Watford Likely Dealt Another AFCON Blow

With the first international break of the 2021/22 campaign swiftly approaching, countries are revealing their squad lists. With World Cup qualification matches to be played, managers know it is the time to only take the strongest players; experimenting with fringe players has to wait for friendlies. For Morocco, Adam Masina and Imran Louza have been given the nod. Both represented their respective European nationalities previously, but this year, they opted to activate their senior international swap. However, can Louza expect to play serious minutes in international competitions and earn a trip to AFCON?

Imran Louza Impressing in Early Stages of Career

Even though he has currently only featured in two matches for Watford and needs time to adjust to English football, it is clear Louza has a bright future ahead of him. In his time with Nantes, the versatile midfielder with a keen eye to thread intricate passes between the defensive lines played 66 senior matches, scoring 12 times in the process. 

His transfer to Watford for a fee in the region of £9 million shows how highly-rated the 22-year-old is. His playing style has a noteworthy level of finesse and composure to it, especially when compared to more robust, aggressive midfielders such as Juraj Kucka. Even as Louza’s best role at Watford remains to be seen, his versatility and vision at such a young age make him destined for top-flight and international success barring any surprising setbacks. 

International Outlook

For a few years, Louza has been on the radar of two international teams. He started his international career with Morocco’s U20 setup, ironically scoring in a 3-2 victory over France’s U20 team. He then proceeded to play eight combined matches for France’s U20 and U21 sides. However, considering France’s sheer depth in all positions and the hunger the midfielder has for a taste of senior international football, he decided to revert back to representing the country for which he made his international debut. 

This was the first time Morocco had to select a squad since Louza’s international switch, but as expected, Louza is on the roster for the World Cup qualification matches. Even though their other midfield talent is still impressive, Louza could have a key role to play. 

The seven central-midfield options making the trip to the matches are Fiorentina’s Sofyan Amrabat (the brother of former Watford player Nordin) and Youssef Maleh, Louza, Standard Liege’s Selim Amallah, Benfica’s Adel Taarabt, QPR’s Ilias Chair, and Frankfurt’s Aymen Barkok. What must be noted is that the last four midfielders listed primarily line up as attacking-midfielders. Thus, it is likely going to be a battle between Amrabat, Maleh, and Louza for the holding and box-to-box roles. 

Vahid Halilhodžić, the manager of the Moroccan international team, almost exclusively lines up in formations that call for three central-midfielders. Thus, there must be this many options for sufficient rotation and depth. 

AFCON Departure Likely

With the international tournament running from January 9th to February 6th, Louza is probably going to miss a couple of league matches in the less-busy post-festive-period schedule. 

Nonetheless, this call-up is exciting for Louza and will only continue to help his development by giving him more experience in adjusting to different styles of play. This, in turn, could help him better adapt to changing to suit the Premier League’s style of play and Xisco Munoz’s tactics. Considering his international team manager loves three-central-midfielder formations and Louza’s ever-increasing talent, it is hard to see a scenario where Watford’s new signing does not make the squad for the prestigious tournament at the start of 2022.

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