With a potential return to the Premier League on the horizon, Watford know new recruits will be needed. Promotion is far from a certainty yet, but thinking about getting a head start in the summer transfer window is never a bad idea. One position which will need reinforcement is the attack. With Jacob Murphy set to leave on a bargain deal, Watford’s rumoured target is a player worth bringing in.
Jacob Murphy on Watford’s Radar
Available for Cheap Price
Football Insider – since corroborated by Chronicle Live – reports that Rangers, Southampton, and Watford are all interested in signing the 26-year-old. With his contract expiring in the summer of 2022, he will be available to depart for a reported £3 million. Murphy signed for Newcastle, from Norwich City, in 2017 for £10 million.
With contract renewal negotiations unclear, Newcastle’s Premier League status not yet solidified, and Murphy’s fluctuating match-time, many variables remain on the table which could signal an imminent departure.
Career Prior to This Season
Murphy made his way through the Norwich City youth ranks before his sale to Saint James’ Park. After six loans to third-tier-and-below sides, including a 19-goal-contribution season with Coventry City in 2015/16, he seriously broke into the Canaries’ first-team in the 2016/17 campaign. An eight-goal, eight-assist season was enough to warrant an eight-figure transfer to just-promoted Newcastle.
The versatile right-winger, who can also play naturally on the left-wing, only scored once and assisted once in his inaugural Premier League season. An unsuccessful first-half to the 2018/19 season saw him spend the second-half on loan to West Bromwich Albion, where he scored twice and assisted once in 13 appearances.
Still surplus to requirements, he spent the last campaign on loan with Sheffield Wednesday. An impressive nine-goal, six-assist (two assists being in the form of penalties-won) season reminded people why he cost £10 million. Noteworthy is how 12 of the goal contributions came in the final 20 matches of the loan.
Showing His Worth Under Steve Bruce
After one-and-a-half seasons away from Saint James’ Park, Murphy finally got his chances to shine. He has made 19 total appearances, with ten coming in the form of starts. All four of his goal contributions (two goals, two assists) came in fixtures that Newcastle did not lose.
Steve Bruce has also tested Murphy’s versatility by playing him as a right-midfielder, and sometimes even right-back. Plaudits have been coming Murphy’s way as a result of his performances – but that does not mean a transfer is not likely either.
Watford’s Familiar Winger Shortage
Again, nothing is certain as of yet. Watford still have plenty of twists and turns to go through before the end of the season. Even with a notable points-gap between themselves and third, this season has yet again proved anything can happen. Still, the Hornets should start planning for life in the Premier League in case they do clinch promotion within the next month.
Two of Watford’s stars this season have been wingers Ken Sema and Ismaila Sarr – especially the latter, whose future at Vicarage Road remains up in the air. Both have been pivotal to the squad’s resurgence under Xisco Munoz, who encourages a wide tactic.
But behind those two, Watford have very little depth in terms of wingers. January-signing Philip Zinckernagel is a natural right-winger, so he does provide some depth, but he is also proving to be beyond useful as an attacking midfielder. Joao Pedro and Isaac Success could play as wingers if necessary, though they are much better utilized centrally. Youngster Joseph Hungbo is a winger, but his ability to play effectively for the full 90 at the senior level is still not a guarantee.
One of Watford’s main reasons for their Premier League relegation was their lack of depth on the wing. When both Gerard Deulofeu and Sarr were fully fit, under Nigel Pearson, Watford were unstoppable. But, as soon as Deulofeu’s season-ending injury occurred, the club had to play Danny Welbeck, a central-preferring player, out wide. Roberto Pereyra also got opportunities as a winger, but like Welbeck, his most natural position was in the middle of the pitch.
Jacob Murphy Solves Problem
Although the Hornets were able to field noteworthy players, the make-shift wingers’ shortcomings were there for all to see. Tactics did not work the same, the style of play was less free-flowing, and a lopsidedness arose. In football, it is almost always optimal to have players play in their best position – even for normality for tactic’s sake. Not having enough depth out wide hurt the Hornets before in the top-flight once. Bringing in Murphy makes it more likely that history will not repeat itself.
And that is not to say Murphy would just be a depth player. If Sarr were to leave, for example, Murphy and Zinckernagel competing for the right-wing spot would not be the worst of scenarios for the Hornets to be in. In the event Sarr stays, Murphy would still provide competition for the starting spot on the left-wing too.
And, with Jacob Murphy set to depart for a fee significantly less than he would call for under normal circumstances, promotion would signal the prime time to bring him in.
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