Quique Sanchez Flores has reiterated his desire to release the shackles once safety has been achieved, even suggesting he might give some game-time to forgotten men Obbi Oulare and Steven Berghuis as he begins the process of evolving the team and its playing style ahead of next season.
Sanchez Flores has been the arch pragmatist of late and spooked by the four match losing streak at the turn of the year, has clearly set his team up not to get beat with the idea of inching towards the magical mark of 40 points that is widely considered to be enough to stay up. Hull City finished third bottom last season with 35 points, Norwich were the final side to be relegated the previous season with 33 while Wigan Athletic amassed three more the season before that. Watford have 37 with 33 points still to play for.
Sanchez Flores will point to one defeat in seven games, a previously unthinkable position of tenth in the table and a quarter-final FA Cup appearance to look forward as justification for pulling up the drawbridge. Watford have not scored in five of their last seven Premier League games and mustered just seven goals in the last ten league games, but the head coach says it’s all part of the masterplan.
“The normal thing is to improve,” he said. “We will start the next year completely different.”
The arrival of rich attacking talents, like Adalberto Penaranda, Isaac Success and others, will aid the evolution.
“I love the squad we have,” he said. “The next year will be completely different for Watford to get players. Watford showed we are at a good level and we have enjoyed the experience. A lot of good players want to come to Watford next year. We had a lot of good players coming this season and we’ve incorporated these amazing players. A lot of players had doubts about this project and we improved the expectation level of these players.”
It’s fair to say the vision has not been quite as it appeared in the brochure sold to summer signings Berghuis and Oulare. Berghuis has not played a minute of Premier League football since the defeat to Arsenal in October and has not even been named in the squad since Boxing Day. Oulare has been afforded three Premier League minutes all season.
“Steven and Oulare are younger projects,” the head coach reiterated. “They are improving a lot in the training ground, in the last month. Probably we will see them on the pitch before the end of the season.”