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“Projects” Oulare and Berghuis continue learning curve

Quique Sanchez Flores believes that Obbi Oulare is “getting closer” to regular first-team football despite hauling the young striker off at half-time of today’s 1-0 FA Cup third-round victory over Newcastle.

Oulare, who turned 20 yesterday, made his first start for the club, coming in a for top-scorer Odion Ighalo, and showed glimpses of his raw potential in a promising first 45 minutes.

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It was a surprise, with Watford ahead, that Oulare was replaced at the break, particularly as this was his first senior competitive club match since he scored for Club Brugge in the 7-1 thumping of Standard Liege in August. You would have thought he could do with every minute he could get, particularly alongside the wily Troy Deeney.

But Sanchez Flores thought 45 minutes of high intensity English football “was enough” for a brick outhouse of a player he feels is still developing to the physical demands of English football.

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“No, he’s not [injured],” Sanchez Flores said. “He’s only played probably for five months at Watford. The last game he only played 70 minutes [in a friendly against Fulham in November] so we have to think what is best for the player, what is best for the team and the system.”

The appearance today means Oulare can definitely not be loaned to a club outside of England this month as Fifa rules state that a player cannot play for more than two teams in a season. The doubt about whether they could count Under-21 matches has now been removed. He can, however, be loaned to a club in England as the rules about do not apply to domestic loans and transfers.

“He’s learning a lot from Ighalo and Deeney but he is a different player and he tried,” said Sanchez Flores. “He came only four months ago so he is a completely different player and now he is included in the squad. He is getting closer to playing with the team and 45 minutes is good. Belgium football is completely different to here. It is a very tough time for him so at 45 minutes I decided that is enough there is no more pressure on this player.”

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Oulare’s inactivity at club level has seen him lose his place in the Belgium U21 side. Steven Berghuis has also dropped completely out of favour with the Dutch national team after his underwhelming start to life at Watford. He was called up to the Holland squad last May.

Berghuis, who turned 24 last week, made his first Watford start this afternoon and his first competitive senior appearance on the field as a Hornet since the 3-0 defeat to Arsenal. He came off after 63 minutes, as Sanchez Flores opted for the experience and pace of Ikechi Anya. Berghuis did little, in just over an hour, to enhance his claims of a Premier league appearance any time soon.

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“Berghuis is younger but he is also coming from a different kind of football,” Sanchez Flores said. “Holland is completely different to England. The contact, velocity and speed are completely different. So we need these players for our project. Watford is like a project. We learn a lot with this player and we are trying to show him the process. He is in the middle of this process.”

As well as wanting to show the Watford fans why their club paid £4.5m for him, Berghuis would have wanted to prove a point to the Newcastle manager Steve McClaren who allowed him to leave FC Twente and join AZ Alkmaar.

Our information is that Watford would still like to bring another winger and another centre-forward to Vicarage Road this month.