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Five talking points from Watford’s win over Union Berlin

CHARLIE ROWAN SHOULD BE THE
NEXT ACADEMY GRADUATE TO MAKE IT

The only blot on the Pozzos’ copybook since they swept into Vicarage Road to clear up the mess from the previous regime and then, along with Scott Duxbury, transform the club on and off the field is the development of the club’s young players. Only Sean Murray, Tommie Hoban, Alex Jakubiak and Connor Smith have featured in a competitive games under their watch. It’s hard to quibble with their strategy of bringing in value for money foreign players but nothing warms the hearts of the fans more than one of their own coming through. It was therefore uplifting to see Rowan tweet how excited he was to be taken on the tour of Austria.

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Confirmation that he wasn’t just taken along for the ride – many of his peers were left at home – was confirmed when he came on for the last 20 minutes on Tuesday. We’ve always liked the 18-year-old since we saw him thunder into a tackle in a 4-3 defeat at Brentford last season. He’s definitely from the defensive old school but he showed, when he came on against the Germans, that he’s capable of a lighter tough, clipping a cross-field free-kick from deep inside his own half over the head of an attacker to Christian Kabasele. Let’s get it straight, Rowan isn’t going to start a Premier League game this season, especially with Watford chasing one more centre-half, but he’s going to come on leaps and bounds working with the international defenders on the club’s books and, one day, be ready to challenge them for their shirt.

JURY STILL VERY MUCH OUT ON MARIO SUAREZ

We felt Suarez represented the club’s biggest ever signing, in terms of stature and pedigree. This was a guy, after all, who had been first pick in midfield for Diego Simeone’s trailblazing Atletico Madrid side and played for Spain as recently as the spring of 2014. Yet, aside from West Ham away, we really haven’t seen the best of Suarez. He’s looked off the pace and like a lot of games have gone into those 29-year-old legs of his. You wonder how he’s going to look in the 2020/21 season when he enters the final year of his Watford contract.

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He’s been Walter Mazzarri’s preferred deep-lying midfielder so far but that’s largely because Valon Behrami hasn’t been around and Ben Watson has been injured. With an attacking midfielder on the shopping list, it’s hard to see Suarez getting one of the two remaining midfield spots ahead of Behrami, Watson, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Etienne Capoue. He did play a couple of lovely cross-field passes on Tuesday, including one to Almen Abdi, but they were without any pressure on the ball. Allan Nyom gave us the chance to see what Suarez was like under pressure when he played him a hospital pass from a quick free-kick on the edge of his own box. Suarez was found wanting and got pick-pocketed. It’s difficult to see him starting at Southampton on the opening day.

ALMEN ABDI MUST BE A MANAGER’S DREAM

There were a few who moaned last year at the way they were treated and handled by Quique Sanchez Flores. Some had justification, some should have just shut up and got on with the job they are paid to do. Abdi probably had more grounds to complain that most. He was played out of position, asked to focus more on the donkey work than letting his creative juices flow, and was substituted more times than any other Watford player.

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Yet you can bet he didn’t moan once. He again played in an unfamiliar role on Tuesday, on the right as a wing-back and asked to get forward to support Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo and then sprint back to provide cover for Nyom, stationed on the right of a three-man defence. Abdi was Watford’s out ball and was typically neat and tidy in possession but he was left horribly isolated at times. Mazzarri needs to educate this group on getting support to the wing backs in this 3-5-2 formation. Abdi’s name cropped up last summer when Watford were looking to trim their squad and it will probably surface again this summer, but how can you contemplate letting go such a low maintenance pro who took long throw-ins here and who was so keen to impress that he received the sternest talking of the match from a whistle-happy referee for a first-half tackle?

WHERE HAS THE OLD ALLAN NYOM GONE?

It’s hard to keep getting on Nyom’s back but where has the player gone who rampaged up and down the flanks to such marauding effect against Everton, West Bromwich Albion and Southampton? He should really have trained on working under Sanchez Flores, a right back of some distinction during his playing days, but instead he’s gone backwards.

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He looks an absolute bag of nerves with the ball at his feet, even in a friendly where the pace is usually pedestrian, so much so that he spooned one clearance straight up in the air in the first half. He’s gone from looking like one of the shrewdest ever Pozzo signings to worrying about his place in the Premier League squad amid all the foreign players on the club’s books. He’s started all three of the pre-season games on the right of a three-man defence but surely he’s just keeping that spot warm for Craig Cathcart, Sebastian Prodl, Christian Kabasele or the other centre-half Watford are chasing.

CHANGE IN STYLE

Mazzarri has been drilling the team tactically on the fields of Austria. “I like it,” one player told us. “If what he wants works, it could be a great season for the lads.” It’s been obvious from the first three games that Mazzarri likes his team to switch the play from one wing-back to the other quickly with a cross-field pass.

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Another feature from the friendlies has been the new penchant for rolling the ball out from the back, a sign the team are moving away from using Deeney as the out-ball. You need to have the personnel, both in goal and in defence, to be able to execute this otherwise you end up inviting pressure. It still needs some fine tuning judging by the way Tommie Hoban received the ball off Heurelho Gomes only to punt it forward against Stevenage and then the way Giedrius Arlauskis got caught overplaying on Tuesday.