Between Ben Foster and Daniel Bachmann, the Hornets have two strong goalkeepers battling it out for the number one spot ahead of the Premier League campaign, with Bachmann appearing to have the upper hand. Highly-rated Pontus Dahlberg earned a loan to Doncaster Rovers to get consistent first-team minutes in England in hopes he can develop into Watford’s number one in the future. However, beyond the bigger goalkeeping names at the Club, there is one who has been sent out on a non-league loan who, despite being just 17-years-old, is already showing signs of having top-tier talent in the distant future.
Alfie Marriott: Watford’s Future Number One?
Alfie Marriott joined Watford in 2012 and has been impressing at the youth levels ever since. His name became better known to many Watford supporters in the 2021 FA Youth Cup, with Marriott making three phenomenal saves in a clash against Newcastle United’s youth setup.
To further Marriott’s progress, Watford opted to loan him to Kings Langley for the 2021/22 campaign. Non-league loans such as this provide a prime opportunity to play consistent first-team football and, more importantly for a young goalkeeper, provide experience in matches against considerably physical opposition.
Marriott briskly got the opportunity to play his parent club, as a Watford XI faced Kings Langley in a preseason fixture. Although Watford fielded a squad filled with youth players, first-teamers such as Andre Gray, Stipe Perica, and Marc Navarro all featured. Adlene Guedioura also played for the Hornets. And, despite Watford having a £20+ million strike force, Marriott showed tremendous signs of promise when keeping the Hornets’ attack at bay.
Necessary Shot-Stopping Abilities
While football continues to evolve, and especially the position of goalkeeper, the main goal of the person in between the sticks, as has always and will always be the case, is, of course, to prevent the ball from going into the net by any means necessary. So, to be contracted by Watford at 17-years-old, good shot-stopping abilities are essential. This is obviously the case with any goalkeeper playing at a high level. Marriott’s shot-saving skills, as easily proven by his FA Youth Cup performance against Newcastle, are for sure applaudable and above-par for most teenagers at his level.
The video below shows his smart positioning and quick thinking to make a good save on a low Gray shot in the recent preseason fixture.
The next video shows Marriott making an impressive penalty save on Gray (though, unfortunately for him, the follow-up attempt went right into Gray’s path).
Sublime Confidence and Talent Coming Off of His Line
The part of Marriott’s game that sets him apart from the typical good, young shot-stopper is the confidence he plays with and his shrewd positioning. Sometimes, Watford goalkeepers are criticized for their decision-making when it comes to coming off of their lines on opposition counterattacks or crosses. Despite his young age, in the fixture against Watford, Marriott commanded the box and played with the head of a much more experienced goalkeeper. Such decision-making issues did not surround his performance.
The next three videos show Marriott coming off of his line and calmly dealing with the danger despite tricky through balls and close-by opposition attackers.
The following video shows Marriott’s composure when dealing with a low cross under pressure.
Admittedly, a sample of a FA Youth Cup match and a friendly against a Watford XI is not enough to come to definitive conclusions about a given player’s future. Nonetheless, in the two fixtures, Marriott has shown sufficient shot-stopping capabilities and, more notably for a player of his age, confidence and courage when the ball comes toward the box. With very little hesitation to his play, Marriott is showing the right tools necessary to make it at the top level in years to come. He has a tremendous amount of work to do, as all aspirational 17-year-olds do, though the foundation is already starting to be solidified.