Watford will play another season in the Premier League next season after avoiding the drop zone quite comfortably. Quique Sanchez Flores left Watford after finishing in a very respectable 13th position. Walter Mazzarri will be the new manager next season for Watford and he will certainly be eyeing a top-half finish. This means he will be wanting to strengthen the current squad, we take a look at how the Hornets could line up next season.
Back 4: Gomes; Britos, Cathcart, Kabasele
Gomes will retain his number one spot between the sticks for Watford going into the new season. He was one of the first names on the team sheets last season and had reasonable good spells at times. Gomes does have an error or two in his locker though and this will be concern for the new boss, but someone of his experience at the back will be a huge plus for the squad. The 35-year-old has been with Watford for two seasons since his arrival in 2014, he has gone on to play 82 appearances for the club and was part of their promotion success. Gomes managed 0.29 clean sheets per 90 minutes last season, something he will be aiming to improve on for next season, he also managed to make 2.19 saves per goal.
Watford have been working on a new formation ahead of the new season playing with three at the back, Britos will play on the right-hand side of the back three after an impressive debut season in England saw him make 24 appearances for the Hornets.
In the middle of the three, 6ft 2′ Northern Ireland international Craig Cathcart will slot in, he will give Watford needed stability at the back and can use his aerial presence to dominate forwards, winning an impressive 61.68% aerial duels per 90 minutes last season. Cathcart is also a strong tackling defender and thrives off a tough battle, winning 1.01 tackles per 90 last season.
New signing Kabasele will complete the back three, playing on the left hand side of Watford’s defence. The central defender arrived for around £6million from Genk and will expect to slot right into the back three. The 25-year-old is a natural tough tackling defender using his body to his own advantage, he also possesses good acceleration which will benefit playing in a back three, especially with the pace of the Premier League.
Midfield: Berghuis, Capoue, Doucoure, Boufal, Zuniga
Playing with five in midfield, I think Walter Mazzarri will use Berghuis and new signing Zuniga as wing-backs. New man Zuniga who will spend the season with the Hornets for a season-long loan, is more natural in this position as he predominantly plays as a wing-back. This position will be a bit of a learning curve for Berghuis, the 24-year-old has featured a lot in pre-season as he looks to learn this position before the new season starts which shows he is in Mazzarri’s plans for next season. Playing just nine times in his debut season for the club he will have a massive point to prove next season and he will certainly be playing in one of the hardest positions to do so, the transition from a 3-5-2 to a 5-3-2 will be very, very quick in play and he will have to defend as well as support Ighalo and Deeney in attack.
Watford could find themselves with a very talented youngster, with reports suggesting they want to sign Boufal from Lille, Mazzarri will want to play the versatile winger more centrally so the team can benefit from his offensive creativity. He will not be asked to sit deep and will more or less play as a modern day attacking midfielder, roaming around the middle and picking the ball up on the flanks. The 22-year-old stands out with his exquisite dribbling capabilities, his style of play is similar to that of Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez.
Capoue and Doucoure could sit in the middle of the park for Watford next season and play more defensively allowing Boufal to roam forward. I am personally a massive fan of Capoue and last season he was untouchable at times, he uses his strength and height to hold off defenders and has an impressive skill or two in his locker. Doucoure is likely to partner Capoue in the middle of the park next season, the 23-year-old spent last season on loan at Granada but I feel Mazzarri will bring him back into the starting eleven at Watford, both Capoue and Doucoure could build a brilliant partnership at the base of the midfield, with great height and strength they could be a very tough midfield to face next season.
Strikers: Ighalo, Deeney
Deeney will once again lead the forward line for Watford next season, after signing a new bumper deal with the Hornets and rejecting the chance to play in the Champions League with Leicester City. He has proven to be the heart and soul of a squad that had a very impressive debut season in the Premier League. The Englishman has a very impressive goal scoring record but he can also drop deeper to pick the ball up and play as a play-maker, his strong physique helps as he is very hard to knock off the ball. The 6ft tall striker has been with Watford since 2010 and has gone onto to play 243 times for the club scoring 90 goals.
Deeney has a real eye for goal and is not afraid to shoot from outside the box. He managed 0.96 shots from outside the box per 90 minutes last season. Although he is a forward player, a real strength of Deeney’s is his defensive contribution, he is a very strong tackler and works hard for his team – this is highlighted in the 0.98 tackles per 90 minutes he won last season.
Ighalo will lead the line again alongside Deeney next season after Watford rejected a massive bid from China for his services, his sublime form at the start of the season helped Watford with a very impressive start to their Premier League campaign, he certainly showed inconsistency in the latter stages of the season. To stay out of relegation trouble, Watford will need Ighalo to hit a longer purple patch next season.
There are no doubts about Ighalo’s talents though, he is the perfect counter-attacking striker and can convert a half-chance into something spectacular. The 27-year-old’s fine form caught the eye of Manchester United who were said to be interested. Since his arrival in England, Ighalo has scored 32 goals in 65 league appearances which is sublime, this statistic shows why he is so highly valued by the club.
In summary, Watford look set to play in a 3-5-2 formation next season, of course it is a risky formation to play considering Watford played a flat 4-4-2 last season, but with the players brought in so far this summer this formation could certainly work and prove to be a positive change by the new boss. Watford have a good set-up and have so far signed good players whilst also managing to keep their main stars. A top 10 finish should certainly be the target for the Hornets next season, and maybe another cup run.