Following Watford’s 2-0 defeat to Huddersfield Town, the managerial carousel at Vicarage Road spun around once more. On December 20, Xisco Muñoz was unveiled as the Hornets’ fifth head coach in the past 15 months.
If the sacking of Vladimir Ivic did not cause enough controversy amongst supporters, the signing of Muñoz most certainly did. But Muñoz, through his positive interviews and his jubilant demeanour, quickly endeared himself to the Hornets’ faithful.
Xisco Muñoz’s Upbeat First Impression Epitomises His Excitement About Signing For Watford
What Muñoz Said Following Watford Appointment
“We need to work hard. Football is passion and we have the perfect players,” said Muñoz during his first interview on the official club website. “We need to give them confidence, stay by the side of them, and give the maximum to help them. I know what it is like to be a fan, a player, and now a coach. I know all situations and what we need.”
The 40-year-old Spaniard – whose most notable achievement in the coaching field is guiding Georgian-club Dinamo Tbilisi to a league title – started to learn his preferred methods of managing during his impressive playing career. The main influence on his coaching-style comes as a direct result of his time as a player with Valencia, where he was under the management of the highly-respected Rafa Benítez.
Photos of Muñoz without a smile on his face are few and far between. He has the heart of a player who will do all he can to emerge victorious. Muñoz possesses the passion of a true fan who will give the team his full support regardless of the scenario the club is in. He boasts the brain of an ambitious manager who wants to simplify the game for his players to get the best out of all of them. Muñoz is well aware of the raw talent Watford have, so his excitement and hopes for success are more than justified.
“I’m very happy because I’m prepared for the situation,” admitted Muñoz in his first press conference. His signature smile is visible within 10 seconds of the conference’s commencement.
Xisco Muñoz and Vladimir Ivic are Polar Opposites
Ivic arrived at Watford after a successful spell with Maccabi Tel Aviv, where his side averaged 3.5 goals scored per each goal conceded. This free-flowing attacking football was expected to be carried over into the Championship. Under Ivic, Watford’s attack stalled.
The Serbian’s time at Watford was further characterised by a constant rotation of formations. At some clubs, unorthodox tactics like his work for the better. Unfortunately for him, his tactics were not optimal for maximizing the talents of the Watford squad. The result of the Hornets’ apparent underperforming ultimately led to his sacking. Ivic’s trying to ban phones on the training ground, along with other unpopular decisions, did not help his cause. Ivic is not fully responsible for his departure and shortcomings, but the need for change was clear and inevitable.
Xisco Muñoz, who played in advanced positions during his career, is tasked with kick-starting Watford’s attacking threat. With the likes of Troy Deeney, Ismaïla Sarr, João Pedro, Stipe Perica, and Ken Sema, to name a few, Watford do not need to overcomplicate scoring. Goals will come naturally if such talent is not tampered with. And indeed, Ivic tried to be too complex. Muñoz will seek consistency in order to keep football as enjoyable and simple for his players as possible.
His buoyant attitude perfectly juxtaposes Ivic’s stern bearing. For example, in the press conference, Muñoz explained there is no issue with players having their phones at training. Such a viewpoint might seem trivial, as is true with the idea of happiness being necessary for success. But, if Xisco Muñoz prevails in making football simple and enjoyable again for the squad, then the Hornets’ prospects of promotion will brighten. The attacking players will be able to have their talent do the talking, rather than some tricky tactics.
At the end of the day, players are humans like everyone else. When a squad’s passion/desire to win is damaged through a manager’s tactics or demeanour, its performance levels will drop. Muñoz’s positive vibes and excitement to start, as unimportant as they may seem, could prove to be the boost the Hornets need to get back into the discussion of automatic promotion. Even the most critical of Watford fans can find the soft-spot to support and believe in the new boss.
A promotion six-pointer against Norwich City will be the first of Muñoz’s tests.