This summer, Watford knew they would need to sign attacking reinforcements if they wanted to seriously stand a chance at staying in the Premier League. Even considering they earned promotion largely thanks to their top-scorer Ismaila Sarr, the perennial Liverpool transfer target could not provide enough firepower on his own to keep the Hornets afloat in the top flight. Sarr scored 13 times in the Championship last season, and no one else scored double-digit goals. With Troy Deeney ageing and eventually departing, the centre-forward department was crying out for help. Joshua King signed for Watford as a free agent following his short time at Everton, and he has already proven to be capable of providing prolific goal-scoring power for the Hornets.
Joshua King: The Centre-Forward Needed for Survival
Hat-Trick Against Everton Due Reward for Strong Start to Season
Following a poor half-season with Everton following his five and a half year stay with Bournemouth, questions were raised about how effective King would be at Watford. Some of the Hornets’ faithful felt as if the hierarchy was being too “cheap.” After all, he could only find 137 Premier League minutes with the Toffees, failing to find the back of the net.
Ahead of Watford’s trip to Goodison Park, King was performing well but did not have a goal to show for his efforts. He assisted twice; once against Norwich City and once against Newcastle United, and almost scored a dramatic winner against the latter. Unfortunately for him, his late goal was ruled out by VAR.
He was able to get revenge for his lack of playing time at Everton in his first return to Merseyside following his transfer to Vicarage Road. In his retribution, he scored three times, with each goal being a true bit of centre-forward excellence, rather than any sort of luck.
His first goal was excellently fired into the back of the net following a tricky flick-on from a set-piece. His second goal saw him take a remarkable first touch to set up a composed, under pressure finish on a counterattack with Jordon Pickford quickly closing down the angle. His third goal saw him send Michael Keane skating across the six-yard box before slotting past the helpless England number one.
In a match where Richarlison scored against his old club, the story of the former Watford player was overshadowed by the scintillating come from behind 5-2 victory for the Hornets and the former Everton player’s hat-trick. The moment in the spotlight was no less than what King deserved for his efforts, and the performance is most likely a sign of things to come.
Joshua King Destined for Success at Vicarage Road
There has been one factor in constantly preventing the 29-year-old from becoming a “consistently prolific” goal-scorer from the “reliable” goal-scorer he already is. The second Norwegian to ever reach 50+ Premier League goals has been known as a solid goal-scorer since he joined Bournemouth in 2015. He surpassed ten Premier League goals twice in his five top-flight seasons with the Cherries, with the most prolific coming in the 2016/17 campaign. The key aspect to that campaign that allowed for his success is something Watford can provide: allowing King to be the number one striker.
Throughout King’s time with Bournemouth, he was always second-choice or co-partner to Callum Wilson. In his 16-goal 2016/17 campaign, however, he was given the chance to shine. An untimely, unfortunate injury for Wilson threw King into the limelight, and King seized the moment. 12 of King’s 16 Premier League goals that season came in his 14 matches without competing with Wilson. Thus, when King was the number one attacker, he was prolific. Inevitably, the talented Wilson returned from injury the following season, reducing King back into the co-partner, or even second choice role.
What the 2016/17 season showed is that if King is given the chance to shine and be the number one centre-forward, he has what it takes to be prolific. Especially under Claudio Ranieri, King will have the opportunity to play the game how he wants between the posts, and he will not have to be the conduit for someone else’s success. The match against Everton further proved what can happen if King is given his due chances to shine, which he will be time and time again this season.