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‘Roberto Pereyra has great technical skills but runs the joint furthest’

Walter Mazzarri accepts Roberto Pereyra has dipped below the high standards he set against Arsenal and West Ham United but says he’s still among the hardest working players in the squad.

Pereyra looked like he was operating on another level to anyone else in a Watford shirt in his first two appearances, and fans were already hailing another bit of shrewd transfer business by Gino Pozzo and Scott Duxbury. He looked, and still looks, a snip at €13m, especially when Hull paid £13m for Ryan Mason.

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“Those games [against Arsenal and West Ham] were when fans saw what they love to see from him: great technical skills,” said Walter Mazzarri.

Pereyra was less influential against Manchester United but persevered and ended up showing the awareness to pick out Juan Zuniga with a precise cutback when other less intelligent players would have flashed the ball across the face of goal more in hope than expectation. The way he then helped run the clock down spoke volumes for the game management skills he honed at Juventus.

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Pereyra was part of a team slump against Burnley but he’s remained peripheral from a creative perspective against Bournemouth and Middlesbrough. There weren’t the silky touches, there was no swaying of the hips or the acceleration away from his man. But Mazzarri has been pleased at the way his chief playmaker has rolled his sleeves up when things haven’t gone his way, when others of his ability have a tendency to go missing. It augurs well for the tough winter months.

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“Against Burnley, and the last game [against Middlesbrough], the team performed less well, so you notice less of Pereyra’s skill,” said Mazzarri. “But I saw something different from him, which was great sacrifice for the team. This is something very positive. If you see in our stats the people who run the most are Pereyra and Behrami. Pereyra has great technical skills yet he still runs all over the pitch, and that tells you he wants to win and he’s fighting for the three points.”