Quique Sanchez Flores admits Jose Holebas is capable of performing at an “amazing level” if he is 100 per cent focused.
There have been several points this season that Holebas’ Watford career has appeared to be over. There was the three-month stretch before Christmas when he failed to make a single first-team appearance, the spell in January when he was dropped entirely from the squad and again, twice in the last fortnight, after being left at home for Watford’s games against Stoke City and Arsenal. There was also the message he posted, and subsequently deleted, on Instagram after the draw at home to Bournemouth.
But the Greece international always bounces back like he’s never been away, which says a lot about his match temperament. He returned from the wilderness against Everton this afternoon and impressed, scoring the equaliser, but his future is still unclear and will be judged by those who work with him on a daily basis. He may not even want to stay.
“Holebas is the sort of player we’ve got to work a lot with every single day,” Watford’s head coach said. “He always needs to be completely focused if he is to go onto the pitch. When he is focused he is capable of playing at an amazing level. But sometimes he loses his focus on the task. That is the trouble. We try and support him and when I think he is 100 per cent focused to play he goes onto the pitch. When I feel, and maybe sometimes I make mistakes, that he isn’t 100 per cent I prefer to wait.
“You must be ready every single day. In every single action things can change. So I want players who are focused for 90 minutes. What I worked with Holebas about isn’t technical or tactical. It is about his concentration. He can work in the right way.”
Holebas has been kept out of the Watford side for the majority of this season by Nathan Ake, the defender on loan from Chelsea. It has been hard to fault the Holland youngster but he struggled during the defeats to Stoke City and Arsenal. It did, however, come as a big surprise that the 21-year-old was left out of the match-day squad entirely against Everton.
“Ake needs to recover his good feelings,” Sanchez Flores said. “I was talking to him in the week and he lost his good feelings. So it is down to Ake to get back onto the list. It’s easy, when a player loses the good feelings he needs time to recover. That may be a long time, other times it may be quick.
“Ake’s season has been amazing. He is a young guy but has played a lot of matches. It is his first experience of playing this many matches at this level, so at this moment he feels a little bit tired. It is normal.”
Ikechi Anya, who was also fully fit, was another notable omission from Watford’s 18-man squad against Everton. The Scotland international has been introduced from the substitutes’ bench in the Hornets’ last four Premier League matches and brings much needed pace to the side.
“We have three different players for the left-back position,” Sanchez Flores said. “Anya can play in that position, he did very well in that role at the start of the season and offered good offence. Holebas is the same and then you’ve got Ake who is better defensively. We have three options to choose from and if all of them are ready all the time, then it is perfect.”