Watford 2016-17 Season Preview
Location: Watford, England
Last Year’s Position: 13th
Current Manager: Walter Mazzarri
Positives From Last Season
Overall, last season was a complete success for Watford as they comfortably avoided relegation. They also made at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final. Manager Quique Flores Sanchez was the mastermind behind the club’s successes last season, as he guided the club to safety.
The beginning of the season last year couldn’t have gone any better. Watford took 29 points from their first 19 matches, which included a four match winning streak in match-days 14 through 17. Their best result from that solid run of form was a 3-0 victory over Liverpool.
Offensively, Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo had stellar seasons up front, as they both combined for 28 Premier League goals. Their finishing ability was paramount throughout the season, especially when the club were faced with a bad run of form at the end of the season.
On the defensive side of things, the Hornets conceded the joint-eighth fewest goals in the league. Goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes wasn’t perfect, but he made some crucial saves as he had a solid season.
Weaknesses From Last Season
The end of last season featured a dreadful run of form. In the last 19 matches of the season they lost 11 of their fixtures, only producing four wins and four draws. As a result they were unable to build on their solid start to the season.
Despite the fantastic season of Deeney and Ighalo, the rest of the team struggled to find the back of the net. They both accounted for 70% of the goals during the Premier League season. Only three other players scored two goals or more.
One of the major off-season moves was the departure of Sanchez as manager. The replacement is Walter Mazzarri, who has spent most of his managerial career in Italy. He led Napoli in the 2012-2013 season to a second place finish in Serie A, and a Coppa Italia win in 2012.
Watford set a a new club transfer record this summer by signing 20-year-old Nigerian forward Issac Success (that is his actually last name). The fee was reported at €12.5 million. He’s spent the past few seasons in La Liga at Granada, scoring six goals in 30 appearances last season.
In the pre-season thus far Watford have a record of played two, won two, drawn two, lost one including wins over Hertha Berlin and Stevenage.
Players to Watch
The striker had a tremendous season last year and showed that he can produce goals. A lot more production is expected of him again and some of the matches outcomes this season may be reliant on his play.
With another talented striker added to the mix, Success will have the opportunity to make an impact this season. After a season of goal production that mostly came from two players, the Nigerian forward can add a third scoring threat to the club. He could prove to be one of the key signings in the club’s history.
The man tasked with the goalkeeping duties again this season will be most likely called upon to make some match deciding saves again. It may be a make or break season for Watford in the Premier League and if Gomes can perform in goal then they will have a good chance at remaining in the top flight.
Key Matches This Season
It is a brutal start to the Premier League schedule, as Watford have to face four of the best clubs from last season in a row. Chelsea, Arsenal, West Ham, and Manchester United are their opponents in match-days two through six, which makes the opening fixture against Southampton a crucial match.
After their tough start to the schedule things get immediately more manageable. They face all three of the newly promoted clubs in a row. If they can take maximum points away from two of those matches, they may be able to make up any ground lost in the opening weeks.
The remainder of the season has a fairly normal schedule until the final four match-days. If Watford find themselves in relegation trouble at the end of the season their chances of survival will be low. They face Liverpool, Leicester City, Everton, and Manchester City in the final four fixtures of the season. Three of those clubs will probably be in the hunt for European places and maybe even the league title. However, it also provides Watford the opportunity to spoil the party with an upset.