Watford welcomed fans to Vicarage Road for their friendly against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday. The two clubs recently switched tiers, as the Hornets finished second in the Championship while the Baggies finished 19th in the Premier League. Even though there are always asterisks next to friendlies and they should not be too deeply analyzed, there are nonetheless some important takeaways for Watford to notice.
Important Lessons Shown to Watford
How the Match Unfolded
Adam Masina was replaced by on-trial James Morris early on in the match due to an injury concern. Both sides tested the opposition keepers, as Ben Foster faced his former side, though both keepers were always up to the task. Troy Deeney and Ismaila Sarr linked up well early in the second half before Sarr was taken down in the box. No penalty was awarded, though, upon further examination, if VAR were in use, it likely would have been.
As the second half progressed, youngsters and fringe players entered the fray from both benches. The game ended 0-0, though Watford have plenty of points of optimism (and concern) to take from it.
Cucho Hernandez Primed for Success
Cucho Hernandez finally got to make an appearance in front of Hornets’ supporters for the first time since his arrival in England in 2017. His four loans to Spain have been successful, and the 22-year-old now has the opportunity to ply his trade at Premier League level.
The excitement surrounding his name was tangible throughout his time on the pitch. He offered pace from the left and fizzed in a dangerous delivery to Sarr in the first half. His two acrobatic attempts were not the worst of efforts either. There is a flair to Hernandez’s game that will prove to be a threat in the Premier League regardless of if he is deployed centrally or out wide. He dropped into an advanced-midfield role for the start of the second half, and even in his short cameo out of position, he injected quality, pace, and creativity into the side. After spending so long in a top-flight abroad, he seems more ready now than ever to thrive in the Premier League.
Midfield Dilemma Still Persists
Watford recently signed Peter Etebo on a season-long loan from Stoke City with an option-to-buy clause. He lined up in the defensive-midfield role of Xisco Munoz’s midfield three. He was composed throughout the match and found himself on the ball quite frequently. Shying away from tackles was not in his mind, making for a solid introduction to supporters. After already proving himself in the second-tier of England and performing well for Galatasaray, he appears Premier League ready.
However, Tom Cleverley and Dan Gosling did not provide the same dominance in midfield Etebo did. For most of the match, the Baggies controlled the middle of the pitch, further drawing attention to the current situation surrounding Nathaniel Chalobah and Will Hughes. With both out of contract next season and potential departures on the cards, yet another midfield reinforcement may be necessary to ensure the Hornets are able to hold their own in the midfield when the season starts.
Then again, Imran Louza and Domingos Quina were unavailable for the open-door friendly, with Louza playing 70 minutes against Brentford. Still, if Hughes and/or Chalobah depart, another midfield signing is likely.
Bright Future Shown Amidst Watford Injury Concern
Dapo Mebude is likely to spend the next season on loan before being able to make a true Vicarage Road impact. However, the recently-signed youngster thoroughly impressed during his cameo on Saturday, firing a shot just inches away from the post. Morris offered an impressive replacement for Masina and a full contract for the former Southampton player is expected, as reported by Adam Leventhal of The Athletic. New signing Danny Rose was unavailable as he was involved against Brentford.
Amidst Morris’ success, the issue of the Hornets’ defensive depth is raised. If Masina’s injury is long-term, then Rose, whose return to match fitness is not a guarantee, is the only out-and-out left-back on Watford’s books. Even with Morris impressing while on trial, throwing him into the thick of Premier League action would be far from ideal.
Overall, the friendly was positive for both sides for gauging a sense of what needs tweaking before the season commences. The Hornets still have three more friendlies before the opening fixture against Aston Villa. Nonetheless, Watford’s need for at least one more new face is evident.