Walter Mazzarri said, in his only interview so far since starting as Watford head coach five weeks ago, that he prefers to let actions do the talking. So you clearly won’t get the Italian head coach responding to any of the predictions in yesterday’s papers which largely paint a picture of doom for the Hornets. Let’s hope Troy Deeney pins one or two on the dressing room wall.
MAIL ON SUNDAY
‘It’s not route one but back to square one for Watford as they start the new season with yet another manager. They were in the same position this time last year having just been promoted to the top flight. In his first season at Vicarage Road charismatic Spaniard Quique Sanchez Flores took the Hornets to an FA Cup semi final and 13th in the top flight, their highest position since 1987. But that was still not enough for the trigger-happy owner Gino Pozzo who, in July, celebrated four years at the helm. So no pressure then for Walter Mazzarri, the eighth head coach under Pozzo’s reign. There is no lack of ambition and direction at the club, though – rejecting Leicester’s £25m bid for Troy Deeney proved that. Skipper Deeney has signed a new five year contract while another key player, Heurelho Gomes, has also been persuaded to stay. The Hornets completed a deal for Belgian defender for Christian Kabasele and the wonderfully-named Nigerian striker Isaac Success for a club-record fee of £12.5m from Spanish outfit Granada. Success will ease the pressure on the strikeforce and spread the goals around.
Verdict: Quique Sanchez will be a hard act to follow as Watford aim to build on his success last year. They need stability and their new additions should help.
How far behind Leiceser will they end up?: Tricky to beat last season’s 13th spot. Still some way behind.’
Ten of the Sun’s 20 football team predict Watford will be relegated.
They got the fans to preview the season. Seven of the 20 fans think Mazzarri will be the first manager to be fired and seven fancy them to be in the bottom three, with two of them predicting they’ll be propping up the table come the end of the season. Watford’s preview was written by Matt Rowson, of bhappy.
‘The thing about making wholesale changes every summer is that you can never be completely confident. There is a general trust in the intelligence and decision-making of those running the club, but a new coach, new formation and new players means a lot of unknowns. But yes, of course we’ll be brilliant.
Key players: Perhaps the key signing, as is becoming traditional, was the retention of Troy Deeney in the face of very big numbers and, seemingly, the lure of Champions League football with Leicester. Elsewhere, the signings have been impressive if understated; Success, Sinclair and January recruit Doucoure increased the squad’s quality and reduced its average age.
Weak links: At this stage, having lost the unfulfilled promise of Jurado and, heartbreakingly, the more dependable genius of Almen Abdi, a side whose midfield was solid by design last season looks short of creativity.
First choice XI: Gomes; Cathcart, Britos, Kabasele; Zuniga, Capoue, Watson, Doucoure, Holebas; Ighalo, Deeney.
Best and worst away grounds: Enjoyed the fanzone and properclubness at The Hawthorns. Crystal Palace takes a bafflingly long time to get to and involves Croydon.
Two former players who would walk into the current side. Almen Abdi (sniff), and maybe John Eustace. There is always space for someone shouty with scary eyes.
We will finish: 14th but it’s anyone’s guess.’
THE STAR ON SUNDAY
‘Watford have had seven managers in four years under the reign of the Pozzo family. And Walter Mazzarri bravely, or foolishly, decided to become their eighth following the sacking of nice guy Quique Sanchez Flores at the end of last season, the man who inspired Watford’s bright start and then took the blame for losing 12 of their last 20 games. Flores kept the Hornets in the Premier League and got them to an FA Cup semi-final – surely success for a club of their size? Not in the eyes of the Pozzos, though, who have now put their trust in former Inter Milan and Napoli boss Mazzarri, 54. His task is to ensure Watford retain their Premier League status by the time we get to May, plus leave one or two of the big boys with a bloody nose. Didn’t Flores do that? In contrast to his predecessors, Mazzarri has been given time to achieve this kind of success, his three-year deal almost trebles that of those who have come and gone before him. Watford ignored £23m offers for striker Troy Deeney – good move. Now they need Odion Ighalo not to fall away as he did last season. You can only wish the Italian well but as chief Scott Duxbury said on his appointment: “The progress and development of this club always remains the highest priority.” Walter, you have been warned.’
Steve Millar & Tony Stenson
Their chief football writer and their high-profile columnist will be welcome in the press box at Vicarage Road as they are the only two of the paper’s five experts to predict Watford will stay up.
‘Last season: Quique Sanchez Flores kept Watford up, reached the FA semi-final and still lost his job. It puts on the pressure on his successor, former Inter Milan manager Walter Mazzarri, to do better, although Watford have been busy buyers again.
Key Man: Troy Deeney. Influential captain turned down Leicester to stay.
Verdict: Need to begin well after their slump in 2016 but the policy of all change worked well last year.’
Half of their experts below feel Watford will be relegated. Not only that, they believe the Hornets will finish rock bottom.
THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH
‘Verdict: A difficult club to read with a new Italian manager and a record signing – Isaac Success – form Granada, a former Pozzo club. The Pozzos are masters at trading and generally do enough to survive.
This season: 15th’
THE SUNDAY TIMES
‘Changing your manager on a regular basis goes against common sense. It will come back and bite you, and might do so this year at Watford.’
Over to you, Walter…