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Sanchez Flores accepts Etienne Capoue is a square peg in a round hole

Quique Sanchez Flores acknowledges “free spirit” Etienne Capoue isn’t the same player when deployed out wide.

During the first half of the campaign the French midfielder justified his club-record tag of £6m with a series of sparkling performances, particularly at home against West Bromwich Albion, West Ham United and Liverpool. He gave so much for the cause at home to Arsenal in October that he slumped to the turf through exhaustion at full-time.

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However, since the turn of the year both Watford and Capoue’s form have dipped alarmingly. The 27-year-old appears short of confidence and that hasn’t been helped by being played wide on the left, although he did perform well in that role at Old Trafford.

Capoue has been marooned out wide for the past five matches yet it has not worked, to such an extent that against Arsenal he was hooked after 40 minutes. So why has Sanchez Flores persisted with playing Capoue out of position?

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“It’s impossible to play Behrami, Watson, Capoue and now Suarez all in the middle, so two of them are at the sides,” said Sanchez Flores, appearing to suggest he has too many cooks spoiling the broth. “We think that we can play good football by mixing these players. When Capoue is out wide, we want him to defend that side of the pitch. We don’t want him to play there with the ball.”

Capoue’s ball-playing instincts see him naturally gravitate infield when Watford have possession and he is not renowned for protecting his full-back. “Capoue is a free spirit and he needs to be free on the pitch,” Sanchez Flores said. “We know that. So when we have the ball he is free to go wherever he wants on the pitch. But when we must defend, he must be there to cover the space.

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“I love Capoue like one of my sons. I support him a lot and I think he is one of the best players we have in the squad. His quality is top level but he needs to be consistent. I am fighting, and talking with him almost every day. I am always telling him what I want. It’s true that in the second half of the season he has played on the side of midfield. When he plays there he isn’t the same player. But we are trying different things and sometimes he plays well there and sometimes he doesn’t do enough. If he makes a mistake on the pitch it is important that he separates himself from that.”

Don’t forget, you can read the thoughts of chief Scott Duxbury on the position of Sanchez Flores in the launch edition of our weekly newspaper. It’s available in most places you’d expect to buy a newspaper.

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