With the Premier League season kicking off in fewer than three weeks, Watford need to think about finalizing their squad. With the futures of some players still uncertain, the Hornets will want to make sure there is clarity in their numbers ahead of opening day. Now that star midfielder Will Hughes seems destined to depart, should the Hornets be worried about not having a capable replacement to fill his boots?
Worries for Watford as Will Hughes Rejects Extension
Will Hughes Turns Down New Contract
According to Adam Leventhal of The Athletic, Hughes has turned down a new Watford contract. The offer was a five-year deal, one which would make him amongst the club’s top earners with a significant raise in pay.
Hughes and his agent are searching for other options. As of now, none have come his way. Still, considering his availability and never ceasing to impress since his Vicarage Road arrival, an opportunity to depart will likely eventually come his way.
Hughes earned an £8 million pound move to Watford in 2017 after breaking into the Derby County first-team five years prior. The 26-year-old primarily plays as a central midfielder, though he can also line up in wide positions if necessary. He spent last season playing as the number six in Xisco Munoz’s three-man centre midfield.
New Signings Provide Relief
Even with the future of Nathaniel Chalobah also uncertain, the Hornets’ midfield still has a fair amount of quality in its ranks. The club splashed around £9 million for Imran Louza at the start of the transfer window, someone who may be viewed as Hughes’ direct replacement for the central-defensive-midfield role. Like Hughes, Louza is also versatile and may play in the more advanced-midfield roles if another player occupies the number six job.
In Watford’s recent friendly against West Bromwich Albion, Peter Etebo played as the deep-lying midfielder. Of the Hornets’ three centre midfielders that match, he performed the best, sticking into challenges and showing tremendous composure while on the ball. So, both of Watford’s midfield reinforcements have the capability to line up in the position Hughes commanded last season.
Question Marks Surrounding Whether New Recruits Are Perfect Fit
Both Louza and Etebo – especially the former – will play a big role in Watford’s season. However, as neither have been dedicated number sixes for the duration of their careers, questions still remain as to whether they will be able to play with talent levels to make Watford not miss Hughes. Hughes was not a dedicated deep-lying midfielder for much of his career either, though he played in the position with a natural look whenever it was asked of him. Louza is also likely to be more effective in a more advanced midfield role.
Thus, the Hornets are likely to continue to look at the transfer market to sign an out-and-out number six. Mario Lemina was under consideration to perfectly fill the position, though a move to Nice has put an end to that potential transfer.
The search for a new defensive midfielder will likely progress until a new target is found. Perhaps friendlies will show Xisco and Co. that the replacement has already arrived. Nonetheless, question marks remain as to whether Watford will be able to fill the massive boots Hughes may be leaving behind.