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Walter Mazzarri ready to take big gamble at Stoke City

Walter Mazzarri has taken one of his crocked players to Stoke City and is seriously contemplating asking him to play through the pain barrier in a sure sign the Watford head coach is feeling the pressure.

We have agreed not to name the player for fear of giving Stoke the heads up and because Mazzarri needs all the help he can get right now, but we can reveal one of the half-a-dozen injured senior players who didn’t make it against Tottenham Hotspur travelled with the squad to the Potteries yesterday, despite not training for at least a week. Mazzarri, we are told, wants the player to start in a bid to halt the slump and prevent a seventh defeat in ten matches.

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Picture by Franziska Empl

The move represents a huge gamble as it risks putting the player out for longer but Mazzarri has been around the block long enough to know when the stakes are raised and when the wagons are starting to circle. He needs a result and clearly feels it’s a gamble worth taking.

It’s probably a sign of the times that Mazzarri can be under pressure when the team sit in 11th in England’s top league on the back of historic victories over Manchester United, Everton and the champions Leicester City, but Gino Pozzo and Scott Duxbury have both shown how they act swiftly and decisively when they feel the momentum is heading inexorably in the wrong direction. They are never afraid to stress test the model.

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“You do feel with Watford, that no matter how well they do, that they will change their manager,” said Jamie Carragher on Super Sunday. “You can see Mazzarri [being] there no more than 12-18 months. If this [losing] run continues, people at the top of that club have got no sort of respect for any manager or the managerial position at the football club. If Watford stay up you’d probably take that and say well done to Watford. But I think if Watford were involved in a relegation scrap and he kept them up, he’d still lose his job.”

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Pozzo is a big admirer of Mazzarri and didn’t hand out lightly unprecedented three-year contracts to the head coach and his nine-strong staff. He, after all, tried to bring him several times to Udinese. Mazzarri also has a big ally at the club in the increasingly influential technical director Filippo Giraldi.

Mazzarri and technical director Filippo Giraldi
Mazzarri and technical director Filippo Giraldi

“An Italian working for an Italian family [you’d think it would work],” said Graeme Souness. “Eight managers in four years…that’s normally a recipe for disaster and will take you nowhere. The majority of players want continuity, and continuity is the way forward, as you can get a bit of an understanding going. If a manager is seen to be temporary, then the players don’t end up having respect for him.”