The Harsh Reality of Watford’s Xisco Munoz Sacking

Everyone knows about the Watford way when it comes to head coaches. Supporters often moan as most articles about the Hornets or match commentators unceasingly mention the managerial carousel. When a head coach is sacked, most non-Watford supporters go berserk about the cruelty of the sacking and how the style does not work. The Watford faithful, however, know that even if the system is harsh, it has still worked wonders for the football club. And, even though Xisco Munoz was loved by most, thus making sacking him feel even more wicked, the truth is the axe needed to be swung – and perhaps it needed to be even earlier. 

A Man Loved By All

Following the lackluster Vladimir Ivic reign in the first half of the 2020/21 Championship campaign, the talented Hornets’ squad needed a head coach who would provide ample motivation and tools to propel a firm push for promotion. After all, individual talent alone would more or less be enough for promotion: all that was needed was a man to rally the troops and give the players the right tactics to best utilize the stars. Ivic was despised by most players – he was hard to back. Xisco Munoz was the exact opposite.

The players loved him, but his connection with the fans – even in a period where fans were locked out of stadiums – was unmatched by any of his predecessors. He would constantly talk about how much he missed the fans. On social media, he would interact with fan accounts and even have direct message conversations with supporters. He was really hard to not have a soft spot for, as he was genuine in how he spoke and acted: it was easy to tell the constantly-smiling Xisco was not just putting on a show. 

Tale of Questionable – and Eventually Terrible – Tactics

Unfortunately, as much as everyone loved Xisco, it was clear the tactics were not what got Watford promoted: Sarr, Sarr, a fair amount of luck, Sarr, Hughes, a poorer second-tier than usual, and Sarr (again) are the main reasons Watford were able to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking. Even in the Championship, there were many matches Watford performed poorly in but were bailed out by, well, the fact they were in the Championship with a Champions League winger. 

Keeping Xisco in charge for the Premier League was a questionable choice to some – he undoubtedly was able to rally the troops and keep squad morale high, but in a league where all mistakes are punished, it was clear tactics would have to change: setting up as if the Hornets were still in the Championship would be calamitous. That is, however, exactly what happened. 

Newly promoted sides – especially ones like Watford, who are not necessarily strong in all departments – need to rely on high presses and/or threatening counterattacks to maintain their Premier League status. The one tactic that rarely works is trying to play possession-based football with one of the worst rosters in the league (a weak squad, which in fairness, is not Xisco’s fault. But still, a head coach is needed that can work with the pieces, as unfair as the pieces may be). 

In the Premier League, Watford have set up to play counterattacking football, but they then move the ball as if they want to be possession-based. Watford often give away the ball in the midfield as a result (as they do not have the midfielders to play such football). More alarmingly, the defensive line has given the ball away a concerning number of times thanks to trying to play possession-based football with defenders who, well, are better suited to blocks and aerial challenges than they are to passing. The poor-passing trends compound every match, something which is mostly down to Xisco for not demanding a switch in system that does not call for such risky, backwards passing patterns (as in, he was doing a Mikel Arteta when it comes to never learning the lesson of do not play out of the back with players who cannot play out of the back). 

With the exception of the phenomenal opening-day victory against Aston Villa and routine, expected victory against Norwich City, Watford have been outcoached and outplayed thoroughly. A home clash against a Wolverhampton side who were yet to score in the season was unacceptable. A 1-1 draw with an awful Newcastle at Vicarage Road – after being thoroughly outcoached – was a beyond-flattering result for the Hornets considering they should have been many, many goals down after the first half (and were beyond lucky with how poor Newcastle’s finishing was). 

The tactics against Newcastle were ridiculously poor – the midfield was non-existent and the wide players well-adept at counterattacking were sparsely utilized – and it was clear change was needed. But, when the Leeds United match came rolling around, Xisco had one of his worst – if not his absolute worst – match in charge as Watford head coach. The Hornets played as if Marcelo Bielsa’s famous high-pressing tactics were some sort of secret. Watford played the exact same way and style as they did against Newcastle. Xisco’s tactics that match – or lack thereof – were beyond baffling. Ambition and signs of change were absent. Subbing on defensive-minded left-winger Ken Sema for center-forward Joshua King while more-talented attackers Cucho Hernandez and Joao Pedro were on the bench was the final straw for many. 

Watford have had a very easy start to the season when it comes to fixtures, and signs showed that under the current trajectory, it would be impossible to circle the matches where Watford could accumulate 33 more points (or anywhere near that sum, as Norwich appear the only team Watford might be better than under current tactics). Watford were thoroughly outplayed by Newcastle (who scored 1.62 more Xg than the Hornets in the draw) and tallied fewer than 0.2 Xg in their clashes against Wolverhampton and Leeds United. Simply stated, the trajectory and “process” could no longer be trusted if the Hornets wanted to maximize their chances at top-flight survival.

Sacking Story Continues

Xisco, at just 41-years-old, can definitely have a bright managerial future ahead of him considering how far he has come in such a short period of time. All Watford supporters will wish the much-loved manager all the best for the future, as regardless of his questionable tactics, he still steered Watford back to the Promised Land – an impressive, applaudable task regardless of how good the squad is.

Nonetheless, the managerial rollercoaster at Watford continues to push forward. But, as has been the case many times, keeping the ride in operation is often what must be done to keep the theme park open for years to come. 

Time for Tufan

Watford currently sit 12th in the Premier League, four points above the relegation zone. However, there is still lots of concern about whether they have what it takes to maintain their top-flight status. In the Expected Points table, the Hornets sit 16th, 0.72 points above the drop zone. The Hornets’ biggest offseason-recruitment overhaul came in the midfield department, an area of the pitch Watford have struggled to dominate. However, Xisco Munoz has an ace up his sleeve who should finally see his first Premier League start.

Ozan Tufan: the Solution to Many of Watford’s Problems

Versatility and Upgrade

Watford signed Ozan Tufan on loan from Fenerbahce with an obligation to buy in the region of £5 million if the Hornets avoid the drop. The 26-year-old is a fan favorite for many of the Turkish giant’s supporters. His international team contribution also leads to him having a large fanbase thanks to making 64 appearances for Turkey, scoring nine goals in the process. 

Tufan has made 174 senior appearances for Fenerbahce, as well as 66 appearances for Bursaspor and 19 for Alanyaspor. He has frequently lined up as a number six, number eight, and number ten. He started his career considerably defensive-minded, though he has taken on more advanced positions and improved his attacking acumen in recent years. 

Apart from Tufan, the Hornets still have a healthy handful of midfield options. Moussa Sissoko, Juraj Kucka, Tom Cleverley, and Peter Etebo have been preferred by Xisco in the midfield three, with Imran Louza – the Club’s most pricey signing of the summer – only playing 45 league minutes so far. However, none of the other midfielders are what would be widely considered “well rounded.” Most are much better off of the ball – cutting off passing angles, pressing, etc. – than they are when in possession (Louza is the biggest exception, though he has struggled to find his footing in England). Thus, when the Hornets have the ball, the midfield needs to be bypassed in order to pose an attacking threat. Against some teams, the tactics work, but against most, they will not. A midfielder who can provide true stability – someone who can dictate tempo, pull strings, still defend, and more – is needed. The highly-rated Tufan is that man.

His debut in the Carabao Cup against Stoke City showed the composure he brings when on the ball, while he also displayed his creative eye and well-roundedness. The Hornets significantly improved in the clash against Newcastle when Tufan replaced Cleverley. Simply put, an inaugural Premier League start for Tufan against Leeds United next weekend should be on the cards, as Tufan ups the level of the midfield’s play in multiple ways.

Added Attacking Threat

As important as a solid-pressing midfield unit is in a league where Watford will not dominate possession, having to bypass the midfield in all attacks has led to the midfield losing shape and control anyway. A midfield creative force is needed to restore balance. 

In Tufan’s final 71 league matches for Fenerbahce, he scored 12 goals and provided 13 assists. In the 2020/21 season, he averaged 0.47 goal contributions per 90 minutes, a remarkable return for any midfielder, and especially for one who still has considerable defensive duties. Thus, Tufan’s attacking résumé in recent years is noteworthy. Despite only coming on for the second half of the match against Newcastle, Tufan’s four chances created were the most of any Watford player

If Xisco elects to keep Tufan on the bench for the start of the next match, many questions will be asked. From the Hornets undeniably having a better balanced, more useful midfield with Tufan dictating the tempo to his eye for the wonder-goal to his creativity, the potential reasons for keeping him out of the starting eleven are nearly non-existent.

Watford and Wolves Could Both Be Without Key Stars for Saturday’s Clash

The first international break of the season gives head coaches time to reevaluate their plans for the campaign and offers an opportunity for new signings to further settle into their new training regimes. However, not all players are able to train with their club, as each nation’s best players can be called up for international team duty. Usually, when given the international nod, the player departs to play for their country without hesitation. This time, it was not so simple. Now, both Watford and Wolves, ahead of their Saturday clash, could each be without a key player after disallowing specific stars from linking up with their international teams. 

Sierralta and Jimenez Could Be Banned By FIFA for Five Days

The Premier League announced that players would not be released to partake in international competition if it required them to travel to a nation in the United Kingdom’s COVID “red list.” Some players denied this statement and joined up with their teams regardless, including a handful of Argentine players who had a well-documented fiasco when playing against Brazil.

Watford and Wolves, however, ensured their “red-list” players did not travel as if they did, they would need to quarantine in a designated quarantine hotel for 10 days upon their return to the United Kingdom. Vaccination status does not change the rules for entering the United Kingdom from a “red-list” country. The president of FIFA, Gianni Infantino, tried to ask Boris Johnson for exemptions for footballers. Ultimately, no special treatment was granted.

As the “red-list” countries had to cope without some of their stars for World Cup qualification matches, they want to have restrictions imposed on teams that did not allow for their players to depart on international duty, regardless of what the Premier League said about not releasing players. 

Raul Jimenez’s Mexico and Francisco Sierralta’s Chile are two of the nations wanting for the punishments to be placed on the teams who refused to release players to set a precedent for the future. If either of these players were to play, if FIFA were to go ahead with the sanctions, then a failure to abide by the ruling would result in a 3-0 defeat to the team who played the restricted player.

The sanction would see players unable to appear for their respective clubs from September 10th to September 14th. For both Watford and Wolves, the only match this would affect is their fixture against each other.

The Wolves’ talisman and the Hornets’ star defender would likely put on an entertaining performance if able to line up against each other on Saturday. If only one team has their mentioned star available, that side would be at a tremendous advantage as their most-threatening counter would be out of action. If both are out of contention, then players further down both of the club’s depth charts will need to step up.

Watford and West Ham (Finally) Agree on Ngakia Fee

In the 2019/20 season, Jeremy Ngakia started five Premier League matches for West Ham, impressing in all of his appearances. However, his contract was due to expire. David Moyes thought that giving him first-team playing time would for sure lead to him signing a new deal, but the youngster and his agent elected to find a move elsewhere in hopes of playing more consistent first-team football. And so, upon relegation from the Premier League, Watford came calling.

Dispute About Ngakia Transfer Fee Settled

Even though Ngakia’s contract was expiring, as he was a West Ham youth product and signed to Watford’s first-team from their academy, the Hornets owed the Hammers training compensation. However, such a compensation value can be hard to agree upon. West Ham believed they should receive compensation equating to his transfer market value, whereas Watford claimed they should only have to pay compensation for West Ham’s investment in his training.

According to Claret and Hugh, the agreement reached is in Watford’s favor. Instead of having to give West Ham a sum equivalent to his market value (which would be in the millions), the Hornets will only have to pay a sum in the region of six figures. The fee is likely around £500,000 if following conventional FIFA compensation rules (as Ngakia spent time with West Ham from 2012-14, as well as from 2018-2020. Players in top-tier academies in Europe call for compensation of around £77,000 per season in the Club’s youth academy).  

Mixed Time At Watford With Bright Future

It took no time for Ngakia to break into the senior squad at Vicarage Road upon his arrival, which was exactly what he and his agent wanted when rejecting the new West Ham contract. He appeared in 16 of Vladimir Ivic’s 20 Championship matches, impressing with his shrewd defensive acumen and, more excitingly, his threatening runs/dribbles forward. 

However, when Xisco Munoz took the reins and Adam Masina returned from injury, his minutes were swiftly limited. Strong performances from Masina and Kiko Femenia are in large part to thanks for his lack of minutes at the end of last season, though him losing his starting spot to begin with was also harsh.

The 20-year-old still has some convincing to do when it comes to Xisco. Craig Cathcart got the nod in the first three matches over Ngakia while Femenia was sidelined. Only when Cathcart sustained an injury did Ngakia get to make his Watford Premier League debut. And, as he also did in the Club’s Carabao Cup win against Crystal Palace, he thoroughly impressed through his sound defending and ability to make threatening forays forward.

When Femenia soon returns from injury, Ngakia will likely wind up on the bench once more. However, whenever he has played, he has shown why he should be in the starting eleven. With a bit of patience, Ngakia can become a consistent, solid Premier League starter. 

Watford Reportedly Invested Late Interest in United States Star

With the transfer window now closed, head coaches will have to wait four months to sign reinforcements from other clubs. The Hornets made 11 senior-squad signings this past transfer period, though that figure could have risen to one dozen on deadline day. 

Watford Supposedly Had Late DeAndre Yedlin Interest

According to journalist Ertan Suzgun (via Twitter), the Hornets had serious interest in Galatasaray’s DeAndre Yedlin on deadline day. He even claims that his representatives were in touch with Watford, though limited time left to push a deal over the line ensured the transfer did not happen. 

Whether or not there was in fact this rumoured interest is hard to determine, as a deadline-day move for a full-back (who does not also play center-back) was always going to be super unlikely. However, the link is noteworthy nevertheless as it means Watford may look to secure Yedlin’s services in the future. 

Potential Femenia Successor 

The interest in Yedlin was surprising considering the Hornets have both Kiko Femenia and Jeremy Ngakia for the right-back position. Craig Cathcart has also played in the position when necessary. Thus, room for another right-back at Vicarage Road – especially one over the age of 21 – did not seem present. The arrival of Brandon Soppy, a 19-year-old right-back prodigy from Stade Rennais, would not have been the biggest of shocks considering he would not count against the 25-man roster for the next couple of seasons (he has gone to Udinese instead). 

The best explanation for interest in Yedlin would be that he is the ideal man to replace Femenia when he eventually departs. Whether Yedlin would immediately hop above Ngakia on the depth chart is unclear, as Ngakia will only further improve by the time the Spaniard leaves.  

It is known that in the future, Femenia would like to return to Spain to play the final years of his career in his home nation. However, at 30-years-old, he will likely want to spend a couple of more seasons at the highest level possible before his career’s swan song. The Watford Observer even stated Femenia rejected a move back to Spain in January. 

Overall, the legitimacy of the links between Watford and Yedlin can rightfully be questioned as multiple pieces would have had to move for any deal to have been struck. However, if a move for the former Spurs and Newcastle player is talked about in the future (therefore, closer to the time Femenia departs), it will not come as a surprise. After all, the 64-time-capped USA international team player has already proven he has what it takes to effectively perform in the Premier League.

Food for Thought Over the International Break for Xisco Muñoz

Guest-written article by Ben Thornhill

I always remember Rafael Benitez, when in charge of Newcastle, saying a Spanish proverb about what happens when you have an undersized quilt: you either have to cover the toes and leave the shoulders cold or pull it over your shoulders and risk getting cold feet.

He was describing the dilemma he faced when having a squad with limited quality facing superior opposition. If a manager decides to sit deep and tight, then his team may struggle to score goals in order to be firmer in defence. The person in charge must decide whether the defensive stability is worth the attacking sacrifice. The evidence from the season so far suggests that Xisco, a coach who knows Benitez very well from their time together at Valencia (when Xisco was Benitez’s player), has a similar problem on his hands.

In the first three games of the season, Watford, without the ball, have defended deep and narrowly with a reasonable degree of success. Apart from the 1st hour against Brighton, where the Seagulls’ 3-4-3 formation with wing-backs pushing high up the pitch to expose the space in between Watford’s narrow full-backs and wingers who appeared to not have been briefed to track them, the Hornets have looked like they can contain sides when not in possession. Even at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Watford were rarely overrun, and the players looked well-drilled in their defensive shape.

The trade-off for this desired defensive solidity is that it inevitably limits the amount of possession and time Watford have in the opposition’s final third. Teams that take this approach tend to have a lower xG, although there is the opportunity to create high-quality chances on the counterattack, a tactic designed to get the best out of Watford’s most-prized asset, Ismaila Sarr. After three games, Watford’s xG is 2.35, so on current form, they would be expected to average less than one goal per match. Only Arsenal have a lower number of expected goals, with an xG statistic of 1.77. This figure shows that Watford are getting cold shoulders whilst attempting to keep their toes warm. 

There are mitigating factors here: two games away from home, a new-look front line, a new-look midfield, decent opposition, and a busy window with a lot of incomings as well as some major leaders heading out of the exit door. Results can improve. There is quality in the squad. But, given that between October 16th and December 4th, Watford have a frightening run of fixtures (Liverpool, Everton, Southampton, Arsenal, United, Leicester, Chelsea, and Manchester City), there is not a lot of time to get the balance right and build momentum.

The relatively low xG might also be less of a problem if plan A (defend and counterattack) was not being undermined by defensive errors in two key places: set-pieces and playing out from the back. So far, Watford have conceded five goals, four of which have come from defensive errors: Masina giving away a needless penalty late on against Villa, poor marking at a corner against Brighton, giving the ball away trying to play out of the back (also against Brighton), and totally missing a cross and allowing it to hit the back of the net from a free-kick against Spurs. These are the kinds of errors that Watford must cut out if they are to re-establish themselves in the Premier League. They are shooting themselves in the foot if they are setting up to defend and then gifting the opposition goals. Conceding in this way is a double punishment because they are already, to a degree, sacrificing their ability to get at the opposition and utilize the attacking threats they possess. This completely undermines the ambition of trying to earn the title, “hard to beat.”

Set-pieces are something that have to be addressed on the training ground and hopefully, like other teams in the top-flight, Watford have started to recruit specialists in this department who can steady the ship. 

The more prominent quandary for Xisco is playing out from the back. The whole point of doing this is to stretch the pitch and draw the opposition up the field, opening up spaces between the lines beyond the press. From what has been seen so far, the Watford defensive line, and, in the absence of Will Hughes, arguably the midfield, lacks the quickness of feet and technical ability to execute this successfully. Supporters have seen ample evidence from William Troost-Ekong, both this season and last, that he can be pressed into wayward passes leading to chances, or, as was the case at Brighton, goals; Daniel Bachmann’s distribution in the game against Spurs was noticeably dodgy; Masina and Cathcart have found themselves trying to play down dead-ends on numerous occasions; Peter Etebo does not necessarily appear to consistently have the same confidence on the ball as Hughes. 

Hughes was the keystone in the switch of formations that drove Watford to promotion last season. He is a player who can take the ball under pressure with his back to goal, squirm out of challenges, and keep the ball stuck to his left foot. Capable of playing on the half-turn and threading passes between the lines to progress the team up the pitch, Hughes was Watford’s heartbeat. His absence leaves a huge void because not only could he do the defensive and positional work that Etebo seems capable of, for he was great in transition with the ball too. 

There are many issues with playing out from the back with the current personnel, as well as big shoes to fill for anyone who steps into the deep-lying defence-to-attack conduit role. It remains to be seen whether the new squad can adapt and improve in a short space of time. More likely, Xisco is going to have to consider a change in tactics, shape, or personnel. Fortunately, with the squad at his disposal, there are options. 

Should Xisco choose to abandon the current tactic altogether, Watford could play more direct from goal kicks and look for second balls with the new combative central midfielders looking to advance up the pitch in that manner.

Xisco could also consider adopting the 4-2-3-1 shape which supporters have had glimpses of at times under his stewardship. This would mean that the defence would have an extra deep-lying midfielder to play out to. This formation tweak could also allow for Cucho Hernandez or Joao Pedro to be deployed in a central-advanced playmaker role that might give the side the creative spark it needs going forwards. 

A change of personnel could include bringing in the likes of Kiko Femenia, Danny Rose, and Ozan Tufan in a bid to give Watford the technical players required to pull off playing out from the back more convincingly. Although the impact Tufan will make is anyone’s guess, Femenia and Rose could certainly add a touch of surety in possession at full-back and the ability to play a quick one-two with teammates to progress the ball up the pitch in a different way to Cathcart and Masina if given the attacking license. 

In summary, there is a lot of food for thought over the next few days for the Watford head coach. How will he deploy his metaphorical quilt? Should he risk pulling it up and leaving the toes exposed? Are Watford sacrificing their ability to get the best out of a mouth-watering group of eager young forwards if they persist as they are? Or is sticking to the plan and working through the problems that have emerged to date and trusting in the system worth it? Regardless of the answer, one thing is for certain: Watford cannot afford to give up cheap defeats because, with the relentless nature of the Premier League, before they know it, they will be staring down the barrel of seven games out of eight against opposition with either European or title ambitions in the run-up to Christmas. So, once again, Watford do not have too much time to remedy their weaknesses.

An American Watford Fan’s Open Letter to Troy Deeney

Dear Troy,

I would say this is the end of our relationship, but to say that the bond we have forged could ever be broken would be a fallacy. Before I dive any further, I just want to say thank you for everything you have done for our football club.

As an American supporter of the Club, my relationship with you is different than most other Watford supporters. We have neither met nor even taken a picture together, unless you count this season’s preseason fixture against Crystal Palace where I took a selfie with you two hundred feet behind me. 

To be truthful, I was very young and not fully in love with the Club when you first found the back of the net for the Hornets against Notts County in 2010. The thousands of miles of water separating us did not help.

On a warm April day in 2015, I was swayed by my British uncle to go to Vicarage Road. I had of course heard of you previously because of that goal against Leicester – even many non-football fans from across the pond are familiar with that moment. Besides that, at kickoff, I was not too familiar with anyone else. From minute one in my relationship with the sport, you were the focal point.

In that match against Middlesbrough, you produced a moment of brilliance which married me to the Club for life. And, for that, I am forever grateful. The sheer energy you conjured from the stadium with your calm finish after a brilliant first touch gave me no choice. 

Most teenagers from my generation will tell you they look up to players like Messi or Ronaldo. You are my Messi. You are my Ronaldo. You are my greatest football influence. When my kids ask about the all-time sports greats, of course I will tell them about the joys of watching Lebron James and how I wish I could be old enough to have witnessed Pele’s brilliance. But, no matter whose name I bring up, I know I will ensure your name is put on the table as well. Even though you might not necessarily have the worldwide recognition of Ronaldo Nazario, to me, your impact is greater than any other sporting individual’s by a considerable margin.

Why are I and all other Watford supporters so eternally endeared to you? Is it that goal against Leicester? That chip against West Ham? That penalty against Wolves? Is it any one or all of your 140 goals for us? Is it the two promotions or that five-year glorious stay in the top flight? 

For me, at least, I would say, alongside all those electric contributions, that your captaincy is what makes me forever fond of you. You changed what being “captain” meant. You transformed my definition of what a true leader should look like. You are a key reason I hate giving up. You became the most admirable face a club could ever have. You dared to prove people wrong and were successful. In fact, you have even proved me wrong on a couple of occasions, something I will, once more, forever be grateful for and continue to learn from. 

I know towards the end of your Watford stay, relationships with some supporters started to get bumpy. Even I expressed my doubts about your performances. Nonetheless, you continued to prove me wrong. 

I would like to apologize, however, for the times my message came across the wrong way. When analyzing what your future could hold or what I think your role should have been, I never meant it in a disrespectful way. I simply just tried to put my opinion forward on what I thought was the best for the squad in a given moment while never ceasing to think about your ever-positive influence on the Club and, more notably, my life. So if I ever came across as disrespecting your legacy, I apologize. That has never been my intention. Anyone who spoke about you with anything but positive motives and respect…well, I just feel sorry for them.

I would not trade your stay at Watford for anything. When reflecting on your time, I can only speak full of praise, admiration, and extra-strong respect. Even in the shakier moments, your presence was still pivotal to the Club’s success. Maintaining and growing your character throughout it all has been nothing short of what a role model does. 

And so, the time has come where we part ways when it comes to our primary allegiances. While I forever support Watford, largely thanks to you, you get to go and finally live your dream of playing for your boyhood club. I am thrilled you get to finish your footballing fairytale the way you deserve. We all are. Hopefully we have convinced you to cheer with slightly less excitement than usual when Birmingham City next score against us.

I know I am just one supporter out of your many thousands of admirers – I just hope you know every single one of us has our own unique story about all the amazing things you mean to us.

Once more, thanks again for everything, captain. 


Adam from Watford Opinions

Watford in Market for Defensive Cover: Two Potential Targets

With Mattie Pollock now out on loan, the Hornets only have four senior center-backs. With William Troost-Ekong destined to travel to AFCON and Craig Cathcart injured, it is easy to see how another center-back is needed to ease depth concerns for the season. Even an instant-starting option could be sought. However, there is not much time left to complete a transfer. 

Watford Could Still Sign a Defender

According to Adam Leventhal of The Athletic, there seems to be a 50/50 chance that the Hornets bring in a new defender before the transfer window closes at 11pm GMT. The signing would ideally be able to provide an option as both a center-back and a full-back. 

Players Who May Be Targeted 

Early on in the transfer window, a deal seeing Jens Stryger Larsen transfer from Udinese to Watford appeared likely. The two clubs frequently do business due to having the same owning family, though Watford are yet to sign a player from the Italian side in this transfer window. 

Larsen reportedly rejected a move to Galatasaray in July following his impressive displays at Euro 2020. The 30-year-old perfectly fits the bill as a versatile defensive option who can play both centrally and out wide. Primarily playing as a right-back (or right-wing-back), he has also found success lining up on the left. He has also played 25 career matches as a center-back (source: transfermarkt).

Another player who could be looked at is England U21 defender Jonathan Panzo. Last year, Nizaar Kinsella of Goal claimed Udinese were looking closely at his signature and suggested they could offer him a route back to English football via Watford. Thus, he is known to be on the Pozzo family’s radar. Now that Dijon have been relegated to the French second tier, a deal to secure his services should come at a discount price.

Panzo, who primarily plays center-back, can also effectively play as a left-back. Thus, like Larsen, he fits the bill for what Watford are looking for when it comes to back-line versatility. He would also be the Hornets’ only left-footed center-back and would not count against the 25-man roster due to his age, both facts which should appeal to the Club’s hierarchy.

At the time of writing, there are only seven hours left for any deal to be completed. The Hornets might be finished bringing in new players, but do not be surprised if a new face or two come through the door. 

Watford Reportedly Move for Cagliari Star Nahitan Nandez

With the transfer window closing in a matter of hours, there is not much time left for squads to bring new faces through the door. The Hornets have had no shortage of midfield recruitment this transfer window, but that does not mean they will not try to sign yet another midfielder before 11pm GMT. And now, the Hornets are linked with a late swoop for a blockbuster transfer.

Watford Looking to Sign Nahitan Nandez

According to the reputable Daniele Longo, the Hornets are trying to sign  Nahitan Nandez from Cagliari. Paolo Rocchetti has also claimed the Hornets have put in an offer for the 25-year-old. 

A structure to any potential deal is not clarified as of yet, though it would likely be a loan with an option or lucrative obligation to buy if the Hornets maintain their Premier League status. 

Having signed for Cagliari from Boca Juniors in a £15 million transfer in 2019, his name has been on the radar of some top teams for a considerable amount of time now. He was frequently linked with Inter Milan and Tottenham this summer. 

Phenomenal Transfer if Completed

Although there is not much time left to complete any potential transfer and a considerable number of hurdles would have to be overcome, if this transfer were to happen, the Hornets will have secured themselves one of their new stars. He would not come in and play a rotational role: he would be an immediate starter and one of the Hornets’ key players in their quest for safety.

The 41-time capped Uruguay international team player is versatile. Throughout his career, he has primarily played as a central-midfielder and would likely play there for the Hornets too if signed. However, he can also be effectively deployed as a right-midfielder/right-wing-back, a position he has played in with tremendous success whenever the Italian side has needed him to. Thus, there is a chance the midfielder could also be viewed as Ismaila Sarr’s potential successor upon the season’s conclusion. 

There is not much time left for this surprise transfer to occur, though if it does, Watford have done a bit of extremely shrewd business. Having versatile, reliable, star players such as Nandez can spell the difference between safety and a return back to the Championship. Time will tell whether this deal goes through, though the interest is for sure present. 

Watford Could Make Late Lewis Ferguson Swoop

Early on in this transfer window, Aberdeen rejected a transfer request from Lewis Ferguson which was destined to see him ultimately winding up at Watford. With less than 48 hours remaining for the Hornets to make a move, it appears as if the transfer which has been talked about for over three months might finally occur. 

New Arrival and Manager’s Words Suggest Departure Is in the Cards

The Scottish side recently signed 21-year-old midfielder Matty Longstaff from Newcastle United on loan. This means that if the right offer comes in for Ferguson, then Aberdeen can afford to let him go. 

As per the Daily Record, Aberdeen manager Stephen Glass, who was vocal against a potential Ferguson transfer when Watford were offering £2 million for his signature in May, admitted, “The reality is some players might need to go out the way, whether that’s on loan or a permanent deal. Others are in demand as well so there’s a long time between now and Tuesday. I think there will be some movement in and out.”

With Ferguson clearly itching for a move away at the start of the transfer window, there is no reason to suspect he is suddenly desperate to stay. Especially after being dispatched from the UEFA Europa Conference League in the final play-off round to Qarabag FK, it is not as if European football is on offer with Aberdeen anymore. A Premier League move for the 22-year-old could be too hard to turn down. 

Supporter Group Claims Watford Have Put in New Bid

According to “The Famous Aberdeen” on Twitter, the Hornets have put in an improved offer for Ferguson as time ticks away in this transfer window. They believe “it’ll just be a matter of time at this point until he’s away.” Of course, it is just a simple tweet, but the stars are more than aligning for these rumours to be proven true. 

Room for Ferguson at Watford

Especially with Domingos Quina potentially departing Vicarage Road before the closing of the transfer window, the Hornets need to sign a creative-minded attacking-midfielder. Ferguson, who scored 10 goals across all competitions last season and four times in UEFA Europa Conference League qualifiers, would provide just that. 

As per Transfermarkt, in 150 career senior appearances, he has scored 25 times and provided 29 assists (keeping in mind this website credits “penalties won” as assists too). This comes to an impressive rate of one goal contribution per 245 minutes. 

In the Hornets’ defeat at Tottenham Hotspur, the need for such a midfielder was evident. Even though Peter Etebo, Juraj Kucka, and Moussa Sissoko defended robustly and performed well for most of the match, that extra creative edge from the center of the park was absent. Ferguson could very well prove to be the man to provide just that, as he already has been doing for years in Scotland.