Xisco Munoz and Co. are looking to obtain another three points following an impressive victory over Aston Villa. The squad selection on opening day was questionable at first, though the Spaniard’s choices proved to be a masterclass. However, with a tricky road trip to Brighton up next, what changes should Xisco make to his starting eleven?
Daniel Bachmann: neither of the goals Aston Villa scored was his fault. Nonetheless, he looked more confident than ever when coming off of his line. There is no reason for him to lose the starting spot he thoroughly deserves.
Adam Masina: even though the 27-year-old’s lapse in concentration gave Aston Villa a needless penalty at the end of the last match, Masina should retain his spot in the starting eleven. Danny Rose provides firm competition for the starting role, though fitness still remains a concern for the former Tottenham star.
William Troost-Ekong: one of the leaders of the Watford squad, the Super Eagles defender deserves to keep his place in the starting eleven after helping keep Danny Ings and Emiliano Buendia quiet.
Christian Kabasele: in all honesty, choosing who the two starting center-backs should be is difficult as valid cases can also be made as to why Craig Cathcart or Francisco Sierralta should be given the nod over Kabasele or Troost-Ekong. However, Kabasele and Troost-Ekong paired well together last time out, so a change is not necessarily needed. Sierralta is likely Watford’s best center-back and should soon be restored to his role of consistent starter. With his fitness perhaps not yet at 100%, Watford should use the less-important midweek cup clash against Crystal Palace to get the Chilean up to pace. Then, Sierralta should return to the starting eleven.
Kiko Femenia: now available to feature after missing the season opener for precautionary purposes, the Spaniard should return to the starting eleven. Even though there is an argument to be made that starting Cathcart at right-back yet again will disallow Leandro Trossard from finding room behind as he will not commit as far forward as Femenia, the reality is that when Leon Bailey was given time to run at Cathcart, the Watford veteran struggled. Putting Femenia, a natural right-back, back into the starting eleven will allow Watford to play more naturally in terms of patterns of play and also make the right flank even more threatening in attack.
Peter Etebo: the summer arrival performed admirably on opening day, filling in the Will Hughes number-six role with ease. He disrupted many opposition attacks and carried the ball well, making Kabasele and Troost-Ekong’s job easy.
Tom Cleverley: an unsung hero from the victory against Aston Villa, the 32-year-old put in a typical max-effort performance, contributing an assist and robustly cutting off passing lanes. He should don the captain’s armband once again on this occasion.
Imran Louza: Watford’s most expensive arrival of the summer did not see the pitch on opening day, with Xisco electing to replace Juraj Kucka with Dan Gosling. However, midfield control was immediately lost with the substitution, so it is evident Louza deserves the starting role to show his class as the more experienced Gosling did not get the job done when given the chance. Additionally, Louza looked a class above in preseason whenever on the ball, so perhaps he did not see the pitch last Saturday solely due to fitness purposes. Kucka is likely to miss the match due to injury and the match comes too soon for new-signing Ozan Tufan. Louza will likely play a key role in Watford’s fight for survival this season, so his entrance into the ring must not be delayed.
Ismaila Sarr: no explanation is needed.
Emmanuel Dennis: after a stellar one-goal, one-assist Watford debut, Dennis deserves to keep his spot as the starting center-forward. His and Sarr’s combined pace proved to be lethal on numerous occasions on counterattacks. The attacking threat the one-two punch provided was immense, so there is no reason to change something that is clearly working.
Cucho Hernandez: in the Club’s final preseason friendly against Crystal Palace, Xisco fielded a Sarr-Cucho-Dennis front three with Cucho central and Dennis on the left-wing. However, switching Cucho to the wide position and pushing Dennis centrally seems to be the best decision. Firstly, Cucho offers just as much defensive cover as Ken Sema does, if not even more. Furthermore, Cucho offers more goal-scoring threat from the left-wing than does the versatile Sema, as proven by the Colombian’s debut wonder-strike. Cucho additionally offers considerable pace and flair, giving the Hornets yet another speedy option to play through on their scintillating counterattacks.