When Jeremy Ngakia elected to not renew his West Ham United contract, David Moyes and many Hammers supporters were frustrated. The now 20-year-old signed for Watford on a free transfer in the summer. Even though he had only started five matches for Moyes, those matches were consecutive – partly done to try to convince him to extend his stay at the London Stadium. This season has proved that Watford were shrewd in securing his signature – even if he is not currently a consistent starter.
Femenia’s Success Keeping Ngakia Sidelined
For the first 18 matches of the current campaign, Adam Masina was in the treatment room with a tendon injury. The Hornets’ clear-cut first two full-back choices, once Masina was injured, were Ngakia and Kiko Femenia. Both are right-backs by trade.
Vladimir Ivic, the head coach at the time, knew both right-backs’ attacking tendencies were perfect for his wing-back-requiring formations. Ngakia was primarily deployed in his natural right-defensive role, whereas Femenia was usually put on the left.
When Masina returned, which nearly perfectly coincided with the appointment of Xisco Munoz, one of Ngakia or Femenia had to make way. As impressively as Femenia was playing on the left, starting a true left-back was optimal. Ngakia was the player to lose his spot – but at no fault of his own.
Femenia has simply been too good to drop. He performed well as a left-back, but he emerged as a player-of-the-season candidate in his preferred right-back position. His overlapping runs with Sarr and threatening attacking play, in conjunction with solid defending, have made him impossible to keep out of the starting eleven. Unfortunately for Ngakia, Femenia’s stellar form comes at the price of significantly decreased minutes. The Englishman’s quality, however, should not be forgotten during his spell behind the Spaniard.
Ngakia Stood Out When Called Upon
After 37 matches, Ngakia has started 18 times, in addition to making six substitute appearances. 16 of those starts came in the first 22 matches of the campaign.
Following the first few matches of the season, Ngakia was one of the Hornets’ best performers. His threatening attacking dribbles, which included noteworthy lateral changes of pace, called for excitement whenever the ball was at his feet.
The youngster also has considerable pace, yet he is not weak either. Overall, the defender is very well rounded and up to the league’s physicality despite his age. His attacking prowess means he can effectively contribute as a right-midfielder if necessary.
Ngakia oozed with quality when on the pitch, but ultimately, it was Femenia’s experience and added composure that saw Ngakia relegated to the sidelines. As previously stated, Femenia has beyond justified Xisco’s choice to start him at right-back: he and Sarr give Watford what is proving to be the league’s most dangerous right-side. Ngakia is doing nothing wrong and more than deserves to be a promotion-fighting starter – he is just unfortunate to be behind an extremely in-form Femenia.
Player For The Future
Ngakia does for sure have room to improve – as do almost all 20-year-old footballers. But, the Hornets have no reason to worry if Ngakia does need to be called upon to start yet again this season. He is more than capable of sufficiently fitting in.
As a youngster, Ngakia knows starting minutes will come in the future. Femenia is now 30-years-old, so it is not as if the Spaniard will still be Watford’s starting right-back in a few years. Ngakia’s performances show he is already able to be a starter. With more training, more cameos off of the bench, and even scattered starts, Ngakia’s limit is the sky. There are numerous reasons why Moyes yearned for him to sign a new contract.
Watford’s future is unknown. The Club currently sit in the driver’s seat for the second automatic promotion spot, but anything can happen. Regardless of whether Watford get promoted or not, Ngakia has a future at Vicarage Road. His quality is there for all to see. His chances to shine will come. Whether his next breakthrough occurs in the Championship or the Premier League remains to be seen.