So far, so good for Walter Mazzarri who saw this progressive pre-season programme continue with a comfortable win over FC Union Berlin this evening.
Etienne Capoue continued what is a purple patch for him with the opener on 13 minutes, which came hot on the heels of his first goal in a Watford shirt last Thursday, before Troy Deeney showed there is certainly nobody better at the club, and possibly in the league, at penalty taking with a cooly converted effort on the stroke of half-time. After a total of 13 changes by both sides in a matter of minutes around the 70th-minute mark, the game opened up in the last 20. Union Berlin pulled one back before the five subbed Watford players even had had time to sit on the bench, but Steven Berghuis restored the two-goal advantage six minutes from time with a neat finish into the bottom corner.
The game represented a step up in opposition from games against Woking and Stevenage; Union Berlin finished sixth in the second tier of German football last season and are also under new management in Jens Keller, the former Stuttgart and Eintracht Frankfurt defender. Watford never really got out of third gear here and neither did they need to.
Most importantly, the game heralded the return of half of Watford’s Euro 2016 players, with the exception of Costel Pantilimon, Valon Behrami who were strangely absent and Daniel Pudil who is back in London Colney. Sebastian Prodl started the game in his home country and mixed one superb covering tackle with a cynical shirt pull borne out of rustiness that earned him a yellow card. Craig Cathcart came on at half-time while Christian Kabasele, the record defensive signing from Genk, joined him on the right of a three-man defensive line just after the hour mark. Juan Camilo Zuniga made his Hornets’ bow ten minutes later, not in the wing-back role but on the right-hand side of a central midfield three. He looked full of energy.
The Colombian, signed from Napoli, was one of five subs introduced at the same time as Mazzarri switched from 3-5-2 to a very, very attacking 4-3-3, with Berghuis and Zuniga either side of Ben Watson in midfield and Jerome Sinclair, Matej Vydra and Nordin Amrabat as the attacking trio.
It was, however, the familiar pair of Odion Ighalo, who again looked lively, and Deeney who were at the sharp end of things in the first half. Ighalo scooped an unsuspecting Union Berlin defender to tee up Capoue to lash in the first on the turn, via a deflection, before Deeney sent the keeper the wrong way from the spot on the strike of half-time after Abdoulaye Doucoure, again the furthest forward of the midfielders, won the penalty.
Jose Holebas looks a shoo-in to start the season on the left-hand side and he fashioned the match-clinching third for Berghuis, cutting in off the line to find Berghuis, himself in off the line on the right-hand side and he arrowed a nice finish into the bottom corner.
Next up is Anzhi Makhachkala on Saturday.
Watford: Arlauskis (Gomes h-t); Nyom (Kabasele , 61), Prodl (Rowan 73), Britos (Cathcart h-t); Abdi (Holebas, 61), Suarez (Watson, 61) Doucoure (Berghuis 71), Capoue (Zuniga 71), Anya (Amrabat, 71); Deeney (Sinclair, 71), Ighalo (Vydra, 71)