Winter window manifesto for Watford to cement top half spot
Holly Thackeray | December 21, 2015
This appears to be the year for Premier League surprise packages, and Watford have easily impressed most from the new boys since being catapulted back into the top-flight. Should they try to fix what isn’t broken, then, as they sit comfortably seventh ahead of Christmas?
Safety may now not be the only target for talented Spanish coach Quique Sanchez Flores and, while talk of a push for Europe is quite premature during this purple patch, a top 10 finish to cement the Hertfordshire club’s burgeoning reputation and status is certainly achievable.
Flores kept his cards close to his chest following his side’s 3-0 dismantling of Liverpool, stating: “Our target is to stay in the category [Premier League]. It’s very important for Watford that we continue growing. I am focused completely on this target.
“Of course, the people, the players and everyone can dream – because the dream is very free.”
Evolving… with Iturbe?
However, canny Flores did speak of the desire for progression, saying: “The idea in the club is very clear. We’re just thinking about the need to grow.
“We need to establish ourselves in the Premier League, this is what we need. We are evolving with this idea,” added the 50-year-old.
Are new recruits needed for this readjustment of aims and expectations? The Hornets’ hierarchy have never held back before and this January looks set to be little different. Despite a summer shopping spree of impressive proportions a mere few months ago, the Pozzo family are reportedly ready to recruit again.
Roma’s toiling but talented young Argentine attacker Juan Iturbe has not had the best of campaigns in the Italian capital so far, but his prodigious potential remains, and looks set to be tested on the unlikely stage of Vicarage Road.
Latest reports suggest exciting Iturbe is already in London to put pen to paper on a loan deal, with the option to become a Hornet permanently in summer.
Calling this a coup would be an understatement, and this switch looks increasingly likely to attract further talent, particularly from Serie A, where the Pozzo’s have influence and connections.
Another match-winner would not go amiss, especially one with the ability to enthrall and create. Though, having miraculously managed to make their extensive list of summer signings gel, caution is required for Watford. Lest too many cooks spoil the broth.
Still, while it may not appear as though the Hornets (6/5 for a top 10 Premier League finish) need another hitman, with predatory pairing Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo bagging the lion’s share of goals, one ill-timed injury could upset the apple cart. Should one of their superb strikers also be poached in summer, there would be no harm and having already road tested a replacement.
Zaza-zoom for Hornets
Another high-profile winter window loan signing could be Juventus forward Simone Zaza, also linked to West Ham United, with the Italian connection working to full effect here. Though, there are already a couple of sharpshooters sat out at Leicester City, in Andrej Kramaric and Leonardo Ulloa, who could be well worth a look instead.
Defensive positions, meanwhile, look relatively sewn-up, while the Etienne Capoue-led midfield has a wonderful balance Flores may want to think about before disrupting. Though further quality could of course be added in the off-season.
Holding onto a Hornets hero
It certainly seems as though Flores wants to keep the status quo, but clinging on to Ighalo, who has attracted attention with his 12 goals in 17 games, may be the most crucial part of any top-half plans, and future success.
The lethal striker was supposedly wanted in summer but stayed put to great effect, with Flores noting: “I think Ighalo is completely clever, he chose five months ago the option to stay here with Watford. He chose to stay here because he imagined something special for him.
“It’s very clever, he knew perfectly it was the best option for him. I think he’ll finish the season with Watford, after that anybody knows,” added the coach.
Hornets fans will hope tying Ighalo down long-term is the biggest priority, Iturbe or no Iturbe.