The Quina Conundrum 2.0

Watford players not currently on international duty have begun preseason training. This includes players returning from loans. Domingos Quina will now get the chance to impress Xisco Munoz after the 21-year-old’s loan to Granada meant the Spanish head coach never got to see him deployed in his system.

Ready For Premier League Action

Quina made his West Ham United senior debut in a Europa League qualifying match as a 16-year-old. Through the course of that 2016/17 campaign, he sat on the first-team bench for 12 Premier League matches. The following season, the 2017/18 campaign, Quina started an EFL Cup quarterfinal match against Arsenal and continued to find himself frequently in the top-flight match-day squad. 

When Watford signed Quina for £1 million on deadline day in the summer of 2018, there was plenty of buzz surrounding his signature. He announced himself to the Hornets’ faithful in style with a wondergoal against Reading in the EFL Cup. Another sublime strike against Cardiff City in one of his eight Premier League appearances that season further stirred excitement about the youngster.

His 2019/20 season saw him play just 18 Premier League minutes as the Hornets were fighting relegation the entire season, leading to the men in charge opting to play the more experienced players. When Watford could not fend off the drop, people expected Quina to play a pivotal role in the Hornets’ push for promotion, as the move to the Championship and departure of Abdoulaye Doucoure spelled the perfect moment for the Portuguese youth international to break into the starting eleven consistently.

He indeed played a significantly increased number of minutes under Vladimir Ivic. However, he was frequently deployed as a left-midfielder. When he was placed in a more natural central position, his attacking influence was hindered by Ivic’s unpopularly unexpansive style of play. When a hamstring injury coincided with Xisco’s appointment as head coach, the new gaffer did not see Quina play as he was conjuring his preferred starting eleven. So, when the transfer window neared a close, Quina was not part of Xisco’s plans at no fault of either of the two’s own.

A loan move to Granada was questionable because Quina still seemed to be a player who could be of tremendous importance to Watford, especially when lots of injuries hit (this was the first Quina conundrum). He wound up making eight appearances with Granada, scoring two phenomenal goals in the process. 

At just 21 years old, Quina has played first-team football at a high level across five seasons. His finesse, fancy footwork, ability to produce a goal out of nothing (as he also did in a preseason friendly against Tottenham in the summer of 2020), and experience suggests he is ready to make the leap to increased top-flight first-team minutes. However, there is not a clear path for consistent starting minutes, posing the newest Quina conundrum.

-*NEW WATFORD OPINIONS PODCAST EPISODE: The New Quina Conundrum. Head over to Spotify or Google Podcasts to listen to the latest episode of the Watford Opinions Podcast which goes into even further detail about the latest dilemma about Quina, including how the transfer window has already impacted his potential Premier League minutes.*-

Watford Must Tread Carefully 

In the very early stages of Quina’s career, he played in the six, eight, and ten roles in the midfield, as well as making a few Premier League 2 appearances as a left-midfielder (which explains his deployment there under Ivic). Quina, however, undoubtedly performs the best in creative, advanced central-midfield roles. Quina himself even echoed this notion in a recent interview with the Watford Observer

Other central midfielders under contract by Watford for next season are Will Hughes, Nathaniel Chalobah, Tom Cleverley, Dan Gosling, Philip Zinckernagel (a winger by trade who can play as a creative midfielder), Tom Dele-Bashiru, and talented new-signing Imran Louza. Rumours have been swirling about Watford eyeing even more midfielders such as Lewis Ferguson, Seko Fofana, and Glen Kamara. Some central midfielders will likely be sent elsewhere due to there not being a need to have that many players in that position under contract. Perhaps Quina will eventually be viewed as one of the surplus players.

When looking at the list of players under contract, Quina is the only natural number 10 (with Zinckernagel capable of playing there slightly unorthodoxly as well). If Xisco elects to utilize a 4-2-3-1 variation of the 4-3-3, a need for a number 10 like Quina is present. Quina could be viewed as the first or second choice player for the advanced midfield role if he impresses during preseason. However, if Xisco chooses to more frequently deploy his preferred 4-1-4-1 variation of the 4-3-3, a true number 10 is not necessary. The left advanced midfield role is destined to be occupied by Louza. The defensive midfield role is likely to be Hughes’s or Chalobah’s. The right advanced midfield position could belong to the other Englishman not placed in the six role, while there are still many other top-flight quality options available to fulfill that role too. 

So, depending on the tactics Xisco tries to drill in, Quina’s minutes can vary greatly. If he does not get the minutes he desires or breaking into the first team becomes near impossible due to the sheer magnitude of other talented midfielders present, the Hornets should then try to loan him out again. But Quina might not want to be sent out temporarily once more. He could very well only want starting top-flight minutes at his permanent location. 

The Watford hierarchy have a tough decision to make when it comes to Quina, for as nice as keeping him regardless of minutes would be, one more season with few starting minutes could lead to another Ben Wilmot scenario. The Hornets can financially afford such a loss at face value, though not learning the lesson of keeping the talented youngsters happy could dissuade players like Kwadwo Baah and Mattie Pollock from signing in the future. 

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