2019-20 Watford Premier League preview
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Under Javi Gracia’s guidance, Watford experienced their biggest of highs following Premier League promotion in 2016. The Hornets finished 11th last season as well as reached the FA Cup Final. It's a positive signal pointing toward a new era at Vicarage Road.
Gracia's so far succeeded in retaining his important players this summer. Unfortunately for the Spaniard, that meant sacrificing on reinforcement. Soon entering his third campaign in Hertfordshire, he hopes to integrate what's already there into a more fluid system.
Ben Foster has proven himself in goal by making crucial saves. Jose Holebas shines as an attacking force down the left, providing a much-needed crossing ability.
In midfield, Abdoulaye Doucoure is the driving force, always at hand to both help out his defence and set off on marauding runs forward. Roberto Pereyra supplies the wow factor. His unpredictability in attack keeps opponents on their toes.
Up top, Gerard Deulofeu and Troy Deeney’s partnership pieced together last season’s success. The former had his best campaign to date in England, scoring 12 goals, recording five assists. Deeney led from the front to play an important role, netting 11 times.
Thankfully for Watford, all their first-teamers have stayed put. It's surprising how they have fended off interest in Doucoure, who's attracting Everton, as well as Deulofeu.
The departures are striker Obbi Oulare moving to Standard Liege for £2.7 million, and winger Dodi Lukebakio joining Hertha Berlin for £18 million. Youngsters Jerome Sinclair, Ben Wilmot have been loaned out for more game-time, to VVV-Venlo and Swansea City respectively.
The Hornets have signed four players. Craig Dawson is tasked with adding protection to their error-prone defence after his £5.4-million move from West Bromwich Albion. Brazilian sensation Joao Pedro arrived from Fluminiese, costing £2.25 million. Tom Dele-Bashiru and Sam Dalby, both 19, joined for free.
In comparison to Premier League rivals, Watford have stayed silent in the market. In fact, they've made a £13-million profit.
Of course, there’s little doubting Gracia's current squad is well-drilled, knowing how to implement his tactics. However, he's taken a huge risk in not persisting for stronger reinforcement. Top-flight teams must keep up with the times.
To Gracia's credit, his crisp attacking style has taken the Premier League by storm. The way in which Watford move forward in numbers, beautifully working the ball into the box while applying a quicker, more fluid counter-attacking rhythm makes the Pamplona-born a fan-favourite. As long as he continues to produce the goods, there's no chance of that changing.
Still, delivering above expectations last season doesn't mean Gracia is in for an easier ride this time around. Missing out on a top-half finish was clouded over by the FA Cup final. In 2019/20, he will be pressed to move up the table, possibly even an attempt to gain European entry.
Considering the playing talent along with Gracia's expertise in knockout competitions, the Hornets should go far in both the FA and EFL cups. Winning either will solidify his position.
While a domestic trophy is a realistic aim, the Premier League is where the money's at. Watford had a terrific start to 2018/19. This time, their early games pose some daunting challenges. The Hornets kick-off against a Brighton side they bested on last campaign's opening day. Three points are again needed on Saturday. Gracia's men face trips to Everton, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur in addition to home games against Chelsea and Arsenal all before 3 November.
Despite attractive on-field work, Watford's league form is too inconsistent. For them to remove their reputation as mere mid-table dwellers, they must outwit a few those big sides early on.