Valon Behrami can be restored to the first XI “in an instant” according to the head coach who boldly left the fully-fit Switzerland international out of the squad entirely on Saturday.
Quique Sanchez Flores put the absence of the tenacious midfielder down to “technical reasons” and it appeared Watford fans were in for a repeat of the situation with Matej Vydra who was frozen out and then eventually moved on. However, our informed story last week that Behrami will not be sold this month still stands as the club want to furnish the squad with high quality international players – not lose them.
Behrami has been told he must for fight for his place and the decision to leave him out on Saturday was a stark reminder that nobody is guaranteed their place and that dipping below the standards the head coach demands in training will not be tolerated. One source told us that Behrami has been self diagnosing his injuries and deciding himself, on the eve of the team being selected, whether he was fit enough to start. His main priority may well be ensuring he arrives at the European Championships fully fit, particularly for the game against Albania, the country where his parents were born.
“We don’t have any problems with Behrami,” said Sanchez Flores when asked by us this morning. “Sometimes I felt Behrami is ready to play and come with the squad and sometimes I feel, more than other players, he feels he is not ready to come with us. Behrami has been battling a lot. He has had a problem with the calf, has had a little bit of problem with the knee. Sometimes he is not training in the best [physical] condition. We wait for Behrami [to be ready] in a lot of matches.”
In one such case, Behrami was named on the bench against Arsenal but was not fit enough to come on as a replacement. He should, all things being equal, be recalled to the squad for the trip to Southampton as Sanchez Flores will need his combative, physical qualities at St Mary’s more than, say, he needs those Steven Berghuis and Victor Ibarbo bring to the table.
Sanchez Flores places a huge amount of importance on training, more so than most coaches around, and often selects his bench on the basis of what he’s seen on one of the two pitches at the UCL training ground in London Colney.
“For me it is the most important,” he said. “The training is part of the match and you are going to play like you train. If you are not training well then you are not going to have the possibility to play.”
Sanchez Flores made the call at the tail of end of last week that he had not liked what he had seen from Behrami and left him out altogether. Behrami’s mood may not be helped by the fact that Alessandro Diamanti, his best friend in football, has barely kicked a ball at Watford and is on the verge of returning to Italy. They are as thick as thieves.
“Behrami was a very important player for us in the first part of the season,” Sanchez Flores said. “He was playing well but after his sending off he has had some problems. While we wait for this player other players are playing well, like Capoue and Watson. It is difficult to move Watson and Capoue. Behrami is coming to the bench six or seven times and has helped us close out the matches but he could be in the first XI in an instant. It is difficult to make the list at Watford. It’s difficult to choose.”
Sanchez Flores is not one of the coaches you will find becoming embroiled in a club-v-country debate. He recognise there is a major tournament at the end of the season and how important it is to the likes of Behrami and Sebastian Prödl
“I want to achieve [Premier League safety] as quick as possible,” he said. “I like to be sensitive to the players who have to play in the Euros. They maybe are not playing now but in the last part of the season, if we have got the objective, for me we will think about these players and put them in the team because I think they deserve to arrive well at the European Championships.”