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‘Etienne Capoue knew I wasn’t happy with his Arsenal performance’

It would’ve been very easy for Etienne Capoue to sulk ahead of Watford’s game against Everton after suffering the indignity of being hauled off after 40 minutes at Arsenal. Instead he demonstrated character that not all players have.

The Frenchman pushed himself harder throughout the week in training to ensure he started on Saturday – and from what we saw in pre-season, he’s already one of the top trainers. His efforts were rewarded with a place in the centre of Watford’s midfield. After five games out on the left flank Capoue was home. And he responded by producing a much-improved display.

“I loved his reaction,” said Quique Sanchez Flores. “He knew that I wasn’t happy with his performance against Arsenal but he trained really, really hard during the week. I felt he was ready to play.”

Sanchez Flores admitted in the build-up to Saturday’s game that he should accept some of the blame for Capoue’s stuttering form. By the Spaniard’s own admission, when Capoue is played out wide he is not the same player. He was a square peg in a round hole.

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There is little doubt the 27-year-old hasn’t hit the same heights he did during the first half of the campaign. A little fatigue, following almost two years without regular football with Tottenham Hotspur, was perhaps to be expected. He only played 18 games in each of his two seasons with Spurs and, in both cases, his season was done well before Easter.

In his 34th game of this season, against Everton, he looked back to his energetic self, covering plenty of ground and being heavily involved in launching attacks. With an FA Cup semi-final on the horizon it was an encouraging sign. When Capoue plays well so, invariably, do Watford.

“Capoue showed lots of personality in the middle,” Sanchez Flores said. “He did really well. Whenever I make a big decision [such as taking Capoue off against Arsenal] it is for the best of the group. I am always fair.”

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Rene Gilmartin could see why Capoue was hooked against the Gunners. “Capoue let people run off the back of him too easily against Arsenal,” said the goalkeeper in his role as summariser for BBC Three Counties Radio. The Irishman summed up the turnaround at full-time on Saturday: “I’m proud of my teammates today. Four or five of them are on the ground because of the effort they have put in.”

Heurelho Gomes won the official man-of-the-match award but Derek Payne felt Capoue was the pick of the outfield players.

“Holebas was excellent for me but it was Capoue who stood out,” said Payne on BBC Three Counties Radio. “He passed the ball very well and he got his tackles in.”