Analyzing Watford’s Perfect Approach to the Transfer Window

Morecambe’s 1-0 victory over Newport County on the last day of May signaled the official end to the 2020/21 EFL campaign. For Watford, however, the goal of promotion was mathematically achieved on April 24th, two weeks before the Championship season (not including promotion playoffs) ended and nearly one month before the Premier League season concluded. So, the Hornets had a head start in the transfer window. They have used that time perfectly, with noteworthy deals already over the line and many more under consideration. The Watford hierarchy’s intentions are clear. 

Completed Transfers Show Perfect Balance Between Focus on Present and Future

At the time of publication, Watford have announced three arrivals: Kwadwo Baah from Rochdale, Mattie Pollock from Grimsby Town, and Imran Louza from FC Nantes. 

Baah was chased by top clubs such as Manchester City and Bayern Munich. Even though the 18-year-old will need time to further develop before he can make a true impact at Vicarage Road, securing his signature was shrewd business. The winger already has the foundation to be a Hornets’ star in the future. Even if he does not make a major impact in the Hornets’ first season back in the Premier League, the Club will eventually be further pleased that they made the move for the promising youngster. 

Pollock arrives at Watford in a similar manner to Baah. Like Baah, 19-year-old Pollock already has a considerable amount of experience in the lower leagues of English football. The center-back dominated aerial duel stats in League Two last season, showing his physical foundation is already present. Similar to Baah’s, Watford will primarily reap the benefits of Pollock’s transfer in future seasons rather than the upcoming one. 

By signing Baah and Pollock, Watford ensured that even if they get relegated again, they have talented depth ready to step in. If the Hornets establish themselves as a Premier League mainstay, then even if the Club needs them to wait a couple of more seasons, Baah and Pollock have what it takes to eventually be integrated into a top-flight team. Regardless of the Hornets’ future division, signing the two youngsters was wise.

The transfer for Louza, however, is undoubtedly the most noteworthy (and exciting) of the three. The 22-year-old signs after an impressive season with FC Nantes. The former French U21 international player scored seven times in 35 appearances last campaign, playing a pivotal role in his club’s Ligue One survival. 

Louza is able to play in any central-midfield role, whether it be as a defensive-minded midfielder or more advanced. With FC Nantes, he made a name for himself as a box-to-box midfielder. With the ability to move out to the wing if necessary, he will fit perfectly into Xisco Munoz’s style of play. As in, with his skills of knowing when to drift wide, he will be able to make effective overlapping/wide runs in attacking phases of play (which he found success with on multiple occasions with FC Nantes, including his goal against Stade Brestois). 

The transfer fee Louza warranted is thought to be in the region of 8-10 million pounds – a fair fee (and arguably a bit low) for a player of his caliber. Considering his age, despite already proving to be more than “just ready” for the top-flight, the talented midfielder will only continue to improve. If Watford prolong their Premier League stay once more, Louza will have a significant role for as long as the Hornets can keep hold of him. 

Beyond Watford securing themselves a Premier League starter, signing Louza proves Gino Pozzo, Scott Duxbury, and Cristiano Giaretta will not hesitate to mobilize significant funds if improvements in any position are available. Simply stated, while the moves for Baah and Pollock were low risk and for future benefit, the Louza transfer is a statement of ambition and intent to ensure an immediate return to the second tier is not on the cards. And, with over two months until the 2021/22 Premier League season kicks off, the Hornets are far from finished with their transfer business.

Rumoured Targets Further Show Both Immediate Intent and Focus on Future Success 

It seems as if there is now a Watford-related transfer rumour swirling online every day. Most of the names mentioned are loose links and never under serious consideration by the Club. Other names garner more focus once Watford seriously contemplate a move or attempt to enter negotiations.

Of the dozens of transfer rumours, some seem more likely to come to fruition than others. The most obvious name that has been on people’s lips is Ashley Young. A fairytale reunion has been mentioned by Young numerous times in the past, and now that a new Inter Milan contract is not likely to be offered, a Vicarage Road return could very well be in the cards. Admittedly, he will be 36-years-old when the next season starts. Nonetheless, the versatile left-midfielder/defender would provide Watford much-needed left-sided depth.

Young is an anomaly when it comes to players who Watford are planning swoops for. Players such as 19-year-old Scottish left-back Josh Doig and his 21-year-old compatriot Lewis Ferguson have been heavily linked with Hornets’ transfers. Doig starred for Hibernian last season, drawing Kieran Tierney comparisons. Ferguson now has over 120 appearances for Aberdeen despite his age. If signed, both would compete for Premier League minutes right away. Bringing in Doig would address Watford’s left-back problem, as Masina currently has no backup or competition (and Doig has what it takes to overtake Masina in the pecking order at some point). Both youngsters would additionally bolster Watford’s increasingly-youthful core. 

Watford know center-forward reinforcements are necessary for a solid chance at survival, and the rumours have been steadily flowing in. Ashley Fletcher is likely to sign to provide competition far down the pecking order, but he is not the higher-profile center-forward signing Watford will want to settle with. Rafael Santos Borre is set to head to an English club, and as the Hornets were one of the only Premier League clubs linked with him, they may have a good chance at signing the River Plate star. Typically valued in the region of 20-30 million pounds, he is available on a free transfer as his contract expires in the summer. 

Even if Watford do not bring in the talented striker who averages one goal contribution per 112 minutes since the start of the 2019/20 campaign, there are still a handful of other exciting strikers already on the Club’s radar. Ike Ugbo, Yakou Meite, and Mbaye Diagne, to name a few, have all been linked with Vicarage Road moves. No matter who ends up signing, the Hornets appear willing to spend what they must to sure up the center of the attack.

With center-forwards pursued, left-sided players targeted, and most potential arrivals being relatively young (either in age or surname), the hierarchy is addressing the biggest of the squad’s concerns while ensuring a bright future is secured. 

With the transfer window not even officially open yet, there is plenty of time for more deals to be made. But so far, Watford are doing a phenomenal job. Pozzo and Co. appear ready to do everything possible, even if financially costly in the short term, to preserve the Club’s Premier League status. 

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