Despite losing out on the title in the last seconds of last season, there were joyous scenes at Vicarage Road as Watford finally returned to the Premier League. But that was as good as it got for Slavisa Jokanovic, replaced by Quique Flores, the man now tasked with the job of keeping the Hornets up.
Last Season: Championship (2nd)
Manager: Quique Flores
GKs: Heurelho Gomes, Rene Gilmartin, Giedrius Arlauskis
DFs: Gabriele Angella, Joel Ekstrand, Miguel Layun, Lloyd Doyley, Juan Carlos Paredes, Craig Cathcart, Daniel Pudil, Ikechi Anya, Josh Doherty, Tommie Hoban, Essaid Belkalem, Sebastian Prodl, Juanfran, Jose Holebas
MFs: Daniel Tozser, Lewis McGugan, Sean Murray, Diego Fabbrini, Almen Abdi, Ben Watson, Connor Smith, George Byers, Cristian Battocchio, Lloyd Dyer, Etienne Capoue, Valon Behrami
FWs: Troy Deeney, Fernando Forestieri, Matej Vydra, Odion Ighalo, Bernard Mensah
In: Giedrius Arlauskis (Steaua Bucharest), Sebastian Prodl (Werder Bremen), Matej Vydra (Udinese), Jose Holebas (Roma), Etienne Capoue (Tottenham Hotspur), Valon Behrami (Hamburg)
Out: Marco Motta (Released), Luke O’Nien (Released), Vujadin Savic (Released), Jonathan Bond (Reading), Uche Ikpeazu (Port Vale)
First Six: Everton (A), West Brom (H), Southampton (H), Manchester City (A), Swansea City (H), Newcastle United (A)
Likely Lineup: (3-5-2) Gomes – Cathcart, Angella, Prodl – Layun, Watson, Capoue, Behrami, Holebas – Vydra, Deeney
A word from…Micah Hyde
On the quick step up to the Premier League It might sound strange but, to be honest, no it wasn’t a difficult transition for me. I joined the club as a whole group of players were coming through. I was part of the side the whole time so I never felt there was anything, especially, to’step up’ to. We all took it in our stride and we had a superb manager in Graham Taylor who managed the club brilliantly. So, for me it wasn’t daunting at all.
It was a brilliant experience and an amazing achievement for the club, looking backwards. The one game I looked forward to was against Man United at Old Trafford but all the others I just took in my stride. I enjoyed every minute of it. It was a real shame that the experience didn’t last a bit longer.
On being promoted too early No, I don’t think so. Obviously, the huge amounts of money has changed things completely what with the parachute payments that clubs get after going down. For us I feel that all the things we had done to get us to the Premier League we kind of began to stop doing and that a lot of hard work was wasted.
There were some individuals in the group that didn’t put the work in that they should have and that was disappointing. A few were definitely starstruck by the players and opposition we were facing week in, week out and there were some who didn’t raise their performance levels to match the situation we were were in.
On the current setup To be honest I was not sure at the start of last season. I wasn’t convinced by the new ownership and the ‘continental style’ structure that came with it. I worried because we were always a family club with certain values. There were three or four changes of manager in the early days under the current owners, and that worried me as a fan.
I wasn’t convinced initially but we really did the business on the pitch and managed to get promoted in real style. Jokanovic deserves a lot of credit for how he set the team up and the way they played. But, of course, he’s not there now so it remains to be seen how we’ll go under Flores.
On looking up instead of down I think we need to consolidate in this season. The new manager has a proven record and if we can add that to the winning mentality around the club (from last season) there’s no reason at all why we can’t have a good season. It’s all about balance when all is said and done. We need to hit the ground running and build on what we have achieved. Goals will definitely be key and with players like Deeney and Vydra we ought to be scoring a few. We might have to concede a few too so being realistic is also important. But, if you look at the QPR’s and Burnley’s from last season they both lacked goals in their teams. Goals and a decent home record will be the two key things for me.
On new signings and a new head coach Flores, as I said, is a top manager and I remember from my time at the club; especially under Vialli when we had quite an influx of foreign players; that we always had foreign players…like Bardsen, Neilson and Rosenthal but they all fitted into the infrastructure at the club. They bought into what we were trying to do as a group.
If the overseas players are joining for the right reasons and not to just pick up the money then, yes, it’s great that we can attract those sort of players. But it’s crucial they get their heads down and work. In the end it’s all about the team and moving forward as a group. If players join for the right reasons I don’t think the fans will have any problems with that.
The Offside Rule Podcast Prediction: With an experienced manager and some good quality throughout the squad, Watford should definitely be able to keep their heads above water this season. Capoue & Holebas particularly stand out as good signings with plenty of goals already there in Vydra, Deeney & Ighalo.
Key Player: Troy Deeney – A revelation for Watford in recent years, but the Hornets don’t have a hope if their strikers don’t hit form. Deeney seems best suited to the demands of the Premier League and it seems Watford have fended off interest in the big man.
One to Watch: Juanfran – He hasn’t even made his debut yet after being loaned to Spain immediately after signing but the pacey full-back/winger could be suited to Quique Flores and was once a regular with Real Madrid’s ‘B’ team. At 26, he’s experienced and could be a surprise.