Nordin Amrabat has thrown the cat amongst the pigeons when it comes to Watford submitting their 25-man squad Premier League squad.
The Moroccan was, we are told, moving towards the exit door when the team shaped up for the penultimate friendly of the season, struggling to find a spot in any of the attacking positions and behind Brice Dja Djedje, Ikechi Anya and Juan Camilo Zuniga in the pecking order for the right wing-back slot. Even Almen Abdi played ahead of him there in the game against Union Berlin. But Amrabat prompted a rethink after his effervescent second-half display at Queens Park Rangers.
It was not enough, however, to earn him any minutes, let alone a start, against Lorient and it looked, on the face of it, like Walter Mazzarri had stubbornly refused to alter his thinking and was all set to go with Anya at Southampton. But Amrabat got the nod and he’s not looked back, setting up the opener at St Mary’s for Etienne Capoue and defending responsibly at the far post to deny Shane Long in the first half.
“He does not play only defensive,” said Walter Mazzarri, “he plays through the whole wing, also. I was very happy with how he did versus Southampton. He was one of the best.”
Aside from a lousy, sloppy throw that led to Chelsea’s equaliser yesterday, he was Watford’s most progressive player against the Blues, a real driving force from the right-hand side. He set up a first-half chance for the otherwise subdued Odion Ighalo with some typically forceful wing-play.
“Amrabat is reborn, rejuvenated,” said Derek Payne in his role as commentator on BBC Three Counties radio. “He knows there is an opportunity to get into the starting line up after not playing much last season and he’s taking it. He’s been superb, working hard up the right-hand side. He’s shown great strength, great determination and he has got end product. He’s created Watford’s best chance, like he did at Southampton too.”
Amrabat’s form has not only assured him of a place as one of the 17 permitted foreign players but could also have a knock-on effect on Dja Djedje. The Ivorian right-sided utility man, who was injured when he signed from Marseille, and who has a chequered fitness record, is not thought to be close to returning to training, let alone action, anytime soon.
With Watford needing to chop the amount of foreign players on their books, they cannot afford to carry anyone injured in a 25-man squad so they may, given the form of Amrabat and the cover provided by Zuniga and Anya, omit Dja Djedje and then add him when the squad is resubmitted at the end of the January window.
Foreign players: Heurelho Gomes, Allan Nyom, Miguel Britos, Valon Behrami, Matej Vydra, Odion Ighalo, Sebastian Prodl, Jose Holebas, Etienne Capoue, Giedrius Arlauskis, Juan Carlos Paredes, Abdoulaye Doucoure, Costel Pantilimon, Nordin Amrabat, Adlene Guedioura, Juan Camilo Zuniga, Christian Kabasele, Brice Dja Djedje, Younes Kaboul, Roberto Pereyra
Out the door: Arlauskis, Paredes
Under threat: Guedioura, Vydra, Nyom, Dja Djedje,