Jose Holebas has appeared to vent his frustration at being left unused on the bench by Quique Sanchez Flores for a third successive league match with an angry outburst on social media.
Holebas won the club’s man of the match award against Leeds United but was relegated to the bench for yesterday’s game against Bournemouth as Sanchez Flores restored Nathan Ake to the league XI. A fully-fit Ake had been left out of the 18 against Leeds United.
While the club will take a dim view of Holebas seemingly airing his dirty linen in public, they will surely have some sympathy with his plight. The 31-year-old was excellent in the 0-0 draw with Chelsea when deputising for the ineligible Ake and would have won the official man of the match award had Heurelho Gomes not pulled off two world-class saves to preserve a point. The Greece international was dropped to the bench for the next game, at Tottenham Hotspur.
He remained there for the next league game at Crystal Palace before being recalled against Leeds where he was deemed the best player on the pitch in the 1-0 FA Cup win. He admitted afterwards, in an interview with Hornets Player, that “it’s been difficult for me as I haven’t had any rhythm”.
Sanchez Flores admitted in the build-up to the Bournemouth game that given the form of Holebas, it was “difficult to choose” his left-back but he again opted for Ake.
“It’s difficult as Ake and Holebas are at the same level,” said Sanchez Flores. “They have different qualities but are a similar level. It’s difficult to choose.”
The handling of Holebas places the recruitment team in a difficult situation. The club are resigned to Chelsea retaining Ake next season and now his natural successor is disaffected. Rapid Vienna ‘s Stefan Stangl is, according to reports, being lined up to boost the left-back options in the summer. Holebas’ agent, Fabio Parisi, is sure to seek talks with Watford’s owner Gino Pozzo and the chief executive Scott Duxbury to clarify his future. Holebas will have two years left on his contact this summer.
Judging by comments attributed to him in the summer, Holebas had to be dragged to Watford from Roma kicking and screaming and he did little to endear himself to anyone at the club when he arrived for a fee of £1.8m. In fact, such was his attitude and general demeanour that the club were prepared, as late as December, to listen to offers for him in January. However, he dramatically turned things around and revived his Watford career.
“He understood very well, in the last month, we are a family and what it means to be at Watford,” Sanchez Flores told us earlier this month. “We are a family, we are a collective target and the most important thing is the pack, the group. Holebas understands this really well now. He’s at a high level, his performance is very good and he is completely focussed. It’s important he keeps focussed.”
Adlene Guedioura, another international, was left out of the squad completely yesterday, while youth internationals Steven Berghuis and Obbi Oulare have not been selected in months, showing the challenges the coach of a Premier League club faces in keeping a squad of 25 players happy.
“It is very sad every weekend when you have to choose and leave two or three players out,” said Sanchez Flores yesterday. “Sometimes it is Guedioura, some days it will be someone else.”