There were some deep inside Watford’s training ground who felt Troy Deeney should turn down Leicester’s considerable advances this summer because the Hornets would finish above the champions this season. That is the unchecked ambition of those running the club. It may, along with a massive pay rise, have even been part of the persuasive argument that convinced the captain to stay.
There are 30 games still to go and the gap is only three points, but Watford are already three places higher than Claudio Ranieri’s side, the likely upshot of the Foxes spending too long admiring the view from the top and Watford picking up an unexpected haul of 11 points from an awkward-looking start. Watford, on the back of their own mini success in finishing 13th last season, is not a club you’ll find falling foul of the second-season syndrome. The 11 summer signings showed they are not about to stand still.
“The target this year is to do even better [than last season] if possible,” said Younes Kaboul, who took the plunge this summer after almost joining the summer before. “The first season you always get that spark because you are back in the Premier League, the club did very well. The target this year is to do even better if possible.
“To be in the top half of the table would be perfect. We believe we can do that because we have quality in the group. Leicester proved last season that anyone can win the Premier League, but I am not talking about this of course. But it shows you the mentality of other teams: anyone can surprise everyone, that is the Premier League.”
Watford again stress-tested their model this summer by changing the head coach for the umpteenth time. The thinking was that if the form in the second half of last season spilled over into this, Watford would be dead and buried by Christmas. Quique Sanchez Flores’ brief was to finish 17th or above. Walter Mazzarri’s goes beyond that.
“When I spoke with the president [Gino Pozzo], we both talked about the same thing,” said the head coach. “The first year all the teams from the second division always have the enthusiasm for the first year. They tended to always do better. The second year it’s always harder. We want to grow this team with enthusiasm and build a team for the future.”