Quique Sanchez Flores has prioritised the signing of at least one out and out winger when the transfer window opens next month.
The head coach met with key decision makers, owner Gino Pozzo, chief executive Scott Duxbury and sporting director Luke Dowling, last week to review the club’s recruitment plans and get an update on the work of Filippo Giraldi, the chief scout with such an impressive network in mainland Europe.
Sanchez Flores has stressed to the recruitment committee the need to add one genuine wide man to his squad to allow him to play with greater width and get in behind opposition defences. With the exception of Ikechi Anya, the squad largely consists of forwards more used to playing with their back to goal or gifted midfielders high on technical ability but low on raw speed.
Sanchez Flores, for example, wanted to play with increased width at Villa Park on Saturday, believing Villa were more susceptible out wide, hence the decision to bring in Juan Carlos Paredes on the right and restore Steven Berghuis to a bench that also included Victor Ibarbo.
However, the fact Paredes was chosen on one side and the more centrally suited Almen Abdi on the other against the bottom club suggested Sanchez Flores is not yet quite convinced Berghuis and Ibarbo, the most natural wingers in the squad, are at the required level. Berghuis is thought to be at a more advanced stage of progress than Ibarbo.
Sanchez Flores, Pozzo and Giraldi remain huge admirers of Diego Perotti, the Genoa winger. The club tabled a club record bid for the Argentine winger right at the start of the summer, one that would have smashed the fee the club paid for Nathan Ellington and eclipsed the £6m paid for Etienne Capoue. Perotti was not unopposed to the switch but was reluctant to move and play in a fourth different country in just over a year, following spells at Sevilla, Boca Juniors and Genoa.
Despite one goal this season, a penalty which came against Udinese, of all clubs, his stock has risen and he is reportedly now on the radar of AC Milan and Arsenal.
Lazar Markovic, the Liverpool winger, was on the radar in the summer but his wages, we were told, made the deal prohibitive and he moved to Fenerbahçe on loan.
Demarai Gray, the Birmingham City winger, is another option. The 19-year-old has admirers in the corridors of power at Vicarage Road but they have previously been put off by his price tag. However, one national newspaper claims he can leave St Andrew’s for £3.5m next month because of a buy-out clause inserted into a contract he signed in the summer.
As talented as Gray is, he may not fit the bill for Sanchez Flores who wants readymade signings in January, those up to speed physically in particular, who can hit the ground running. He already has enough players he is working hard with to get up to speed.
“This competition is very tough and we need [players] to adapt completely to make sure this player is ready,” he said in a recent press conference. “This competition is completely different physically to Spain, Portugal, Holland etc. The qualities of players needed to play [in the Premier League] are a little bit different.”
Of the 15 summer signings, the ones still on the periphery of the squad are the late summer arrivals who did not travel to Germany and start working with Sanchez Flores from the moment he joined.
“This period in pre-season creates the atmosphere for a new player; the habits, the behaviour I expect, the level we need to win the matches,” he said.
In addition to a wide player or two, Watford are also weighing up a move for an experienced striker as they are conscious of being over reliant on Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo. Rene Gilmartin’s season-ending knee injury has forced them to look at strengthening their senior goalkeeping resources.
Graphic below to show how Watford are punching above their weight this season. Figures are in Euros and based on Premier League matches this season.