The December and January span of the season is often seen as the campaign’s most important two months: between highly-congested fixture lists and the January Transfer Window, the trajectory a team has for the second-half run-in is typically made or broken in this time. Even though some of Watford’s festive-period matches will have to be moved to a later date due to COVID-19 concerns, now is still the most pivotal junction in the season for change. With glaring problems in the defensive department, crucial signatures are a must if the Hornets are to maintain their Premier League status, or to even obtain their first clean sheet since their return to the Premier League.
Hornets Weigh Up Moves for Necessary Defensive Reinforcements
With more transfer rumors sure to spring up between now and January 31st, the first names to the transfer list are noteworthy and fit with the theme of needing strength in the backline.
Football Insider claims that Watford have entered the race for Bournemouth center-back Steve Cook’s signature as his contract winds down. Simply put, the Hornets hierarchy eyeing up a move for a center-back is a good sign, but a move for Cook would signal desperation. Cook, who joined Bournemouth from Brighton in 2012, has been an ever-present in their starting eleven, including their five seasons in the Premier League. However, this season, Cook has only found the pitch four times. Cook has what it takes to playing in the Premier League once more, though he does not provide an upgrade on the Hornets’ current options and his lack of playing time this season could be harmful with the squad calling for a fully-up-to-speed defender as soon as possible. Furthermore, even if for a cut-rate price, signing a 30-year-old Steve Cook for a transfer fee and a long-term contract would not be financially shrewd.
According to Tuttomercatoweb, Claudio Ranieri is pushing for Watford to complete a move for 29-year-old center-back Omar Colley. For the past few seasons, Colley has been a consistent key figure for Sampdoria, especially during Ranieri’s two-year stay as their manager. He is under contract until 2025, meaning any permanent transfer would come near (or in) the eight-digit range. Considering the current financial situation Watford find themselves in amidst COVID-19 and the risk of another relegation, a move would more likely have to come in the form of a loan with a small fee or a loan with an obligation to buy if safety is achieved. Already playing 17 times this season and having a firm relationship with Ranieri, a temporary move for Colley would be an advisable piece of business.
Mike McGrath of the Telegraph states that Watford are eyeing moves for Arsenal defender Sead Kolasinac and Tottenham defender Joe Rodon. A loan move or cut-rate price transfer for the soon-out-of-contract Gunner, who primarily plays left-back, (another position requiring attention) but can also play center-back, would likely not be hard to agree on. Arsenal no longer need the 28-year-old, while Watford need reinforcements in both of his strongest positions. However, he has been injured for the past month after suffering an ankle injury on international duty. With a timeframe for return still not perfectly established and the Hornets needing quick change, a move for Kolasinac could be decent in the long term if the price is right but does not fit the view of quick changes.
A loan move for 24-year-old center-back Rodon would be a wise deal to wrap up as quickly as possible. Now dumped out of the Europa Conference League, the minutes at White Hart Lane this season will be few and far between, so a loan move to Vicarage Road to further develop the young defender’s skills and increase his transfer value would be perfect for all parties. The Welsh International Team player has already proved his is a level above the Championship and good enough for the top-flight, and he still has room and the ability to further improve. Unfortunately for the Hornets, they are not in pole position for his signature, as cash-injected Newcastle lead the race, with Leeds and Brighton also keeping tabs.
Watford Want Welsh Winger
Simon Jones of the Daily Mail suggests Watford will monitor the progress of 22-year-old winger/wide-midfielder Sorba Thomas for the rest of the season. The Welshman joined Huddersfield Town in January from non-league side Boreham Wood, though he struggled to break into the first-team in the Championship in the second half of last campaign. However, this season, Thomas has started off superbly, scoring one goal and providing nine assists in 24 matches across all competitions. This form has warranted an international call-up just nine months after he left the fifth tier of English football. Watford are sure to already have kept their eye on him for some time now considering his non-league club was also from Hertfordshire. However, if this transfer were to happen, it would more likely happen in the summer if safety is secured.
Many more names will come through the rumor mill: some names will be true links, a couple will hopefully become reality, and many will prove to be nothing more than fleeting whispers. It remains to be seen which category these names fall into, but they are all situations worth tracking.