Ben Watson, Adlene Guedioura, Adrian Mariappa and even Abdoulaye Doucoure are all readying themselves to be involved in some capacity against West Bromwich Albion this weekend as the depth of Watford’s Premier League squad is put to the test.
With Miguel Britos and Valon Behrami suspended, Craig Cathcart and Kenedy definitely out injured and doubts over Younes Kaboul, who limped off on Sunday, Walter Mazzarri will have to ring the changes and even tweak the formation at the Hawthorns.
If Kaboul, as seems likely, doesn’t make it, Mazzarri will have to decide whether to slot Daryl Janmaat and Adrian Mariappa, who hasn’t started a league game since May 3, on the right-hand side of a back three that includes Sebastian Prodl and Christian Kabasele. Or the Italian head coach, as he did at Liverpool, will have to switch to a back four.
In midfield, Ben Watson seems the natural replacement for Behrami’s spot in front of the defence but Watson wasn’t even on the bench on Sunday and Mazzarri has favoured Adlene Guedioura ahead of the former Crystal Palace and Wigan Athletic man. Juan Zuniga has even played in midfield.
“Lads like [Mariappa, Watson and Kabasele] are actually setting the tempo in training, pushing others, telling them by their actions that they’re breathing down their necks,” said Troy Deeney in Sunday’s programme notes. “People don’t see this sort of stuff, but the lads on the bench and on the fringes of the squad are really pushing hard to play and that’s what you want. You need quality competition for every place and I believe we’re nearly almost there on that in every position.”
Mazzarri has already used 20 players this season, a combination of increased options to the ones Quique Sanchez Flores had and because injuries continue to force his hand.
“Last year we used about 14 or 15 players to any great degree, with nine or ten others having the feel that whatever they did, they wouldn’t be good enough for a game,” added Deeney. “So credit to the gaffer here, because with his training and the way he gets his messages across, no one is in any doubt that the whole squad are involved in what we’re doing. It’s mentally very tough to turn up and train when you know your chance is likely to be limited. That’s why those of us lucky to be holding a shirt in the starting 11 have to show respect to our teammates every time we training and play.”