Watford announced the signing of former West Ham United midfielder Carlos Sanchez on Thursday (March 4) afternoon. He joins having been a free agent for eight months after his contract with the Hammers expired at the start of July. Even though he is not the most exciting of names as a 35-year-old, the Hornets very much needed to secure his signature.
Why Watford Needed to Go Out and Sign Carlos Sanchez
Watford Unveil Carlos Sanchez
The Hornets recently confirmed Sanchez had signed a short-term deal at Vicarage Road. The midfielder, who has made 88 international appearances for Colombia, was initially linked with a move at the start of the week.
As Sanchez was out-of-contract, this deal did not need to occur during a designated transfer window.
The Hornets’ Midfield Shortage
The Alarm Bells Have Been Ringing
Upon the closing of the January transfer window, Watford only had four senior central midfielders: Nathaniel Chalobah, Tom Cleverley, Will Hughes, and recent-signing Dan Gosling. With Xisco Munoz recently switching to a 4-3-3 formation, having four central midfielders to fill three spots was concerning. With a highly-congested fixture list, injuries and suspensions were inevitable. Now, the lack of depth is being further highlighted.
Philip Zinckernagel, Ken Sema, and Ben Wilmot can all play in the heart of the pitch if absolutely necessary. But, Watford know throwing players out of their natural position is never optimal – especially during a push for promotion.
Recent Injuries and Suspensions Underline the Problem
Most recently, the Hornets overcame Wycombe Wanderers, winning 2-0 on Wednesday, March 3. Watford were clear favourites going into the match, so the result was not a surprise. However, the lack of midfield depth came into the spotlight.
Chalobah picked up his 10th yellow card of the season in the match prior, meaning he was unavailable for the clash – and will be versus Nottingham Forest on Saturday (March 6) afternoon too. Most were expecting Gosling to fill his spot, however, come matchday, the 31-year-old missed out with a hamstring strain. The club were forced to play Zinckernagel as a central midfielder.
Admittedly, Zinckernagel performed well. Nonetheless, the midfield is not his natural, best position. His inclusion in the middle of the pitch ensured Sema and Ismaila Sarr had to start – both are quality players, but the fatigue from fixture congestion is catching up with them. Zinckernagel being unable to fill in for one of them and allow them rest was not ideal for the Hornets. The new signing played notably, but such replication out of position cannot always be expected.
When Cleverley went down injured in the 86th minute, Watford were left with just one healthy, natural central midfielder remaining. Wilmot filled in for the current club captain. Cleverley is now sidelined for at least the next four matches.
January Midfield Migration Threatening Tactics
Etienne Capoue departed at the start of the January transfer window, James Garner’s loan was terminated by Manchester United at the end of the window and Domingos Quina was questionably loaned out on deadline day to Granada.
The Hornets had the resources at their disposal, but they will now heavily regret not keeping hold of at least one of the January departures. If Watford are to continue utilizing a 4-3-3 formation, they need more healthy central midfielders. Such tactics are on the brink of becoming unsustainable with the current lack of depth. Ever since Xisco’s formation change, the club have picked up 15 out of a possible 18 points. Now, without depth, Watford risk needing to fall back on undertrained, unideal formations.
Hornets Smart to Sign Carlos Sanchez
Much-Needed Depth Arrives
With the club’s midfield depth as shallow as it gets right now, signing Sanchez was necessary. Even though more numbers in the midfield positions still would be more beneficial he provides some all-important relief.
When everyone is fit, Sanchez likely will not start. But, when suspensions and injuries strike, as they have now, he has a direct path into the starting eleven. Having as many natural-in-their-position players as possible is best for any club. In bringing in Sanchez, the club has ensured fielding the effective 4-3-3 setup is more sustainable.
What Sanchez Will Offer
In addition to offering Watford relief, Sanchez will provide a firm, experienced figure. He is known as “La Roca,” as his most notable characteristics are his strength and intensity.
When on the pitch, he will play in a defensive midfield role, giving the other two midfielders more attacking license. The former Aston Villa and Fiorentina player can also provide a defensive boost when clinging onto leads late into a match.
Overall, Sanchez is not the most eye-catching addition. Still, Watford needed to bring him in and were shrewd in reestablishing some midfield depth.
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