Zero clean sheets in 18 matches tells you all they need to know about Watford right now. scoring goals has not been too much of a concern considering the red-hot form of summer-signing Emmanuel Dennis, as well as Joshua King’s contribution of five goals. Star winger Ismaila Sarr also found the back of the net five times prior to his injury, which he is set to return from in around one month. But, sitting just two points ahead of 18th-placed Burnley, defensive reinforcements are a must for the Hornets if they are to maintain their Premier League status. Fortunately for the Hornets’ faithful, it appears as if the hierarchy are taking ample steps to fix the squad’s biggest weaknesses.
Watford’s Necessary Defensive Approach to January
Underwhelming Defending All Season
The Hornets equaled the Championship’s record of fewest goals conceded in a single campaign in last season’s promotion, shipping just 30 goals in 46 appearances. However, the record proved to give the Hornets a false sense of security. The Expected Goals Against statistic showed Watford were extremely lucky last season; they had an xGA of 47.3, meaning they conceded 17.3 fewer times than statistically predicted. Mistakes in the Championship were not punished. In the Premier League, almost all mishaps are capitalised upon.
They were minutes away from achieving their first Premier League clean sheet since their iconic 3-0 win over Liverpool in March 2020, but a late Davinson Sanchez winner stole the clean sheet and points in the first game of 2022 against Tottenham Hotspur.
Two Signings Already Complete
With left-backs Adam Masina and Danny Rose failing to make strong impacts in most of their appearances, the need for a new starter was glaring. Hassane Kamara was recently confirmed as Watford’s first January signing, joining from Ligue 1 side OGC Nice.
The 27-year-old has starred in the French first tier for the last few seasons, though the arrival of Melvin Bard to play left-back for Nice opened the door for a transfer away. Kamara is a well-rounded left-back who is almost certain to come into the starting 11 as soon as possible and have it be his spot to lose for the rest of the season.
Watford also just confirmed the signing of Samir from Udinese. The left-footed center-back is exactly what Watford need. Even though he is arriving from sister-club Udinese (as the two clubs are owned by the same family), Samir’s left-footed strength and defensive reliability/consistency are worthy of pushing for a place in the starting line-up.
Two More Signings in the Works for Watford
The defensive bolstering appears to only be getting started for Claudio Ranieri. According to Adam Leventhal of The Athletic, a deal for KAS Eupen defensive-midfielder Edo Kayembe is almost completed. Rumors have also sprung up about Besiktas center-back Domagoj Vida potentially coming to England, with the Hornets known to want two center-backs this transfer window, though a deal for Vida is more steps away. Other center-backs have been linked as well.
Kayembe would be a necessary signing. Watford have no shortage of midfield choices – with Moussa Sissoko and Imran Louza in particular impressing this season – though they are without a truly natural number six. Kayembe, shining in the Belgian top flight, would provide a solid anchor for the midfield three. Considering he is only 23-years-old, too, he will only continue to improve.
For depth and starting-competition purposes, another center-back should and will be targeted, likely of similar quality to Samir.
Watford Making the Most From a Turbulent Situation
The defensive woes are impossible to gloss over. Retrospectively, neglecting to invest in the defence last summer was a shortcoming of the Watford hierarchy. Perhaps this January’s defensive investment is simply covering up self-made wounds. Nonetheless, these transfers are better late than never for Watford.
Considering the financial restraints provided by the January transfer window, COVID, and a potential second relegation in three seasons, it cannot be expected for the Hornets to spend eight digits on an individual player. The arrivals might not be the most overwhelming names, but they financially make sense, and they should have what it takes to at least ensure Watford’s defence is not obnoxiously underwhelming like it has been thus far.
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