Mario Suarez may have left his charge to make Watford’s semi-final team too late but his display at Upton Park offered encouraging signs for next season.
Suarez looked way off the pace at Tottenham Hotspur on his full debut and has done very little since in the limited opportunities he’s had since to suggest Watford had signed a player with a rich Champions League pedigree. Having just turned 29, you worried about whether we’d see the best of him over the length of his four-and-a-half year contract, and if there was a hidden reason Atletico Madrid and Fiorentina had been willing to let him go in the past year. Yet Suarez chose the window of opportunity on Wednesday night to show he has plenty to offer this team, giving a glimpse of just why Watford pulled out all the stops, laying on a private jet, to ward off interest from Valencia and bring him to Vicarage Road.
Suarez popped the ball out beautifully in the first half against West Ham, recycling possession, providing a willing outlet and pulling off an important tackle on Dimitri Payet just inside the Watford box. This was much more like it from the Spain international, exactly what Quique Sanchez Flores was after from those with the opportunity to stake a late claim for a starting berth against Crystal Palace.
“I am happy to be in the semi-final of the FA Cup but I hope I can play,” Suarez said. “I think all the players today put in a good performance but it’s the decision of the coach to try and pick the best starting XI to try and win the game at Wembley. I really don’t know who is going to play. He [Sanchez Flores] hasn’t said anything yet but he will probably tell us the day before or the meeting before the game. Now we will train for two or three more days and he will have to decide in this time who will play on Sunday. Wembley is an amazing stadium and the kind of place that everyone wants to play. But if I am on the bench I will support my teammates, but the coach will have to decide who plays. Everyone wants to play in games like this.”
Led by chief technicians Suarez and Jose Manuel Jurado in midfield, Watford moved the ball better than they have done than at any time this season. Suarez thinks the team, who were not under instruction to get it from back to front as quickly as possible this time, played with “personality” in their new, progressive midfield system.
“I think we really concentrated on this game and we gave a really good performance,” Suarez said. “We could’ve done more but I thought the first penalty wasn’t a penalty and the second one I wasn’t sure. But I think we played well, with personality, with the ball we created chances and we could’ve scored more. But when you lose, people only think that you’ve had a bad game. But this was not the case – we had a good game and put in a good performance, but it wasn’t enough.”
Suarez was signed in January along with Nordin Amrabat, the firecracker of a forward who will play no part at Wembley on Sunday after being sent off at Upton Park.
“That’s a shame,” said Suarez, who would be a strong contender for the award of nicest man in the squad. “He’s a very good player and a very energetic player and I didn’t know about his red card but he will be very sad for sure. I didn’t see him after the game but I will see him on the bus and talk with him there. We know that this is football and he has to continue working for the next game.”