 points against the rest of the Championship’s top eight, while Middlesbrough top that table with 26, Norwich have 24 and Bournemouth 21.

• Goal difference +41 – club record in the top three tiers.

• Watford took an average of 2.4 points from games against the bottom 16 teams in the Championship, a league high.

• 5th best defense in the league – behind Boro, Bournemouth, Norwich, and Sheffield Wednesday.

• 89 points – club record in the top two tiers

• 43 away points – club record (including adjusted totals when only two points were awarded for a win).

• 13 away wins – club record

• Overall win percentage of 59% in the league.

 

Transfer Activity

Watford have been quietly bolstering their ranks, so much so that Holebas from Roma was unaware about his transfer to the Hornets. Unlike Newcastle, as you’d come to expect from a newly promoted team, the new manager Flores has been heavily active in the summer window. Three defenders, defensive cover in midfield, it’s quite clear that Watford are happy with their forward options and are tightening the ship for the onslaught of teams in the top half of the table.

 

Player Name                      Former Club                       Fee

Giedrius Arlauskis             Steaua București                Free Transfer

Sebastian Prödl                 Werder Bremen                  Free Transfer

Matěj Vydra                       Udinese                              £4,000,000

José Holebas                    Roma                                  £1,800,000

Étienne Capoue                Tottenham Hotspur             £6,300,000

Valon Behrami                  Hamburg                             Undisclosed

Allan Nyom                       Udinese                               Undisclosed

Miguel Britos                     Napoli                                 Free Transfer

José Manuel Jurado         Spartak Moscow                 Undisclosed

Juanfran                            Real Betis                            £1,500,000

Steven Berghuis                AZ Alkmaar                         £4,600,000

 

 

Current FPL Squad

As of the 17th July 2015 this is the full FPL Squad for Watford for the upcoming season. Under the ‘position’ column we have added the positions the players are most known for playing and can play.

 

Captain: Troy Deeney

 

Category/Position/Price

 

Goalkeepers

Arlauskis - GK - 4.5

Gomes - GK - 4.5

 

Defenders

Nyom - RB - 4.5

Holebas - LB - 4.5

Angella - CB - 4.5

Cathcart - CB - 4.5

Prödl - CB - 4.5

Paredes - RB - 4.5

Layún - CM/LB/RB - 4.5

Britos - CB - 4.5

Ekstrand - CB - 4.0

Pudil - LB - 4.0

Hoban - CB - 4.0

Doyley - CB - 4.0

 

Midfielders

Berghuis - LM/RM/CAM - 6.0

Jurado - LM/CAM - 5.5

Capoue - CM/CDM - 5.0

Abdi - CM/CAM - 5.0

Tözsér - CM/LM - 5.0

Behrami - CM/CDM - 4.5

Watson - CM - 4.5

Fabbrini - LM/LW/RW - 4.5

Anya - LM/RM - 4.5

Dyer - LM - 4.5

Murray - CM - 4.5

 

Forwards

Deeney - ST - 5.5

Ighalo – RM/ST - 5.0

Vydra - CAM/LW/RW/ST - 5.0

Forestieri - ST - 4.5

 

 

Set-Piece Takers

FPL managers will be looking to use set-piece takers in the squads in hopes of getting that free kick scorer on their books, or an assist from a corner or set piece situation. Watford are a straight forward case with a few selection options. This of course is going to change as the season progresses and we get a good sense of what Flores wants to achieve on the pitch.

 

Penalties: Deeney, Vydra, Ighalo

Direct Free Kicks: Tozser, Abdi

Indirect Free Kicks: Tozser, Abdi

Corners: Tozser, Abdi

 

To add to the potential Troy Deeney ‘hype train’, he’s be first on penalty duty, a great bonus for an FPL player. If you’re not having a particularly good Gameweek, a set-piece can change everything. Tozser operated in defensive midfield last season, and can also play on the left. If anything, Tozser will be on our radar simply because of free-kick potential. Expect him to be the first man over the ball from a set-piece, if he plays that is.

 

Potential Squad for Opening Day & Season

Pre-season has extra impetus for Watford as it gives the world a chance to evaluate how Flores is going to set up Watford at the beginning of the season. Utilising an ever-popular 4-2-3-1 formation in his first two games (vs. AFC Wimbledon and St Albans), Ighalo, Abdi and Forestieri operated behind Deeney. Ighalo is on a hot-streak, netting three from two. It’s worth noting that Anya was played at left back for both games, but with Holebas yet to wear the yellow and black, we think it’ll be temporary. Anya and Holebas will play on the left, together.Everton at Goodison Park is coming up, and should pre-season translate into the final formation, this is the ideal line up against Everton.

 

 

The only changes that we would expect might be Angella for Cathcart, Paredes for Nyom, and Tozser potentially in a CDM role next to Capoue. If Tozser were to play, he’d be operating much like Santi Cazorla does for Arsenal. Allowed to roam free, collect and go, offload the ball. Vydra and Ighalo/Abdi would most likely be playing in a free role, meaning they can occupy each other’s space.

 

All of this is pointing towards building a solid foundation for quick bursts up-top, a team built around Deeney. Much like Spurs, this London club has heavily bolstered its ranks in its defensive departments, happy with its attacking outlet. FPL managers might take reservation with Ighalo or Vydra, both are a rotation risk, and with the latter primarily used as a striker, it’s possible that he’ll be a ‘Plan B’ player for Watford, brought on from the bench if they need to turnaround a bleak situation, or for extra fire-power if chasing a victory.

 

The latest addition of Britos from Napoli on a free transfer should also put Angella's or Cathcart's role in the team under jeopardy. Jurado's arrival will also put Anya under pressure, or on the bench entirely. We're looking at a very different Watford line-up at the beginning of the season. Berghuis come into the FPL with a reputation for assists. Proceed with caution when putting anyone other than Deeney into your teams.

 

Here's how Watford will look on the field if all of their new signings break into the team.

 

 

Very much set up for the set piece potential, Watford are likely to operate with a 4-5-1 away from home, so they can defend deep, and rear their heads from its shell at home.

 

Verdict

We at the Hype Train have compiled long and hard to find other alternatives to Troy Deeney in the FPL, but given that the other sources of points are also in attack, we think it’ll be rare for someone to place faith in anyone other than Troy. Ighalo was rotated frequently last season, so expect the same this season. Tozser offers a very good wildcard for players, but with Behrami and Capoue, it’s unlikely he’ll break into the 11 unless Flores has more faith than FPL players. If Watford are good from converting set-pieces into goals, we could be looking at a good assist return from Tozser. We fully expect the defense to be tight in the first few games, so perhaps Gomes will be a worthy option between the sticks. As you’re about to see, if he’s on rotation for the first five games, he may be worth a place in your team. Pudil, priced at only 4.0m has been playing right back thus far in pre-season, he too many very well be an FPL option should he retain his place in the squad. 

 

There is another far-reaching FPL option. Miguel Layún. Listed as a defender in the FPL, but spent most of his time in central midfield as he joined from Grenada (also owned by the Pozzo family), gaining 17 appearances without a goal. If he were to play in the midfield he’d bank both attacking and defensive potential. As a Mexican international with the number 7 shirt, in the first ten if he were to make an impact, Layún might be a completely outrageous shout. We’ll wait until he’s on the starting line-up before we let him board the hype train. 

 

Speaking of the first ten, here’s what Watford are up against. 

 

 

Given that most FPL players regard Everton, West Brom, and Southampton as viable defensive options in the FPL, many will believe Watford will struggle, even though they possess two home games from three to start the season. The cliché of every game is difficult is true, but even Charlie Austin proved that in a flailing, and severely incapable QPR side, that he can deliver the points, we think Deeney can have a similar effect. As for survival, we’re divided. Cautiously optimistic that this developing Watford side can follow the model of Crystal Palace, the team that beat Watford to secure their top-flight status. 

 

What we've tried to establish is whether Troy Deeney is the be-all-and-end-all for Watford in regards to FPL points, but to leave a tinge of disappointment, we nor anybody, can answer that question until the opening day unveils itself. None of the Hype team are avid Watford followers, but we imagine that even their own fans are wondering how Flores will shape the team up leading into his first BPL season. What, we expect, readers to come away from is a sense of comfort if you’re the type of FPL player who banks on 11 strong players, filling your bench with cheaply priced players. Watford have an abundance of these players, with Troy Deeney at the tip of such value. Our only sure fire bets for starting births are Gomes (4.5m) in goal, Prodl (4.5m), Capoue (5.0m), Abdi (5.0m), and Behrami (4.5m). And of course Deeney. Every other position has multiple men fighting for places, though we believe Nyom, Holebas and Ighalo will all start away at Everton. But points will be few and far between with these selections, they’ll be good enough for the bench, but not worthy of a starting place in your FPL team. Of course, some Watford players will get into the Dream Team over the course of the season, but it’s just not worth holding your breath over it happening to one of the Hornets players, believing a mega-week to be an inevitability.

 

Watford are ultimate wildcards this season, because we are only dreaming about one player coming through. Deeney. With little reliance on other players, and an untested BPL manager, we believe that Watford will ultimately get relegated, but they’ll make a good fight at staying up. Much like Burnley. Pinning their exact team for the opening-day has been a hard test, and we too will have to wait until the final minutes to find out the answers. With more money and security for the long-standing BPL sides, it’s getting harder to get a foot in the door. The Pozzo family might just be the next victim of such economic gluttony. 

 

All aboard.

 

 

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