Five talking points from defeat for Watford at QPR



Perhaps it is the cut of the new kit but the captain has reported back for pre-season big. He looks like a boxer out of the same heavyweight division as his big mate Anthony Joshua. It’s difficult to tell if he isn’t very mobile after bulking up, whether he’s heavy legged after some exhaustive double training sessions under Mazzarri or if he’s keeping plenty in the tank for when the serious stuff starts. He did more moaning than shooting or assisting on Saturday, exchanging words with Etienne Capoue, Ikechi Anya and even Costel Pantilimon. We spoke to the captain in Germany last season and he doesn’t set a lot of stall on pre-season and is never too fussed about his form or goal return. It’s all about getting miles in the legs for a long season and peaking at the right time. He did make one charge across the opposition defence line to close down Steven Caulker but that was the exception. The telepathy with Odion Ighalo was also missing, with a dummy in each half by either player failing to come off. We’re sure he’ll be raring to go at St Mary’s. He always is.



The Swiss midfielder was one of the first to tweet his delight at the fact Walter Mazzarri, his old boss at Napoli, would be replacing Quique Sanchez Flores. We expected the tearaway midfielder to already be charging around putting out fires for one of his mentors. Yet we’ve not seen hide nor hair of him, through a combination of his involvement at the Euros, paternity leave and now injury. In fact, he’s not been see in a Watford shirt since West Ham away. He is around, though, as he posted a picture of him dining with Juan Camilo Zuniga. He was also at the Open Day. There is no way he can be considered for the opening game against Southampton and you wonder how serious his troublesome knee is if Watford are after another box-to-box midfielder.


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Picture by Franziska Empl

Watford paid nearly £7m for the Moroccan in January because of the exchange rate yet his Watford future is far from certain. He was signed despite at least two influential figures lobbying Quique Sanchez Flores to sign Matty Phillips. He also came with a glowing reference from Quique Pina, the outgoing president Granada who is Watford’s eyes and ears in Spain. Prior to Saturday, he found himself very much in the same boat as Steven Berghuis in that it was hard to see where he fits into Mazzarri’s formation. We’d have had money on him being moved on – and that still might be the case – to make way for three more foreign signings, but he produced a compelling case for the right wing-back slot on Saturday. He was streets ahead of Anya who over-clubbed at least two crosses and failed to pick out Abdoulaye Doucoure haring into space down the right. Amrabat overlapped, tracked back, got stuck in and slung over several well-weighted crosses. He hasn’t looked like a winger or a striker since he arrived. Has he now, finally, found his spot in the side?


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Picture by Franziska Empl

Ondrej Chovanec, the Czech agent, helped smooth the transfer of Daniel Pudil to Sheffield Wednesday last week and he could be getting the green light to find his top client, Matej Vydra, another club. Despite working with the fitness coach of Pavel Nedved for two weeks prior to Watford reporting back for pre-season training, Vydra is yet to make any impression on Mazzarri. He’s played just 103 minutes out of a possible 450 minutes, starting just once at Woking at the start of last month. Pre-season friendlies are renowned for the emptying of the substitutes’ bench in the second half yet Vydra was unused on Saturday. We still think his pace is a handy weapon, enabling Watford to threaten teams in behind – and there are influential figures in the club who are pushing his case. We understand Vydra does not want to go out on loan – he wants a permanent solution to his future. He was allowed to go on loan last season because Watford signed Obbi Oulare but the club are not in for another forward this summer so it will be fascinating to see how this one plays out.


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Picture by Franziska Empl

There was some doubt over whether the Colombian was a left wing-back or a right wing-back. Despite being right-footed, he played on the left under Mazzarri in 2009 before becoming a back-up on both flanks the following season, as Napoli finished third and qualified for the Champions League. Interestingly, he’s played on the right of a central midfield three in two of Watford’s three friendlies. He even threaded a slide-rule pass to Ighalo on Saturday.  Perhaps he’s just keeping the spot warm for the arrival of this other box to box midfielder but what’s clear is that Mazzarri trusts him to play a variety of roles, making him a handy squad option. Mario Suarez affectionally labelled him an “Animal” after he joined up with the squad in Austria, so it was somewhat strange to see him go down theatrically holding his face in Pepe fashion after a strong challenge from Jordan Cousins.