WATFORD REMAIN VULNERABLE AT THE BACK
Despite a much-improved performance, particularly from Miguel Britos, Watford still look susceptible operating a back three. The biggest problem appears to be the lack of pace among the club’s centre-back options, something exploited during the defeat to QPR. There were a couple of occasions when Lorient breached the back-line, which is a cause for concern ahead of the opener at Southampton. You can imagine the rapid Shane Long licking his lips. The club continue to search for defensive reinforcements despite the arrival of Christian Kabasele, but this presumably has a lot to do with their lack of faith in Allan Nyom as a centre-half option. Don’t be surprised if the club bring in someone with a little pace as there are still question marks over Britos’ and Craig Cathcart’s ability to play on the left and right of the back three, despite the latter’s experience playing there under Slavisa Jokanovic and for Northern Ireland. Admittedly we shouldn’t draw too many conclusions from a pre-season programme, but strengthening the rearguard is a top priority for the Watford hierarchy.
ISAAC SUCCESS HAS THE X-FACTOR
His willingness to get on the ball and run at defences, or indeed drag players out of position, is a breath of fresh air. It was a problem that Quique Sanchez Flores was never able to really solve last season. Success’ pace and strength gives Mazzarri an option out wide or centrally and he looks like Watford’s most creative outlet on the basis of his performance against Lorient. You would hope, given the club shelled out a club record fee for the Nigerian, that he can provide plenty in the way of goals and assists this season, although his record was not mindblowing at Granada. He is, though, only 20. Heurelho Gomes gushed about the forward after the match, praising his attitude and mentality and it is not hard to see why. He was guilty of trying too hard or of forcing a pass but there is plenty for the Vicarage Road faithful to be encouraged about. Success’ introduction saw a switch to 4-3-3 and it seemed to give Watford more balance and menace. Last season there was an over-reliance on Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo and that Watford were too one-dimensional. The addition of Success provides an option should Mazzarri opt for three upfront or want to drag Ighalo or Deeney at any stage.
WATFORD DESPERATELY NEED A NUMBER 10
Watford were desperately flat in their defeat to QPR. The positive from the draw with Lorient was that the Hornets carried a greater goal threat and were more incisive. That doesn’t hide the fact that Watford are crying out for more creativity, something only heightened by the decisions to let Jose Manuel Jurado moved to Espanyol, Steven Berghuis join Feyenoord on loan and selling Almen Abdi to Sheffield Wednesday. A bigger concern is Premier League teams potentially shutting down Watford’s wing-backs, which would disable a key attacking component. During the Lorient game, Ikechi Anya and Jose Holebas (who won Watford’s penalty) bombed forward to supported the midfield but it still feels as if the club are missing something. The addition of a creative midfielder, who can play the conduit between the midfield and the front two, would be most welcome.
WE ARE NO CLOSER TO LEARNING WHAT FORMATION MAZZARRI WILL GO FOR
One of the criticisms of Sanchez Flores was his stubbornness and unwillingness to change his system, even when teams began to suss Watford out. That doesn’t appear to be a problem with Mazzarri so far. He’s already utilised several systems and Gomes confirmed to us that the head coach drills the team with different formations in training. It is one of the reasons why predicting which formation the Watford head coach will opt for in the season opener becomes that little bit more challenging. Mazzarri’s formation of choice appears to be his tried and tested 3-5-2 but he has shown his flexibility by also operating the 3-4-3 and 3-4-1-2 in pre-season. Watford carried a greater threat following the switch to 4-3-3 after half an hour on Saturday but we know that 3-5-2 remains his formation of choice. Having multiple options up his sleeve, that the players are familiar with, cannot be a bad thing, however. It might transpire that the Italian begins the season with one system but quickly changes things should the first few games of the season not go to plan or if any new additions necessitate a switch. His tactical nous will certainly be tested in a challenging first few weeks.
THE FUTURE OF SEVERAL PLAYERS REMAINS UNCERTAIN
Juan Carlos Paredes was left out completely from the squad, Mario Suarez, heavily linked with a return to Spain with Espanyol (now coached by Sanchez Flores) and Matej Vydra were only given a handful of minutes towards the end while poor old Nordin Amrabat sat on the bench all afternoon. Suarez’s performance against QPR left a lot to be desired and it appears that at least three central midfield options are ahead of him in the pecking order. He has impressed with his attitude in training and he may survive if another box-to-box midfielder is not signed. What does the future hold for Vydra? He came on for the last 12 minutes on Sunday, meaning he’s played 115 of 540 pre-season minutes. He wants to fight for his place at Watford and if he isn’t in the plans, we are told he wants a permanent solution to his future. Amrabat was arguably Watford’s best player at Loftus Road so it was harsh to leave him out entirely for this one. Perhaps Mazzarri had already made his mind up on him before the QPR game after all. Allan Nyom, meanwhile, celebrated his new four-year contract by spending the afternoon on the bench.