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Berghuis exit increases need for Watford to recruit a playmaker

Watford must be confident they will land one of their two attacking midfield targets after they, following much toing and froing, granted Steven Berghuis’ wish to return to Holland.

The Hornets have now allowed four of their most creative players to leave this summer. Adalberto Penaranda joined Udinese on loan, Jose Manuel Jurado was allowed to be reunited with Quique Sanchez Flores at Espanyol, Almen Abdi continued the mini exodus to Sheffield Wednesday and now Berghuis, who has scored twice in pre-season, has moved to Feyenoord.

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In search of a creative hub, the Hornets are at an advanced stage of negotiations with Lille over the transfer of Sofian Boufal while Walter Mazzarri has given the recruitment team the name of an alternative target he fancies. Mazzarri, we are told, sees Boufal playing at the head of the midfield in a 3-4-1-2. Watford know they need to get this signing right as it’s a key piece in Mazzarri’s jigsaw.

Mazzarri with Watford's chief scout
Mazzarri with Watford’s chief scout

They also need to learn the lessons of the last summer window which was very much a quantity over quality exercise. Watford’s success in finishing 13th last season was very much achieved on the back of the players they already had.

Victor Ibarbo and Alessandro Diamanti were never really fit or what were required for Sanchez Flores’ system and they were shipped off in January. Adlene Guedioura made only three Premier League starts, which was three more than Obbi Oulare was afforded. Berghuis was limited to nine appearances off the bench, Allan Nyom was never the same player after conceding a penalty at home to Crystal Palace while Valon Behrami struggled with injury and found himself largely out of favour after he was sent off against Swansea City.

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Jose Manuel Jurado sparkled against Everton away and Chelsea at home but lacked an end product, while Sanchez Flores, when talking with his coaching team, questioned the character reference check on Jose Holebas. Miguel Britos, signed on a free, was the best value for money of the summer recruits but even the Uruguayan tailed off badly towards the end of the season. Etienne Capoue looked a snip at £6m on the occasions he sparkled and shone at home to West Brom and West Ham United and away at Manchester United but he lacked consistency as he played his first full season in three.

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The coaching staff realised very quickly that Giedrius Arlauskis wasn’t up to the standard required to be Heurelho Gomes No 2 yet Nathan Ake was a roaring success, described to us by a member of last season’s coaching staff as “one of the best professionals I’ve worked with”. Sebastian Prodl started the season looking like he had known Craig Cathcart all his life but ended it largely as a back up.

Who was the pick of last season’s summer recruits for you?