1. MAZZARRI ISN’T SO SCARY AFTER ALL
When Walter Mazzarri stepped off the team coach on Sunday afternoon, donning aviators and a designer suit and surrounded by a posse of translators and assistants, he looked more Wall Street than Woking. First impressions were that this is a man not to be crossed, especially the tone of his welcome message to the fans in midweek. But when the shades were off and the match began, he was far from the intimidating boss we expected. Mazzarri spent most of the match squatting in his technical area, watching his new team intently but rarely issuing instructions, only breaking his gaze from the match to occasionally speak with his assistant coaches.
He had a long chat with Miguel Britos on the pitch before kick-off and was the first into the dressing room as the full-time whistle blew. Other than that, his interaction with the players was minimal. It was very much a watching brief. He seemed more of a Quique Sanchez Flores than a Guiseppe Sannino. He also won early favour with the supporters, laughing and joking post-match with the travelling Watford fans when he came over to sign autographs. One young fan was too short to fit in a photo so he picked her up while her parent took the picture. He was quick oblige when one older fan asked for a hug. “Welcome to the family,” she told him.
2.ALL SYSTEMS GO…FOR 3-5-2
If there was any doubt over whether Watford would return to a 3-5-2 formation this season, it was banished within minutes of the first whistle. Allan Nyom was even drafted in as a make-shift centre-back in order to make up the numbers in the absence of Craig Cathcart and Sebastian Prodl. Playing three at the back is not something widely done in the Premier League, but it’s certainly Mazzarri’s plan A. Who will fill the key wing-back spots on the opening day at Southampton is less clear.
With a right-wing back yet to be signed, Nordin Amrabat played there on Sunday while Steven Berghuis, the other out and out winger in the squad, was used centrally rather. It will be interesting to see where those two fit into the system once everyone is back / signed.
Britos really stepped up in the absence of Cathcart and Sebastian Prod. Of course Woking’s attack was far less threatening than any Premier League side’s will be, but his leadership caught the eye and he looks set to be an on-field lieutenant under his old Napoli boss. He was the most vocal player on the pitch, controlled his defensive line strictly and screamed at Amrabat for taking too long to play a pass when under pressure. He was only substituted when he appeared to pick up a slight injury late on.
Tommie Hoban seems to have fully recovered from his injury, Christian Kabasele, the club-record defensive buy from Genk, is due to join up with his new teammates at the weekend Genk while Charlie Rowan came on for Britos, meaning Watford have six potential options for their three-man defence. The fact they bid for Juan Jesus suggest they want one more. Perhaps they don’t want to get caught cold at centre-half like they did at home to Leicester.
4.GIVE THE NEW SIGNINGS TIME
A couple of Abdoulaye Doucoure’s crosses would have been disappointing if he was in a Woking shirt and Jerome Sinclair failed to ever trouble the opposition’s goalkeeper with his three efforts at goal. Isaac Success produced one fancy piece of skill with a back-heeled volley after coming on, but failed to do much else.
It was positive to see Doucoure lurking outside the box, but you would have liked to see him hit a couple more shots at goal from those positions. He may be the link between midfield and attack that Watford were so desperately lacking at some points last season. It was nice for the travelling supporters to see these players make their first appearances in Watford shirts, but there is a lot, lot more to come from them.
5.DEENEY IS STILL THE MAIN MAN
He may not have made an appearance against Woking due to a “slight knock”, but the captain came along to watch his teammates play their first pre-season friendly anyway. He travelled separately to the playing squad, rolling up in his new Lamborghini Huracán, presumably paid for with some of the proceeds of his new contract, 20 minutes after the Watford coach.
He briefly went into the dressing room before relaxing on the bench while the team warmed up. At kick-off he wandered a short way down the touchline so that the bench could be used by the substitutes. During the first half he was shouting more instructions to his team than Sanchez Flores probably issued in the whole of last season, ensuring they were organised and disciplined. It was similar to what Cristiano Ronaldo did later on that night in the Euro 2016 final.
When things calmed down in the second half, Deeney relaxed with Odion Ighalo and Matej Vydra before lying down on the grass, but his presence was felt far more than Mazzarri’s. The only dent to his ego will have been when one fan tapped him on the shoulder, only to ask him to take a photo of them with Vydra.