It was a conversation that started on the long journey back from Stoke: which five players would you like Watford to sign this window? We ruled out ones that are unobtainable, opting instead for more realistic targets with Premier League experience who could come in and hit the ground running. We’ve deliberately gone for home-grown players as that’s the area where Watford have room in their squad, and there are range of loans and permanent deals. The list is probably wildly different from the cosmopolitan names Gino Pozzo, Scott Duxbury and Filippo Giraldi are banding around the training ground but it was fun being in their shoes for a couple of hours. Here goes…
Yes, the loans of midfielders Josh McEachran and Kenedy didn’t work out but we think Loftus-Cheek could be a temporary hit at Vicarage Road like Nathan Ake was. He’s yet to make a Premier League start for Chelsea this season and only come off the bench once in the league, so it’s clear Antonio Conte views him as a peripheral member of Chelsea’s title-chasing squad. Loftus-Cheek is a smooth-passing powerhouse and just the sort of youthful mobility Watford need at the base of their midfield, especially with Valon Behrami out injured and Adlene Guedioura away. We’d start him ahead of Guedioura even when he gets back.
Watford fans could justifiably claim he’s ‘One of our own’ more than Tottenham as the midfielder was born in Watford General Hospital. He’s been leapfrogged in the Spurs’ midfield pecking order by his big mate Harry Winks and needs to leave to get game time. Swansea have been long-term admirers of him, for starters. His ability to get on the ball and build attacks from deep would help Watford vary their increasingly one-dimensional play and become more sophisticated. At the age of 24, he’d still have resale value and his wages wouldn’t break the bank. Perhaps a six-month loan with an option to buy.
We’ve picked him for his pace. He’s clearly not fancied by Claude Puel – he’s appeared in just two of the last 15 Premier League games – but he would suit Watford down to a tee. Teams know they can defend high against Watford as the Hornets, in the continued absence of Isaac Success, do not have the speed to threaten in behind. With someone like Long in the side, teams have no option but to drop off, thus creating more space for Watford’s creative midfielders to operate in. He’s probably the wrong age for Watford – he turns 30 later this month – and would command a sizeable fee as he’s contracted until 2020 but sometimes you have to buy a ready-made player.
Yes, we know. He’s hardly a hit with the fans after his Tom Daley antics in the penalty area but that was two years ago and plenty of water has passed under the bridge since. Watford need some artistry in the wake of the season-ending injury to Roberto Pereyra – Mazzarri, by the way, last week confirmed our story that he was out for the season – and the Republic of Ireland international fits the bill. He’s got a wand of a left foot and would help the Hornets retain possession, add balance with a left foot and give them the option to unpick the lock rather than just attempt to smash the door down.
He’s only just back after more than a year out through injury but the Liverpool teenager would be perfect cover and competition for the left centre-half spot and the left-wing back role. Miguel Britos isn’t going to play every game – he’s been injured and suspended this season – while it’s only a matter of time before Jose Holebas picks up a two-game ban for earning ten yellow cards. Gomez is originally from the south of England so would presumably have no qualms about moving back and, crucially, he wouldn’t take up a place in the Premier League squad as he’s only 19. A loan deal until the end of the season would suit both Liverpool, who rate him highly, and Watford.
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