Former Hornet Derek Payne thinks that Quique Sanchez Flores deserves “a lot of credit” for keeping Watford in the Premier League this season – but feels the outgoing Spanish head coach has made some “bizarre decisions” during his brief tenure at Vicarage Road.
Last week we revealed after Watford’s 2-1 semi-final defeat to Crystal Palace at Wembley that Sanchez Flores will leave the club at the end of the season. After an impressive first half of the season, Watford have hit a major slump in the Premier League, securing only four league wins since the turn of the year amid a series of questionable team selections and tactics. Gino Pozzo and Scott Duxbury are concerned over the trajectory of results and do not believe the Spaniard has shown any sign of being able to arrest the decline.
However, Sanchez Flores has secured the club’s original objective of staying in the Premier League with three games to spare and led the club to its first FA Cup semi-final in nine years. Payne said those achievements shouldn’t be underestimated.
“He’s obviously a very cautious and defensive manager but his remit was the keep this club in the Premier League, which is not easy at all,” Payne said on BBC Three Counties radio. “Certain teams have come into this league like Norwich who have tried to play attacking football but they got found out and Bournemouth did as well early on. Flores sussed out this league before he started managing here and he realised you have to be defensively solid and not concede too many goals to be able to compete and stay in this league, so he deserves a hell of a lot of credit for that. Watford have failed twice before in the Premier League so he deserves a lot of credit and if he moves on then everyone should appreciate what he has done.”
However, anyone that has watched Watford play over recent months will know that something hasn’t been right. The players had either downed tools since Christmas or they have been found out. Either way the underlying reasons behind the slump have alarmed Pozzo and Duxbury to such an extent that they are willing to risk the widespread criticism by seeking their sixth head coach in two years.
“Sometimes there has been a few bizarre decisions this season,” said Payne with a nod to, among other things, sticking with the same makeshift wingers who were like fish out of water at Wembley and then shunting Almen Abdi to right-back for the final third of Saturday’s game.
“He has played players in positions they’re not comfortable in. In the wide areas this season we’ve gone for more central players playing out wide so that has made people look at things. Should he be given the chance to show that he can add that attacking flair? Obviously some of those bizarre decisions have gone against him and if he does go, he might look back on things and probably think he should’ve been more attacking in the second half of the season. The only way I can see why they might want to move him on is because they probably don’t want to be in the Premier League playing a Tony Pulis style of football every year, week in, week out. They want to entertain the crowd as well.”
In this week’s issue of WD Sport, Jose Holebas talks about how Sanchez Flores has handled him and gives a compelling insight into his own character, what makes him tick and the bizarre tattoo on his knuckles. It’s available in all places you’d expect to find a newspaper. For subscriptions, email: firstname.lastname@example.org