Watford’s January Transfer Window: Analyzing Every Signature and Departure

The January transfer window is typically about making minor tweaks to the squad to maintain or increase momentum heading into the second portion of the campaign. For Watford, the January transfer window saw a considerable amount of movement. Not all the movement found widespread support amongst fans. In fact, the hierarchy’s choices have come under considerable scrutiny.

What needs to be recalled is the Hornets were very recently relegated. Overall, a complete post-relegation raid in the summer was avoided. Watford have a tremendously large wage-bill in comparison to the league average. So, even though the Hornets might not have made the most desirable of signings in the past month, what needs to be remembered is that the financial climate did not permit big-money signings. That is simply an unfortunate effect of relegation. 

Below is a review and analysis of all of Watford’s transfer business from the January transfer window – a rather underwhelming window, but understandably so. 

Arrivals:

Philip Zinckernagel: the Danish attacker is Watford’s most exciting signing of the January transfer window. Last season, in the Eliteserien (Norwegian First Division), Zinckernagel scored 19 goals and assisted 24 more in just 28 appearances. His trickery mimics that of Gerard Deulofeu, whereas his shooting and vision were sublime during his days with Glimt. However, since joining Watford, Zinckernagel’s only start came in an FA Cup defeat to Manchester United. The versatile 26-year-old will be vying a significant uptick in minutes once Xisco Munoz feels as if Zinckernagel has properly adjusted to the physicality of British football. Another reason touted for his lack of minutes to this point is the transition from the different types of pitches in Norway to England. Nonetheless, bringing in Zinckernagel for free was shrewd business, and he will prove to be a true difference-maker when more minutes fall his way.

Dan Gosling: the deep-lying midfielder arrives at Watford following six seasons with Bournemouth. Gosling, now 31-years-old, used to be an ever-present in the Cherries’ starting eleven. This season, however, he only started seven matches. Following Bournemouth’s signing of Ben Pearson from Preston North End, Gosling’s minutes were destined to be further reduced. The Hornets, who sought a midfield reinforcement due to the departures of Etienne Capoue, James Garner, and eventually Domingos Quina, moved for Gosling, considering his cheap asking-price. Gosling’s signature, however, enraged many fans. Gosling is by no means a long-term Capoue replacement. However, signing such a replacement would require funds Watford likely do not have at the moment. Gosling is a decent acquisition as he can be relied upon to provide cover if Will Hughes, Tom Cleverley, or Nathaniel Chalobah are unable to play. Gosling will provide starting competition and give depth, so overall, signing him was practical, albeit reasonably unpopular. 

Rob Elliot: the 34-year-old goalkeeper signed for Watford in order to provide shot-stopping coverage in the absence of Ben Foster. Daniel Bachmann has impressed since being called upon to take Foster’s place in net for the foreseeable future. When Foster returns, Bachmann might have usurped the number one role. So, Elliot has not signed with the expectation of being the Club’s number one. If Bachmann were to be sidelined prior to Foster’s return, however, the Hornets would have needed to call upon youth-player Adam Parkes – a gamble the Club was not ready to take. Thus, Elliot is not a very exciting signing, though bringing him in was logical.

Tiago Cukur: the 18-year-old was the first of Watford’s many youth-signings in this transfer window. In his days with AZ Alkmaar’s academy, he scored 11 times in 27 appearances in official youth-competitions. He was linked with a move to AS Roma, so it appears as if Watford have done shrewd business in bringing in the composed finisher. The Hornets have given him a contract that runs through the summer of 2022 with the option to extend one year, which is longer than their typical offer for academy-incomers.

Henry Ochieng: the Kenyan Under-23 international midfielder joins the Hornets’ academy, like Cukur. Important to note is that Ochieng does have a considerable amount of first-team experience. The central-midfielder made his senior debut with Leyton Orient in 2016. Last season, for Irish first-tier side Cork City, Ochieng made 19 senior appearances. Although the 22-year-old’s current contract with Watford expires in the summer, the player’s noteworthy past makes him a decent, under-the-radar gamble who might progressively find himself competing for places on the match-day bus.

Maurizio Pochettino: the son of former Spurs/current PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino also initially joins Watford’s youth ranks. The 19-year-old became a full-time scholar at Tottenham’s academy in 2017. Like Ochieng, he is on the brink of coming into consideration for first-team action despite being brought in for the academy. The right-winger signed a four-year contract, which shows the club has high, yet reasonable, expectations for the youngster. 

Mitchel Bergkamp: like Pochettino, Bergkamp’s signature turns heads because of his famous last name (and yes, he is the son of Arsenal legend Dennis Bergkamp). The last player in Watford’s flurry of youth-transfer signings, Bergkamp has signed a six-month contract. The 22-year-old  has plied his trade with Almere City’s youth sides in the Netherlands for the past nine years. He is primarily an attacking midfielder. The gamble on Bergkamp is one with no long-lasting downside if it backfires.

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Departures:

Etienne Capoue: the most notable of Watford’s departures, yet the most inevitable, the long-serving midfielder left the Hornets for Villareal in a roughly 2-million-pound transfer. From his inch-perfect diagonals to his never-snapping consistency, the gap left by Capoue’s departure is one that is nearly impossible to fill with the current financial standing of the Club. As pivotal as a player as Capoue would have been in the push for promotion, there was no stopping his departure. Now 32-years-old, Capoue deserves to be playing the last of his best years in a team competing in continental competition.

Gerard Deulofeu: another fan-favorite, Deulofeu’s departure was a bit less inevitable, and the timing of it was even more surprising. Although the Spaniard has been on loan to Udinese since the start of the season, the permanent transferring of him away from Vicarage Road was a move that crushed any hope Deulofeu would wear a Watford kit again. Although the transfer fee is unknown, especially due to the clubs being owned by the same family, Deulofeu’s departure was bound to have freed up some funds for Watford. Considering the Hornets tied Zinckernagel down to an over-five-year contract, the Club seemed prepared to let go of Deulofeu for good. Regardless, the move is disappointing to many Watford fans, and understandably so. 

Glenn Murray: the 37-year-old initially joined Watford from Brighton on loan in anticipation of a post-relegation Troy Deeney departure. But, since that departure never occurred, Murray’s chances with the first-team quickly became few and far between. Only making six total appearances, Murray did not find the pitch for Watford after October. The experienced striker then started to train on his own ahead of a departure. At the time, a loan move made sense in case Deeney departed. Murray’s uninspiring performances, despite his hard-effort, did not help his case, and termination of his loan became what was best for all parties. He has since joined Nottingham Forest.

James Garner: Garner is a tricky case to dissect. Frequently touted as the “next Michael Carrick,” the 19-year-old had high expectations when he arrived at Vicarage Road from Manchester United. Garner appeared in 20 out of the 25 league matches he was with Watford for. However, as starts turned into small cameos off of the bench, both Manchester United and Garner became frustrated at his lack of minutes. So, the Red Devils terminated his loan and have since loaned him to Nottingham Forest. Overall, Garner was mediocre at best. He was simply no better than Watford’s other options, so the Hornets had no incentive to play him. He still has plenty of room to grow, namely in competing with the physicality of first-team football. 

Domingos Quina: the 21-year-old’s departure was an eye-opener. The creative midfielder, who can also play in the wide positions, played 15 matches in all competitions for Watford prior to a hamstring injury in December. He now joins Europa League competing Spanish-side Granada on loan for the rest of the season. Following the arrival of Gosling, minutes for Quina appeared sparse, so loaning him out to give him more playing time was logical. But, considering he is joining a team a few quality-steps above Watford, there are many questions to be asked regarding whether Quina will actually acquire the increased playing time the Hornets desire. Letting Quina go will prove to be a costly mistake if Xisco elects to field a 4-2-3-1. With the exception of Joao Pedro, Quina is the Watford player with the most “flare.”

Djibril Toure: the highly-rated youngster has been sent on loan to Charleroi SC in the Belgian first-tier. The 18-year-old recently signed for the Hornets after earning plaudits during his time with Ceffomig FC in Guinea. Watford loaning him to a respectable European top-tier signals Toure has a bright future ahead of him. 

George Langston: the defender has signed on loan to National League club Wealdstone FC. The 18-year-old, who Watford rate highly, will pick up much needed first-team experience with the fifth-tier side. This loan will help him improve his physicality, as Joseph Hungbo’s recent loan to Aldershot Town did. 

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Yes, Watford’s transfer window was admittedly underwhelming when the departures are compared with the arrivals. However, there is a reason for the deficit. But, the reason is not due to the Pozzos not wanting success for the Golden Boys. After all, it is significantly more profitable for the Pozzos to have Watford promoted back to the Premier League. 

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