Explaining the Shrewd Rationale Behind Watford’s Mattie Pollock Signing

Mattie Pollock

Watford’s promotion to the Premier League at the first time of asking meant imminent reinforcements would be arriving at Vicarage Road. With about three months until their return to the top flight officially kicks off, the Hornets’ focus has been on developing a strong young core that will help them in future Premier League seasons or even Championship campaigns if relegation occurs once more. Recently, the club announced the impressive signing of 18-year-old winger Kwadwo Baah. Now, Watford have completed a transfer for Grimsby Town’s star 19-year-old centre-back Mattie Pollock.

Dissecting Why Watford Signed Mattie Pollock

Mattie Pollock Transfers to Watford on a Five-Year Contract

Pollock signed for Watford on a five-year deal. Grimsby, recently relegated into the National League, claim Watford have coughed up an initial fee of £250,000, with the potential for the sum to increase. Considering Grimsby’s relegation to the fifth tier, such a figure is a fair price for them, even if it means losing their most prized youngster.

The 19-year-old defender played 29 matches in all competitions last campaign, scoring four times. He was on course to play essentially every match if it had not been for a mid-season injury. He played 27 matches in the 2019/20 season, captaining Grimsby in an EFL Trophy match as a 17-year-old.

Mattie Pollock Displaying Necessary Tools for Future Top-Flight Success

Pollock is likely to head out on loan for at least the next campaign considering he is yet to play above the fourth tier of English football. Nonetheless, his time with Grimsby statistically shows he is well into the process of becoming an aerial nightmare to come up against.

Out of the 58 most frequently featured League Two centre-backs, Pollock is at the top end of the bell curve in aerial metrics. His 10.0 aerial duels per 90 minutes are in the top 10 for most aerial duels per 90 minutes in the league. More notably, only six centre-backs in the league top his 70% aerial duel win rate. Most impressively, he has the second-best aerial duel win rate among centre-backs who attempted greater than the average 7.7 aerial duels per 90 minutes. Simply stated, he is one of the last players attackers want to be competing in the air with.

His other defensive statistics are impressive as well, but it is the 6’2″ defender’s aerial ability that makes him a cut above the rest. After a season or two on loan higher up the football pyramid, he will become a useful tool for Watford, regardless of if they are successful in maintaining their Premier League status.

Watford’s Plan for Sustainable Squad Fosters Such Transfers

When speaking to The Athletic’s ‘From the Rookery End’ podcast, Watford CEO and chairman Scott Duxbury, talking about the transfer strategy and squad as a whole, said: “We’re going into the Premier League with a very competitive squad, with young hungry players complemented with a few senior players. But should the worst happen at any given point [relegation], we are able to go down (and) keep that squad together (without) huge restructuring.”

Essentially, what Duxbury is suggesting is Watford’s ideal squad ahead of next season is one filled with ambitious, growing-in-talent, less-seasoned players with a handful of older, more experienced players to balance out. In this ideal structure, Duxbury believes Watford will be able to achieve Premier League safety, but in the event relegation occurs, the squad will not have to risk undergoing a complete restructure (a fate the club was fortunate to avoid last season due to offloading the likes of Abdoulaye Doucoure, Pervis Estupinan, and Luis Suarez – the latter two never wound up playing a single competitive minute for Watford – for over £40 million). And in this method, if Watford re-establish themselves as a Premier League mainstay, then the young talent will grow into the top-flight first-team at zero future expense.

The path for such young, ambitious recruitment was started by signing Manchester City-linked Baah. Pollock is a similar signature, as his impact at Watford in the upcoming season is likely to be minimal, while it is clear his influence in the future can be immense.

With the transfer window yet to officially open, the Hornets still have plenty of time to shape up their ideal Premier League squad with higher-profile signatures. However, even if these early transfers for young prospects do not have immediate benefit to the club, in future seasons, Duxbury and Co. will be glad these deals got over the line. With the future in safe hands, Watford can now start to seriously focus on immediate Premier League-preserving transfers.

 

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