With two matches to spare, Watford clinched promotion to the Premier League at the first time of asking. In December, the Club was on the brink of (or arguably even in) turmoil. In came Xisco Munoz, and he was more than just the man the Hornets needed. But, in January, Watford shuffled players around to help Munoz not have to worry about personnel. Even after the transfer window closed, depth was needed in some positions. Three of the Watford signings came in as late reinforcements and only signed short-term contracts, so the club need to decide whether any should be retained.
Watford Signings: Club Must Determine Futures of Recent Short-Term Arrivals
Rob Elliot’s Done Duty
Rob Elliot came in as an emergency transfer when Ben Foster was forced to the sidelines with a finger injury. The 34-year-old was without a club following the end of his nine-year stay with Newcastle United. The Irishman signed in January, but again, he was a signing mainly made to alleviate stress.
Daniel Bachmann took Foster’s starting spot and has never looked back, even since Foster regained match fitness. When Foster was initially injured, however, young goalkeeper Adam Parkes was named to the bench. The 21-year-old has never made a senior appearance, so Watford did not want to be thrown into a super risky situation if Bachmann were forced to the sidelines as well.
Elliot found himself on the bench ten times, though he was never called upon to play. His job was to provide depth, and he did just that. He also appeared to be a happy, joyful face to have in training. But, Elliot will likely not be re-signed. If this is the end of his career, he certainly ended it on a high note with promotion.
Achraf Lazaar Set to Depart
Like Elliot, Achraf Lazaar was brought in for deep-depth purposes, rather than starting competition. In the first half of the season, Watford had no true left-backs in the absence of Adam Masina. The club did not want to find itself in a similar situation after Masina’s return.
The former Newcastle player signed in February and made three appearances off the bench and one start. Lazaar’s 82 minutes against Luton Town in Masina’s absence produced a moment to forget, as the recent arrival played a horrific pass to Bachmann which led to a decisive penalty. Of course, in the end, the error did not stop the Hornets from reaching their automatic promotion goal with time to spare.
Unfortunately for Lazaar, a Vicarage Road future is highly improbable. Watford will likely consider bringing in a higher-profile left-back to give Masina starting competition (which also ensures depth).
Watford With Difficult Carlos Sanchez Choice
Of the three short-term reinforcements, Carlos Sanchez was the Hornet’s most influential. Signing in March, the defensive midfielder came in following injuries to Dan Gosling and Tom Cleverley. The former West Ham United player, known as “La Roca” due to his defensive firmness and tenacity, made more of an impact than many expected.
The 35-year-old did not play as if he were in the swan-song of his career. Capped by Colombia 88 times, he gave the Hornets exactly what they were looking for. He has been in the squad in all ten matches since he arrived, making seven substitute appearances and one start. His most influential match was against promotion-chasing Reading, when Watford led 2-0 at half-time – but the Royals were by far the team on the front foot. Sanchez came on as the second-half commenced and helped tame the rest of the match.
Considering the Hornets’ current midfield choices, Sanchez is far down the pecking order. With his contract expiring in the summer (as Elliot’s and Lazaar’s are too), the Hornets are not bound to his wages. But, choosing him is not as straightforward as the others. If Watford feel they need to keep their current midfield depth, they lose players, and/or they decide not to sign anyone new in the midfield for the Premier League (though midfield signings, like many other positions, will likely be targeted), then keeping La Roca would be an understandable decision too.