Examining Watford’s Impressive Swoop for Emmanuel Dennis

Watford have secured the signature of exciting forward Emmanuel Dennis from Club Brugge. The deal came out of thin air – or so it seems – considering no rumours emerged linking the parties until the Hornets’ official announcement of the transfer. Nonetheless, Watford have completed yet another shrewd transfer for a player who will offer the Club another talented, versatile attacking option who could see himself earning plenty of starting minutes. 

Emmanuel Dennis Has Had a Noteworthy Career Thus Far

The 23-year-old attacker started his European career with Zorya Luhansk in the Ukrainian Premier League. In the 2016/17 season, he scored six goals and provided one assist in 26 appearances as a 19-year-old (disclaimer: this article is using Transfermarkt.co.uk statistics – the database counts “penalties won” as assists). 

His impressive performances in Ukraine earned him a transfer in excess of one million pounds to Belgian giants Club Brugge. His first season with the 17-time Belgian top-flight champions was his most prolific campaign to date. Across all competitions in the 2017/18 campaign, Dennis scored 12 goals and contributed five assists in 38 appearances. 

The following season, Dennis still impressed despite slightly regressing on the goalscoring front. He scored seven goals and pitched in three assists in 32 appearances. A 12-million-pound offer reportedly came in from Arsenal following that campaign.

Despite already turning heads in his first two seasons with Club Brugge, his name became projected to the rest of the footballing world in the 2019/20 campaign. Across 33 matches in all competitions, Dennis scored nine goals and provided two assists. Two of those goals are likely to be remembered by lots of avid football supporters.

In the second match of the 2019/20 Champions League group stage, Dennis started against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. The Super Eagles player scored a bizarre brace, tripping over his own feet while scoring both of the goals. 

Arsenal supposedly came back with a new-and-improved 15-million-pound offer for Dennis. Club Brugge rejected that offer too, which consequently started a domino effect. Dennis wanted to leave, but Club Brugge did not let him. Discontent between the player and manager took the Club by storm. The culmination of the falling-out between the two parties was when Dennis stormed off the team bus ahead of a Champions League clash in November.

The attacker, who averaged one goal contribution per 159 minutes in his Club Brugge career, was subsequently loaned to FC Cologne in the Bundesliga. Simply stated, the attitude issues did not go away with the relegation battlers, ultimately leading to him only making 10 appearances – scoring once – for the German side. A move to Arsenal being rejected in the summer to being subsequently loaned to relegation strugglers did not help Dennis improve his attitude as it was not the challenge he had in mind the previous summer. The pressure of being a Champions League player heading into the thick of an already-started relegation dogfight also reached the player. 

Nonetheless, an underwhelming 10 matches in Germany following multiple managerial fall-outs should not be used as an indication of his talents. Odion Ighalo only scored 2 goals in 16 La Liga appearances the season before he came to Watford. Obbi Oulare averaged one goal contribution per 99 minutes the campaign before he arrived at Vicarage Road. So, people must proceed with tremendous caution if they are to formulate their opinions on Dennis based on a poor run of form with many outside factors contributing to those few performances.

– *NEW WATFORD OPINIONS PODCAST EPISODE: Watford Sign Champions League Star: In-Depth Emmanuel Dennis Transfer Examination. Head over to Spotify or Google Podcasts to listen to the latest episode of the Watford Opinions Podcast, going into even further detail about the arrival of Emmanuel Dennis* –

Capable of Contributing to Xisco Munoz’s System in Many Ways

Dennis is different from the other strikers currently on Watford’s squad. Characterized by his rapid pace and slick runs behind the defense, if deployed centrally, he will provide the Hornets a new, necessary kind of centre-forward. Imran Louza was a specialist at FC Nantes when it came to playing through-balls to attackers making such runs off of the shoulders of the opposition’s backline.

In the Premier League, with clubs such as Aston Villa, Leicester City, and West Ham United all making pushes to solidify spots as European-competing clubs, Watford will rarely have matches where they are “supposed to” dominate possession. In the Championship, as they usually were the better squad with the more talented players, the Hornets dictated the tempo of play more often than not. In the top flight, Watford will for sure try to play how they did in the Championship tactically when possible, but they must also be prepared to play an increasingly high amount of counter-attacking football.

Dennis provides a perfect attacker to counter-attack alongside Sarr in the Premier League. Many times in transition, when the ball finds Sarr, he has to slow up and wait for attacking support because his tremendous pace on the wing makes him outrun his teammates. Now, Dennis provides a player who can match Sarr’s pace and make counter-attacks much more threatening/lethal. This is applicable regardless of whether Dennis plays centrally or on the opposite flank as Sarr.

Furthermore, if Dennis is deployed as an inverted left-winger, if Danny Rose usurps the starting left-back spot, a perfect combination will easily be achieved. Rose specializes in making wide attacking runs and whipping crosses in from wide positions. With the former Tottenham Hotspur star occupying the wide position on the left, Dennis will be able to peel behind the defense as an inverted left-winger, allowing Rose the option to slip the ball through to him or for Rose to drive further out wide to put in a signature delivery. 

And besides, Watford have secured Dennis for a fee in the 3-4 million pound range. For a player who was sought after for over quadruple that sum just one year ago, the Hornets have paid a bargain fee. Dennis offers a new type of attacker to Watford, as well as immediate starting competition in multiple positions. The gamble of buying him is of minimal risk, whereas the potential upsides to his arrival more than justify the Hornets’ decision to bring Dennis in. In a couple of years, do not be surprised to see Watford cash in on the potentially prolific attacker for many times greater than the fee the Club just paid.

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