Masina And Sema Need To Mirror Femenia And Sarr For Promotion

Watford have found a new identity since switching to the 4-3-3 formation. The change, thus far, has brought about a 6-0 thumping of Bristol City, which was followed by a 1-0 away victory against Preston North End. Although the goal in the latter came from a penalty, the reason for the Hornets’ newfound attacking threat relies on the usage of the wide areas. But, the best has not appeared just yet. 

Sarr And Femenia Provide Blueprint

Kiko Femenia and Ismaila Sarr have been standout performers for Watford on many occasions this season – with Femenia being the Hornets’ most consistent of players. Ever since Xisco Munoz decided to deploy a 4-3-3, both have further elevated their performance in the attacking phases of play.

Sarr had a mediocre match against Preston, but he was undoubtedly the Man of the Match against Bristol City. Femenia has performed admirably in both. Their link-up play and overlapping runs are what have propelled their success. The 4-3-3 is conducive to such movements, and Femenia and Sarr have adapted exceptionally. 

Against Bristol City, Sarr scored twice, notched two assists, and was primarily responsible for the match’s opening goal. The fourth goal is the prime example of Femenia and Sarr’s threat together – chemistry that needs to be replicated on the left side of the pitch.

For the fourth goal against Bristol City, at the beginning of the attacking movement, Femenia made a surge down the right flank. Sarr had the ball about ten yards behind Femenia, meaning Femenia was the furthest man forward on the right side following the overlapping run. Sarr then fed the ball to Femenia on the wing, who slowed down the play until Sarr made it into the box. Femenia delicately chipped a ball to Sarr’s feet near the byline. Sarr then had a wide-open Ken Sema to find in the middle of the box. Femenia and Sarr’s intricate movement and interplay allowed for the Hornets to score a goal of the highest quality – movements they will be able to replicate on a match-by-match basis. 

Even though Sarr was not as impressive against Preston, the overlapping runs from Femenia were still present and caused problems for the back-line. Sema and Adam Masina need to take note, as that bit of intricacy seems slightly less present on the left side.

Sema And Masina Need To Copy The Right

Although Sema and Masina have performed well as individuals in most of their appearances this season, there seems to be a bit of a disjoint went it comes to linking up in attacking play. Masina appears more reluctant than Femenia to make overlapping runs into attacking positions. On a couple of occasions against Preston, Sema and Masina’s miscommunications led to cheap goal kicks for the opposition.

Again, both have been phenomenal individually and have done their duties well. Masina has been robust and reliable in defense since returning from injury. Sema has continued to make his strong, calculated runs to the byline to fizz threatening balls across the box. But, to take Watford’s attacking threat to the next level, the two need to replicate the right side. In fact, Watford were able to take the lead the lone time they did mimic Sarr and Femenia successfully. 

Success When Replication Occurred

The play which led to the penalty started with a Craig Cathcart long-ball in the direction of Sema. The Preston defender headed the ball to Tom Cleverley, who then headed the ball back to Sema. By the time Sema got the ball at his feet, Cleverley peeled out wide and Masina made an overlapping run (with Cleverley) to find himself five yards outside of the box in a central position.

Sema then found Masina in his dangerous position. The left-back then took two touches to give the ball back to Sema, who had peeled wide to give himself room to cross. Sema’s first-touch cross led to Joao Pedro being taken down in the box for the penalty. 

It was Masina’s run forward which was the key in the attacking movement. If Sema and Masina put together movements like this at the rate Sarr and Femenia do, it will be hard for even the best of defenses to halt what can become an attacking juggernaut. 

Wing-Play Key To Promotion 

The 4-3-3 formation gives Watford the perfect balance. The Hornets’ defense has been one of the league’s best all season. Having three central-midfielders guarantees Watford midfield dominance in most matches. So, the attack is what will determine if the Hornets are to return to the Premier League. If Watford continue to establish intricate wide play as their form of attacking identity, then the Club’s prospects of promotion will continue to grow brighter.



Role Models, Training With The First Team, Semi-Finals, Loan Move, And More: Exclusive Interview With George Langston

The mid-November day was just like any other for the Watford players who were not on international duty. The Hornets had secured a crucial victory over Norwich City the week before. But, for one person on the training ground, the day was unforgettable. On the 15th of November, 2019, George Langston signed his first professional contract with Watford. 

The now 18-year-old defender was an integral part of the Club’s run to the semi-finals in the 2018/19 FA Youth Cup. He joined the Hornets in 2016, following time with Tottenham Hotspur’s youth ranks. 

This season, Langston has trained frequently with the Hornets’ first team. Club management then determined he was ready to compete outside of just youth competition. On deadline day, he was sent on a short-term loan to National League club Wealdstone FC.

Watford Opinions had the honour of being able to ask Langston a range of questions – and would like to offer a tremendous thank you to Langston for his effort, honesty, and time. From major influences to trickiest players to excitement about his loan, be sure to read what Langston shared.

Langston On Playing With The First Team

Training with the senior squad is a huge step forward for any young player. From club veterans to players with high-profile careers to multi-million-pound signings, practicing with the first team offers an array of players to look up to. For Langston, the player he most admires and tries to replicate is Craig Cathcart.

Whenever you see him around the training ground – and I’ve been lucky enough to train with him this season – everything he does is for a purpose and is very professional,” explains Langston. “He works very hard and that is what I aspire to be and to carry those morals throughout my career.”

When asked about the trickiest player to defend against in training, Langston’s response might not be surprising.

“In the first team, they all have brilliant ability and are tough to mark but for me, the toughest was João Pedro. The way he always had control of the ball and knew how to dictate a defender was unbelievable. He was really a tough test – not to mention his movement in the box as well.”

But, Pedro is not the only player for whom Langston had tremendous praise. He made sure to give plaudits to his teammate in the youth ranks.

“In academy levels, I would say the trickiest player is Sonny-Blu Lo-Everton; like Pedro, he has the ball at his feet and is always in control of the situation. Sometimes, in training, the coaches call him ‘glue foot,’ as the ball is stuck to his feet when he dribbles.”

From White Hart Lane To Vicarage Road

One might expect switching from Tottenham to Watford to be a sizeable shift with a difficult transition. Langston, however, feels the move was smooth and another step in the right direction. 

“I wouldn’t say the transition was difficult because both academies wanted to play good football. The one difference I would say is at Tottenham, they focused on individual skills – whether this is dribbling or skill moves at a young age, along with some short-range passing. 

“At Watford, they really wanted to pass the ball about and be in a passing team which I liked. This [passing philosophy] started to help me develop tactically.”

Langston then mentioned how the timing/age of his academy switch might have been the reason for the differentiation in focus, rather than the clubs having starkly different approaches to youth development. 

Career Highlights

Although Langston is still in the earliest stages of his professional career, it is safe to say he has already had a few considerable highlights. 

“I would say signing my first professional contract at Watford is probably the highlight of my career so far. Especially being a local boy to Watford, it meant that little bit more to me,” explained the son of former Watford player Matthew Langston.

“Some honourable mentions have to be training with the first team for a period of time and learning off of them. The FA Youth Cup run in the 2018/19 season when we went to the semi-finals was just unbelievable and is a very, very close second. The whole journey was one of a kind and one that will live with me and is full of fond memories.”

On The Loan To Wealdstone

Langston’s feelings about his current loan-spell epitomize the youngster’s prospects. He has already made his league debut for the fifth-tier side – earning a place in the National League Team of the Week in the process. 

“[I am] really excited, as it is a very new experience and environment that I will be in,” exclaimed Langston. “I think it will help me massively; not just on the physical side, but mentally, as well as helping me to improve as a footballer overall. It will be a good test for me and one I want to try!”

His first loan as a professional footballer will further help him on his positive trajectory. If Watford and Langston continue to forge a strong relationship, the defender would love to stay at Vicarage Road in the long run. Nevertheless, one thing is for certain: keep an eye on his progression. Langston’s exciting past and willingness to learn, adapt, and overcome, signals he has all the tools necessary to perform at the highest level in the future. 

Where Do Watford’s Current Problems Spring From?

*Article contributed by Watfordfc2021 (Fin Onens)  edited by Watford Opinions*

Many of Watford’s results this season have been underwhelming – there is no doubt about that. Now is an opportune time to discuss where the Club’s current problems are. Many people have criticized Watford’s striking department – Andre Gray and Troy Deeney in particular. While pinning some blame on them is understandable and valid, there are also many issues elsewhere on the pitch. The first theory being contemplated here is as follows: what if Watford’s creativity is responsible for the current situation, and the strikers are not to blame? 

Many people predicted Watford to dominate the Championship and wreak havoc on defenses, largely due to 40-million-pound winger Ismaila Sarr staying at the club. Sarr thoroughly dominating and “running rings” around Championship defenses has not frequently been the case thus far. He has considerably struggled in many matches, with a mediocre five goals and six assists in 24 games. Sarr was meant to be Watford’s star man, picking assists out from every angle, but that has not come to fruition at noteworthy rates. 

Ken Sema was also meant to provide much-needed creativity, and all was going well until he got Covid-19. Since then, he has not been the same (although other absences have not helped his case). When a lack of creativity and need for depth in the department was recognized by the Watford fans and the hierarchy alike, highly-rated Danish winger Philip Zinckernagel was brought in to help solve the problem. After over one month in England, he has only featured in brief cameos off of the bench. So, out of the Club’s main three wide-attacking playmakers, none have been consistently successful/impressive/exceeding-expectations (over the long run – of course, there are individual matches which are exceptions) in their quest to provide the strikers with golden opportunities. 

Evidence is provided by examining the situation of Glenn Murray. The 37-year-old was brought to Watford on loan in the summer of 2020 to help with attacking depth, mainly in anticipation of a Deeney departure. Murray ended his time with Watford without a goal contribution. His lack of minutes and poor production resulted in a January loan-termination. He was promptly transferred permanently to Nottingham Forest. On his debut with Nottingham Forest, Murray scored twice. Watford’s “playmakers” could not provide Murray with quality service, but as soon as he left, he was able to find the back of the net easily. 

However, there is still the other side of the argument: perhaps the strikers just have not been good enough. One striker in particular highlights the issue: Gray. He has scored once all season (and has broken lockdown rules twice). João Pedro has been the only bright spark in terms of the center of the attack, with six goals in 22 matches. The most baffling part of all this is how Gray gets frequent starts over Pedro. 

Deeney has found a new role in the squad – dropping deeper and becoming a provider for other players (like Wayne Rooney closer to the end of his career). Deeney has scored seven goals this season and is the Club’s top-scorer (albeit just one goal is from open-play). After 26 matches in the 2014/15 promotion season, Deeney, Matej Vydra, Odion Ighalo, and Fernando Forestieri had scored 24 goals from open-play. This season, Watford’s strikers have combined for just eight. Deeney has had 27 shots all season. Queens Park Rangers’ Charlie Austin has shot 15 times in the Championship this season – despite playing only five matches. This just shows the extent to which Watford are missing a true, prolific goal-scorer.

The problems, however, could also stem from higher up in the club. The way the club is being run is controversial and objectional at the moment. At the start of January, fans were expecting new signings to suit the Club’s needs. Thus, the fans expected a left-back, a striker,  and an Etienne Capoue replacement. Watford were linked with a considerable number of exciting players, such as Vydra, James Lea-Siliki, and Fabian Delph. So, many times, fans had a positive feeling toward the transfer window. But ultimately, the Club only brought in (for the senior squad) Zinckernagel, Rob Elliot, and a 31-year-old Dan Gosling. The signings do not necessarily scream, “deserving promotion to the Premier League,” especially considering the transfer windows of other clubs. 

The notion that there are true problems is hard to dispute. Where the majority of the blame can go is much less evident. Who/what do you think is responsible for Watford’s current drawbacks? 



Success And Perica Return Amidst Crucial Tactical Change

*Article contributed by GoldenBoys1881 – edited by Watford Opinions*

Isaac Success and Stipe Perica are back in training following successful recoveries from respective hamstring injuries. This now gives Xisco Munoz a larger selection of players for the starting striker spot(s). Andre Gray is not a player fans are enjoying watching at the moment, to state it simply. He and Troy Deeney are somewhat similar – both not possessing rapid pace (Gray with a bit more speed than Deeney), but both requiring the squad to maintain large chunks of possession to help them find the back of the net. In other words, neither are the type of striker who is known for making chances out of nothing. 

Ahead of the journey to face Coventry City this weekend, Xisco has announced that a new system will be utilized. The change of tactics is a consequence of the recent underwhelming performances – a disappointing 0-0 draw with Millwall followed by a heartbreaking 2-1 defeat at the hands of Queens Park Rangers. Does this mean Watford will go to a three or five-at-the-back which did not work with Vladmir Ivic? Or, will the Hornets stick with four defenders? 

If Xisco persists with a formation that requires two strikers, he will need to figure out which permutation of the five healthy options works best. Realistically, Joao Pedro deserves to start a string of a few matches to claim the role of number one striker as his own (even though Deeney’s spot may be impossible to usurp). But, now that both Success and Perica have returned to training, they should gradually see some opportunities as well. 

Another aspect of the squad that needs to be improved is in regards to Will Hughes, Philip Zinckernagel, and the selection of the wide players in general. In the past three matches, for example, Hughes lined up as a left-midfielder. Hughes originally played in a wide-midfield position under Javi Gracia. Since Gracia’s departure in the second-half of 2019, Hughes reverted back to his more natural and effective role in the middle of the pitch. Tom Cleverley, who featured as a right-midfielder briefly against Stoke City, is certainly not a wide-player either. Now that Etienne Capoue, Domingos Quina, and James Garner departed the club during the January transfer window, there is more of a necessity for both Hughes and Cleverley to play in their natural, central positions. If Xisco does not want to play either of them in the center of the midfield due to form, new-signing Dan Gosling – who is experienced and reliable – can be called upon. Gosling can also be yet another mentor for the club’s younger midfielders, such as Daniel Phillips.

Especially considering Watford have been long-eliminated from both cup competitions, the supporters can now place maximum pressure/focus on the league. The only success that can come this season is in the form of promotion. There are no excuses or other targets to reach. Especially after claiming a tactical change was in the works, Xisco’s each and every decision is to come under close examination.

After the disappointing loss to Queens Park Rangers, Xisco Munoz’s “new tactics” will be especially interesting in the upcoming must-win match versus Coventry City. Will Hughes play in his natural position? Is Zinckernagel finally going to get his first league start? Only time can tell.

Whatever the changes may be, they need to be successful in the near future. With over half of the season completed, there is not much, if any, more time to lose points due to tactical experimentation. Ivic rolled the tactical dice frequently and could not conjure the optimal system. Xisco will need to come up with yet another combination to maximize upside.

The untested formations include the 4-3-3, the 4-2-3-1, and the 3-4-3. All will help Xisco emphasize attacking focus down the flanks of the pitch. However, with only four senior-central-midfielders, a 4-3-3 might be unsustainable. Perhaps Zinckernagel can play as a number 10 in the 4-2-3-1. A 3-4-3 would provide a stark contrast to Ivic’s five-at-the-back tactics if, and only if, a high press is maintained.

Fewer than 20 matches remain. Some teams at the top found their tactical identity long ago. For Watford, they are fortunate to not have needed to just yet. But, the well of goals cannot continue to run dry if the Hornets are to remain in serious contention for promotion. All eyes are on Xisco ahead of the anticipated changes.  



Watford’s January Transfer Window: Analyzing Every Signature and Departure

The January transfer window is typically about making minor tweaks to the squad to maintain or increase momentum heading into the second portion of the campaign. For Watford, the January transfer window saw a considerable amount of movement. Not all the movement found widespread support amongst fans. In fact, the hierarchy’s choices have come under considerable scrutiny.

What needs to be recalled is the Hornets were very recently relegated. Overall, a complete post-relegation raid in the summer was avoided. Watford have a tremendously large wage-bill in comparison to the league average. So, even though the Hornets might not have made the most desirable of signings in the past month, what needs to be remembered is that the financial climate did not permit big-money signings. That is simply an unfortunate effect of relegation. 

Below is a review and analysis of all of Watford’s transfer business from the January transfer window – a rather underwhelming window, but understandably so. 


Philip Zinckernagel: the Danish attacker is Watford’s most exciting signing of the January transfer window. Last season, in the Eliteserien (Norwegian First Division), Zinckernagel scored 19 goals and assisted 24 more in just 28 appearances. His trickery mimics that of Gerard Deulofeu, whereas his shooting and vision were sublime during his days with Glimt. However, since joining Watford, Zinckernagel’s only start came in an FA Cup defeat to Manchester United. The versatile 26-year-old will be vying a significant uptick in minutes once Xisco Munoz feels as if Zinckernagel has properly adjusted to the physicality of British football. Another reason touted for his lack of minutes to this point is the transition from the different types of pitches in Norway to England. Nonetheless, bringing in Zinckernagel for free was shrewd business, and he will prove to be a true difference-maker when more minutes fall his way.

Dan Gosling: the deep-lying midfielder arrives at Watford following six seasons with Bournemouth. Gosling, now 31-years-old, used to be an ever-present in the Cherries’ starting eleven. This season, however, he only started seven matches. Following Bournemouth’s signing of Ben Pearson from Preston North End, Gosling’s minutes were destined to be further reduced. The Hornets, who sought a midfield reinforcement due to the departures of Etienne Capoue, James Garner, and eventually Domingos Quina, moved for Gosling, considering his cheap asking-price. Gosling’s signature, however, enraged many fans. Gosling is by no means a long-term Capoue replacement. However, signing such a replacement would require funds Watford likely do not have at the moment. Gosling is a decent acquisition as he can be relied upon to provide cover if Will Hughes, Tom Cleverley, or Nathaniel Chalobah are unable to play. Gosling will provide starting competition and give depth, so overall, signing him was practical, albeit reasonably unpopular. 

Rob Elliot: the 34-year-old goalkeeper signed for Watford in order to provide shot-stopping coverage in the absence of Ben Foster. Daniel Bachmann has impressed since being called upon to take Foster’s place in net for the foreseeable future. When Foster returns, Bachmann might have usurped the number one role. So, Elliot has not signed with the expectation of being the Club’s number one. If Bachmann were to be sidelined prior to Foster’s return, however, the Hornets would have needed to call upon youth-player Adam Parkes – a gamble the Club was not ready to take. Thus, Elliot is not a very exciting signing, though bringing him in was logical.

Tiago Cukur: the 18-year-old was the first of Watford’s many youth-signings in this transfer window. In his days with AZ Alkmaar’s academy, he scored 11 times in 27 appearances in official youth-competitions. He was linked with a move to AS Roma, so it appears as if Watford have done shrewd business in bringing in the composed finisher. The Hornets have given him a contract that runs through the summer of 2022 with the option to extend one year, which is longer than their typical offer for academy-incomers.

Henry Ochieng: the Kenyan Under-23 international midfielder joins the Hornets’ academy, like Cukur. Important to note is that Ochieng does have a considerable amount of first-team experience. The central-midfielder made his senior debut with Leyton Orient in 2016. Last season, for Irish first-tier side Cork City, Ochieng made 19 senior appearances. Although the 22-year-old’s current contract with Watford expires in the summer, the player’s noteworthy past makes him a decent, under-the-radar gamble who might progressively find himself competing for places on the match-day bus.

Maurizio Pochettino: the son of former Spurs/current PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino also initially joins Watford’s youth ranks. The 19-year-old became a full-time scholar at Tottenham’s academy in 2017. Like Ochieng, he is on the brink of coming into consideration for first-team action despite being brought in for the academy. The right-winger signed a four-year contract, which shows the club has high, yet reasonable, expectations for the youngster. 

Mitchel Bergkamp: like Pochettino, Bergkamp’s signature turns heads because of his famous last name (and yes, he is the son of Arsenal legend Dennis Bergkamp). The last player in Watford’s flurry of youth-transfer signings, Bergkamp has signed a six-month contract. The 22-year-old  has plied his trade with Almere City’s youth sides in the Netherlands for the past nine years. He is primarily an attacking midfielder. The gamble on Bergkamp is one with no long-lasting downside if it backfires.



Etienne Capoue: the most notable of Watford’s departures, yet the most inevitable, the long-serving midfielder left the Hornets for Villareal in a roughly 2-million-pound transfer. From his inch-perfect diagonals to his never-snapping consistency, the gap left by Capoue’s departure is one that is nearly impossible to fill with the current financial standing of the Club. As pivotal as a player as Capoue would have been in the push for promotion, there was no stopping his departure. Now 32-years-old, Capoue deserves to be playing the last of his best years in a team competing in continental competition.

Gerard Deulofeu: another fan-favorite, Deulofeu’s departure was a bit less inevitable, and the timing of it was even more surprising. Although the Spaniard has been on loan to Udinese since the start of the season, the permanent transferring of him away from Vicarage Road was a move that crushed any hope Deulofeu would wear a Watford kit again. Although the transfer fee is unknown, especially due to the clubs being owned by the same family, Deulofeu’s departure was bound to have freed up some funds for Watford. Considering the Hornets tied Zinckernagel down to an over-five-year contract, the Club seemed prepared to let go of Deulofeu for good. Regardless, the move is disappointing to many Watford fans, and understandably so. 

Glenn Murray: the 37-year-old initially joined Watford from Brighton on loan in anticipation of a post-relegation Troy Deeney departure. But, since that departure never occurred, Murray’s chances with the first-team quickly became few and far between. Only making six total appearances, Murray did not find the pitch for Watford after October. The experienced striker then started to train on his own ahead of a departure. At the time, a loan move made sense in case Deeney departed. Murray’s uninspiring performances, despite his hard-effort, did not help his case, and termination of his loan became what was best for all parties. He has since joined Nottingham Forest.

James Garner: Garner is a tricky case to dissect. Frequently touted as the “next Michael Carrick,” the 19-year-old had high expectations when he arrived at Vicarage Road from Manchester United. Garner appeared in 20 out of the 25 league matches he was with Watford for. However, as starts turned into small cameos off of the bench, both Manchester United and Garner became frustrated at his lack of minutes. So, the Red Devils terminated his loan and have since loaned him to Nottingham Forest. Overall, Garner was mediocre at best. He was simply no better than Watford’s other options, so the Hornets had no incentive to play him. He still has plenty of room to grow, namely in competing with the physicality of first-team football. 

Domingos Quina: the 21-year-old’s departure was an eye-opener. The creative midfielder, who can also play in the wide positions, played 15 matches in all competitions for Watford prior to a hamstring injury in December. He now joins Europa League competing Spanish-side Granada on loan for the rest of the season. Following the arrival of Gosling, minutes for Quina appeared sparse, so loaning him out to give him more playing time was logical. But, considering he is joining a team a few quality-steps above Watford, there are many questions to be asked regarding whether Quina will actually acquire the increased playing time the Hornets desire. Letting Quina go will prove to be a costly mistake if Xisco elects to field a 4-2-3-1. With the exception of Joao Pedro, Quina is the Watford player with the most “flare.”

Djibril Toure: the highly-rated youngster has been sent on loan to Charleroi SC in the Belgian first-tier. The 18-year-old recently signed for the Hornets after earning plaudits during his time with Ceffomig FC in Guinea. Watford loaning him to a respectable European top-tier signals Toure has a bright future ahead of him. 

George Langston: the defender has signed on loan to National League club Wealdstone FC. The 18-year-old, who Watford rate highly, will pick up much needed first-team experience with the fifth-tier side. This loan will help him improve his physicality, as Joseph Hungbo’s recent loan to Aldershot Town did. 


Yes, Watford’s transfer window was admittedly underwhelming when the departures are compared with the arrivals. However, there is a reason for the deficit. But, the reason is not due to the Pozzos not wanting success for the Golden Boys. After all, it is significantly more profitable for the Pozzos to have Watford promoted back to the Premier League. 


The Improbable Rise Of Francisco Sierralta

19 matches. Seven starts. Left on the bench on the final day. Francisco Sierralta’s loan move to FC Empoli in Serie B in the second half of last season did not turn many heads. When he moved to Watford in the summer, most fans overlooked the 23-year-old’s arrival. After all, he was not even the most notable center-back from Udinese to join the Hornets in the post-relegation transfer window.

Sierralta Before He Arrived In England

Sierralta’s career started with Universidad Católica, a club based in Santiago, Chile. Granada, who were owned by the Pozzo family at the time, bought Sierralta at the end of 2014 for a fee in the range of 350,000 pounds. The Pozzos still own Watford and Udinese, but they sold Granada in 2016. 

Granada loaned him back to Universidad Católica for 18 months, though he ultimately only played two matches for their senior squad. The Spanish club subsequently loaned him to CD Palestino (also in Chile) for the 2016/17 season. He became a pivotal figure in their Copa Sudamericana squad which made a run to the quarter-finals. 

Upon his return to Granada in 2017, the Pozzos still sought to have the 6’4” defender on their books. They paid their former club a fee of 600,000 pounds for his signature. Udinese, the club the Pozzos elected to sign him for, then sent him out on a two-year loan deal to Parma. In his first season with Parma, he appeared 10 times to help the club earn promotion to Serie A. He made six appearances in the first-tier the following season.

Upon the conclusion of his loan, he was given a chance to break into the Udinese first-team. So, the still-young center-back spent the first part of the 2019/20 campaign with his parent club. However, after he only appeared once in a Coppa Italia match, the club sent him on loan to FC Empoli for the remainder of the season. And, upon the conclusion of that loan, he made the common switch from Udinese to Watford.

In international competition, Sierralta has represented Chile at the senior level on four occasions. 

Start To Life At Vicarage Road

His transfer to Watford was a result of the hierarchy wanting to move players; in other words, Vladimir Ivic, the Hornets’ manager at the time of his arrival, did not have a say in the move. So, when Sierralta arrived, the head coach did not feel obligated to give him too many chances – especially since Sierralta was not part of the Hornets’ preseason training.

When Sierralta’s former Udinese teammate William Troost-Ekong signed for Watford at the end of September, the Chilean became the Club’s 6th-choice center-back. Craig Dawson’s departure in the middle of October moved Sierralta back to 5th-choice. Regardless, Sierralta was nothing more than a depth player who was not in line for many minutes.

Like most fringe players, Sierralta was given the opportunity to show his abilities in Carabao Cup matches. He played the full ninety minutes in both of Watford’s Carabao Cup games, the first one being a penalty-shootout victory, and the second being a 3-1 defeat. Sierralta did not earn more chances in the league as a result of his cup performances.

Except for featuring for the closing stages of Watford’s 4-1 victory over Preston North End, Sierralta was kept waiting either on the bench or out of the match-day squad entirely. In Ivic’s final match in charge, Troost-Ekong picked up an injury in the 30th minute. With Sierralta being the Hornets’ only center-back on the bench, he was called upon. From that moment forward, Sierralta has not looked back.

Sierralta Stealing The Spotlight

Sierralta’s first league match with meaningful minutes ended in a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Huddersfield Town. Sierralta, however, did not look out of place.

New manager Xisco Munoz quickly took a liking to the Chilean. With Ben Wilmot being the Club’s only other fit center-back, Xisco had no choice but to start Sierralta. He starred in the 1-0 victory against league-leaders Norwich City. 

The Hornets’ subsequent 2-1 defeat against Swansea was a match in which Sierralta started as a result of his own form and talent, rather than as a result of injuries. Despite Troost-Ekong returning from his knock, Sierralta maintained his starting spot.

Since then, Sierralta has started the following five matches alongside Troost-Ekong. Wilmot and Craig Cathcart presently are on the outside looking in when it comes to the starting center-back spots, and at no fault of their own. Simply put, Sierralta and Troost-Ekong have been a nearly impenetrable force. In those five matches, the only goal conceded when both were on the pitch was from a corner against Manchester United in the FA Cup.

Sierralta sometimes starts matches in a somewhat concerning fashion, with either an awry pass or a poorly-timed challenged. But, his mistakes never compound. For the rest of the match, he becomes a rock in defense. His distribution is average, but he rarely loses an aerial duel. Further, his pace matches with some of the quickest attackers in the league. He frequently shepherds attacking players in dangerous positions into non-threatening areas of the pitch.

He is by no means flawless and does have his moments of uncertainty. However, he has earned Xisco’s trust and the starting spot. His rise to becoming one of the first names on the team-sheet is well-deserved and is justified for plenty of reasons. And, considering he is only 23-years-old, the physical defender only has room to further improve. 


How Rooney Provides The Blueprint For Deeney’s Future Success

Six goals. Three assists. 15 appearances. But, at the time of publication, Troy Deeney has only scored one goal from open play this season. Averaging one goal contribution per 110 minutes is an impressive output. Only scoring once from open play in 15 appearances, however, is as far from prolific as it gets. But, despite Deeney’s underwhelming non-penalty goalscoring record, his best contributions this season will prove to be from a modified role. 

How Deeney Was Most Effective Against Stoke

In Watford’s recent 2-1 triumph against Stoke City, Deeney put forward a Man of the Match performance. His goal in the match, unsurprisingly, came from the penalty spot. His assist, on the other hand, was a stroke of the highest quality. Moreover, Deeney played a pivotal part in the winning of the penalty he subsequently converted.

In the first half of the match, the Potters dominated the midfield. The Hornets attempted to press using a 4-4-2, to which Stoke’s 4-3-3 easily beat through their outnumbering in the midfield. The reason Watford usurped control in the second half was directly due to Deeney. Instead of staying in as advanced of a position as Joao Pedro was while defending, Deeney dropped into the midfield. Thus, the Hornets effectively had three center-midfielders to counter Stoke’s three.

Deeney’s slotting into the midfield did not only benefit the Hornets in terms of defending and possession. His positioning in a central-attacking-midfielder role created both of the Hornets’ goals. 

In the 62nd minute, when Deeney received the ball six yards outside of the box, there were four Hornets players in more advanced positions. Deeney, typically one of the two furthest men forward, then delicately used the outside of his right boot to lift the ball over Stoke’s defensive line. The ball landed neatly on Ismaila Sarr’s chest. Sarr’s attempt was saved, though Pedro was taken down when pursuing the rebound to earn the penalty. 

As notably as Deeney did to find Sarr in the build-up to the penalty, he did even more impressively in the 68thminute.  When Tom Cleverley picked up the ball in the Hornets’ defensive half, Deeney had already checked into the midfield to receive the ball. By the time Cleverley found Deeney, the skipper had checked over his shoulder multiple times to spot the nearest defender and find the run of Sarr. So, by the time Deeney received the pass, he knew exactly what he had to do. With a perfectly-weighted first-touch pass, the 32-year-old threaded the ball between the lines to soon-to-score Sarr. 

Deeney is always going to be considered a center-forward/striker. However, in the latter stages of his career, he can be most effectively utilized in an advanced midfield role. This, for an aging striker like Deeney, is far from uncharted territory. 

Rooney’s Later Years As A Number 10

Wayne Rooney provides the perfect blueprint for Deeney to follow. The new Derby County manager, who has scored over 300 career goals, was able to extend his career, with considerable success, by dropping into the number 10 role. 

In Rooney’s first 10 years with Manchester United, he played almost exclusively as a forward. Like Deeney, the 35-year-old’s career was primarily characterized by the number of goals he scored. Forgetting to mention his assist tally, however, would be misleading. Rooney averaged 1.9 goals scored per assist. Deeney averages 2.3 goals scored per assist in his career. As a point of reference, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has a career ratio of 2.6 goals scored per assist.

In Rooney’s final three years with the Red Devils, his role changed. In the 2014/15 campaign, Rooney played an equal number of matches at center-forward as he did in the attacking-midfield position. As a number 10 that season, he scored five times and assisted three times in 16 appearances. In the 2016/17 campaign, Rooney only played 14 of 39 matches as a true, out-and-out center-forward. 

After his return to Everton and his MLS journey, Rooney played his final full season with Derby County. In 24 appearances last campaign, not once did Rooney play beyond the midfield.

Deeney Has Already Started The Advisable Replication

So, even though Rooney’s ability to be a formidable force as a center-forward started to go away as he aged, he was still able to be effective by inching toward the middle of the pitch. His years of experience, football intelligence, and leadership capabilities made the center of the midfield the best position for him to make an impact.

Deeney will still line up as a center-forward for the foreseeable future. However, as seen against Stoke, Deeney can best be utilized when he temporarily drops into the advanced parts of the midfield. Even if Deeney is no longer the goalscoring machine he used to be, his role in the squad is near impossible to replicate. 

Deeney is criticized a lot for his goalscoring record. It is time to no longer consider him exclusively as a goal-scorer. Rooney was never slated near the end of his career because of his decrease in goals. 

The present is the perfect time for Deeney to follow in Rooney’s footsteps.


Player Ratings: Hornets Win on a Cold Windy Night in Stoke

Watford beat Stoke City for the second time of the season thanks to goals from Troy Deeney and Ismaila Sarr. The match, however, was far from a walk in the park.

The first half of play was lackluster from both teams – especially Watford. Xisco Munoz fielded a questionable squad, which initially saw Tom Cleverley lining up on the right-side of the midfield and Sarr unorthodoxly on the left. Around half-way through the half, Sarr moved to the right, Cleverley slotted into the midfield, and Will Hughes played on the left. The Hornets’ high-press in a 4-4-2 formation enabled Stoke’s three-central-midfielder formation to dominate the run of play, mainly through John Obi Mikel. 

The second half was much improved by Watford, most notably after Philip Zinckernagel entered the fray in the 61st  minute. With a more natural wide-player in the left-midfield position, the squad played with a sense of identity and normality. Deeney’s penalty and Sarr’s smart finish into the bottom right-hand corner gave the Hornets firm control of the match. The Potters halved the deficit in the 83rd minute through a well-worked ­­­­Steven Fletcher goal. But, in the end, the Hornets picked up a massive three points on the road, potentially signaling the end to the Club’s woeful away form.

How the Watford Opinions player-rating scale works:

Five or below: underwhelming, disappointing performance

Six: decent, average performance

Seven: solid, above-par performance 

Above seven: impressive, noteworthy performance

*Highest-rated: Man of the Match


Starting Eleven

Daniel Bachmann: the Austrian once more proved why he is capable of being the Hornets’ number-one of the future. He did not have much to do in the first half, though two fine saves in the second period of play were pivotal in Watford’s triumph. The 26-year-old is comfortable in distribution and clearly has the trust of his teammates. He cannot be blamed for his first league-goal conceded. 

Rating: 8

Kiko Femenia: the Spaniard, arguably Watford’s player of the season to this point, was unfortunate to receive a yellow card in the 34th minute. Femenia, who was subbed off in the 74th minute for Jeremy Ngakia, made a couple of threatening runs forward. This, overall, was a rather quiet night by his standards.

Rating: 6.5 

William Troost-Ekong: he and Sierralta have formed a formidable center-back partnership. Commanding in the air and sound in passing, Troost-Ekong was a rock in defense as per usual. However, he was in no-mans’-land when Watford conceded.

Rating: 7

Francisco Sierralta: after starting the game in shaky fashion, which included an awry pass and an unnecessary yellow card, Sierralta did well to limit the Potters’ attacking threat. The Chilean, alongside his partner, ensured only a small portion of Stoke’s crosses found their target. He was not on the pitch when the goal was conceded. The days of Sierralta being the Hornets’ fifth-choice center-back are long gone. 

Rating: 7.5

Adam Masina: the left-back’s solid form post-injury continued. Besides causing a penalty shout in favor of the Hornets in the first half, Masina did well to limit Stoke’s play down the right-flank for most of the match. But, like Troost-Ekong, Masina’s positioning in the build-up to Stoke’s goal was questionable. 

Rating: 6.5

Tom Cleverley: the former Manchester United player started the match in the right-midfield position – an assignment he has sparsely had during his time at Vicarage Road. The Hornets’ only threat posed from the right side of the pitch during the opening phases of the match was through Femenia. Once Cleverley moved to the center of the park, he did the scrappy business as per usual and set up Deeney’s assist to Sarr. His first half was mediocre at best. His second-half performance was much improved.

Rating: 7

Nathaniel Chalobah: the one-time capped England international has been a mixed bag this season. This match was no exception. Chalobah was sluggish in the first half and mis-weighting passes too frequently. The second half, when he and Cleverley started to gain midfield control, saw a tremendous uptick in performance. Chalobah was largely responsible for the start of the attacking movement which earned the penalty. It is his sub-par first-half performance that is responsible for his “average” rating.

Rating: 6

Will Hughes: seeing Hughes healthy and fully recovered from his injury is a sight all Watford fans should be glad to see. This match, however, was not his most noteworthy of performances. He made a couple of strong challenges in the center of the pitch prior to being pushed out to the left-midfield position. He came off in the 61st minute. Within seven minutes of his exit, the Hornets scored twice. 

Rating: 6.5

Ismaila Sarr: Watford’s record-signing showed why the Pozzos splashed the cash in the summer of 2019 yet again. His smart movement helped the Hornets win a penalty. His run, first-touch, and strike to find the back of the net were of the highest quality. This was a thoroughly classy performance from the 22-year-old. 

Rating: 8.5

*Troy Deeney: the skipper put in a true captain’s performance. Like the rest of the squad, he did not have much, if any, notable action in the first half. His second-half performance proved why he is still Watford’s leader and first-choice striker. He took his penalty expertly, as per usual. What has to be noted, however, is the professionalism and creativity he showed. His delicate, outside-the-boot, clipped ball to Sarr was ultimately responsible for the creation of the penalty. 

His assist to Sarr’s goal, however, showed shades of the 2014-16 version of himself. Before Cleverley passed the ball to Deeney, the skipper checked over his shoulder multiple times. So, by the time he received the ball, he knew precisely where Sarr would be. With a one-touch pass, Deeney expertly and instinctively weighted the ball into Sarr’s path to set-up the second goal. Further, Deeney’s consistent dropping into the midfield in the second half was what ended Stoke’s center-of-the-park dominance. This was a true Man of the Match performance.

Rating: 9

Joao Pedro: the 19-year-old put in another decent claim for why he should be Deeney’s main strike-partner. The youngster made some intricate dribbles forward and did well to draw the penalty. Pedro now looks more accustomed to the physicality which Championship football brings. For Pedro, this performance overall was not one of his more influential ones. However, he was not pedestrian either.

Rating: 6.5


Philip Zinckernagel: although he did not have any notable direct contributions, his introduction to the match coincided with the Hornets’ improvement in performance. Having Zinckernagel, a natural wide-player, play on the left of the midfield instead of a central-minded player allowed Watford to play in a more naturally-structured formation. He gave the squad a sense of normality and balance. He has not been given the ball in space enough to truly show Watford fans what he is capable of.

Rating: 6

Craig Cathcart: the long-serving center-back is continuing to be reintegrated into the first-team following an injury. He has plenty to do to convince Xisco to reinstate him into the starting eleven given the form of Sierralta and Troost-Ekong. It is hard to slate him as he was only on the pitch, replacing Sierralta, for the closing stages of the match. He will be wondering whether he should not have rushed out of the box to try to prevent the assist on Stoke’s goal. 

Rating: 6

Jeremy Ngakia: he has been unfortunate to not play the minutes he deserves due to Femenia’s fine form. Nonetheless, in his cameos, he does not appear to have lost his instinct to attack when possible. He replaced the Spaniard in the 74th minute.

Rating: 6

Ben Wilmot: joined the match too late to receive a rating.

Andre Gray: joined the match too late to receive a rating. 

The Perica Effect

326 minutes. One goal. One penalty won. The statistics tell an inaccurate, lackluster story of a player who, in actuality, contributes a significant amount. The truth surrounding Stipe Perica’s influence at Watford lies in his past.  

Stipe Perica Pre-Watford

The striker started his career in his home nation, Croatia, with NK Zadar. In his first season playing with their first-team, he scored eight times in 20 appearances. Chelsea took note of the then-17-year-old’s performances and paid NK Zadar a fee of around 2 million pounds for Perica. 

Perica then became part of Chelsea’s well-known “loan army.” He never set foot on the pitch for Chelsea. His first loan was to NAC Breda in the Eredivisie during the 2013/14 season. In 25 league appearances (only starting five matches), he scored six times and assisted once. Impressed with his performances, NAC Breda took him on loan the following season. In 10 league matches, Perica found the back of the net three times. However, his loan deal was cut short in January. After, Perica and the Pozzo family united.

For the second half of the 2014/15 season, Perica was sent on loan to Udinese. In nine matches, the still-young striker scored only once. The loan deal to Udinese ran through the 2015/16 season as well, a campaign in which he scored three goals in 13 matches. Impressed with Perica’s ability to perform at the top level despite his young age, Giampaolo Pozzo decided to fork out 4 million pounds to Chelsea to permanently sign Perica. 

His first year under full contract with Udinese proved why Udinese were willing to pay the hefty fee. In 27 appearances, Perica scored six times. But, what makes the output noteworthy is he only started five matches. The trend regarding Perica’s ability to score off the bench from his time with NAC Breda was continued. His 2017/18 season was underwhelming, only finding the back of the net once in 22 appearances. And so, to help Perica rediscover his goal-scoring form, Udinese sent him out on multiple loans.

His first loan saw him spend an unsuccessful half-season with Frosinone. He started six of their first seven matches, but following an injury, he was unable to break back into the starting eleven. The loan was set to be for the full season, though his being surplus to Frosinone’s requirements led to the termination of the loan. He spent the second half of the 2018/19 season with Turkish club Kasimpasa. Two goals in 12 league appearances set Perica’s career back on track. 

A loan to Mouscron in the Belgian first-tier last season signaled Perica’s full return to form. In 16 appearances, he scored eight times and assisted once, averaging one goal contribution per 109 minutes.

Internationally, Perica impressed for the Croatian youth ranks, scoring eight times in 12 appearances for his nation’s Under-21 side. 

Following Watford’s relegation, Udinese received Ignacio Pussetto and Gerard Deulofeu – two talented attacking players. So, Watford’s depth in attacking ranks was weakened, whereas Udinese’s strengthened. With the Hornets needing reinforcements in attack and Udinese no longer needing Perica, the closely-linked clubs agreed for Perica to go to Vicarage Road permanently.

Perica Impressing Since Arriving

Ever since Perica arrived at Watford, he has shown promise. At the time of his signature, many fans viewed him as “just another one of the typical, somewhat pointless ‘Pozzo transfers.’” This transfer quickly proved to be purposeful and beneficial for the Hornets.

The fact Perica has only scored one goal this season is not indicative of the influence he has made in England. If there were VAR/the linesman made the correct call, he would have scored a priceless winner against Brentford. 

But even with the officiating error, as that is just part of football without VAR, Perica’s contributions while on the pitch have been noteworthy. His goal came in a 1-1 draw against Bournemouth. Ismaila Sarr found himself with the ball in a wide position. Most of the time this season, when Sarr finds himself in that position, he has no options in the middle. However, this time, Perica was lively in the center of the box. Sarr threaded the ball to Perica, who then calmly slotted the ball into the back of the net. 

Perica’s aerial ability is sublime. Whenever he is on the pitch, the Hornets become more threatening from crosses. But, despite not being the most agile of players, Perica’s movement is almost always correct. From finding headers to drawing a penalty against Birmingham to making clever runs to latch onto the end of crosses, Perica has proven to be an expert at being in the right place at the right time. 

Further, Perica’s ability to get the ball on target is impressive. Around 57% of Perica’s shots are on target. Troy Deeney’s average is roughly 42%, Andre Gray’s is around the same as Deeney’s, and Joao Pedro’s is about 48%.

In terms of winning aerial duels, Perica averages 2.2 won per-90-minutes. For context, Gray’s average per-90-minutes is 0.7. Deeney’s is 4.6.

Between efficiency and aerial ability, Perica offers a different type of striker from Deeney, Pedro, and Gray. Perica has movement in the box similar to Pedro, despite being four inches taller (Perica is 6’4”). Of all the Hornets’ strikers, Perica’s qualities are best suited to lead the line on his own. 

Injuries Hampering A Potentially Prolific Season

Unfortunately for the Club and Perica alike, his season has been hindered by injuries. Perica has only started two matches in the league. From his red card in the Carabao Cup to dislocating his shoulder against Bournemouth to missing the past few matches due to another injury, Perica has been in contention for fewer than half of the Club’s matches this season.

But, even when fully recovered from injuries, Perica does not always start, despite his influences when on the pitch. This, however, is no accident. 

Super-Sub Perica Key To Promotion Prospects

Between Deeney and Pedro, the Hornets have two worthy starting strikers. Perica, also deserving of starters’ minutes, can thus be seen as a “super-sub.” As the 25-year-old’s career indicates, he performs best when utilized off of the bench. 

Three of his eight goals in Belgium came during cameos at the end of matches. Four of his six goals in the 2016/17 season with Udinese were as a substitute. Five of his six goals in the 2013/14 season with NAC Breda were in substitute appearances. So, historically, Perica has been best when coming off of the bench.

This is not to say Perica should not be given the opportunity to start. However, having a super-sub such as Perica could prove to be the difference-maker in the push for promotion. Whenever Perica has come off the bench for Watford, he appears the likeliest player to score. When given more chances, Perica will score more goals. 

The difference between promotion contenders and half-hearted hopefuls is the ability to grab points in the closing stages of matches. With Watford’s already strong squad able to field a starting eleven which does not require having Perica, utilizing the Croatian off of the bench significantly boosts the Hornets’ chances of grabbing extra points late into matches. He has done it across Europe numerous times before. Early indications from his time so far with Watford suggest he is well-equipped to do so again. 

Why To Keep Hoping That Gerard Deulofeu Will Return

Down 2-0. Twelve minutes left. The opposition support roars in ecstasy, knowing their side is set to go to the FA Cup Final. The only way Wolverhampton Wanderers can lose is to be on the receiving end of one of the most improbable comebacks in recent memory. With Watford’s cup dreams destined for doom, substitute Gerard Deulofeu conjured an audacious chip, scoring one of the best goals the new Wembley has ever seen. His goal in extra time sent the Hornets to their second major cup final in club history.  

Deulofeu’s Time With Watford

Watford fans know Deulofeu for more than just his FA Cup Semi-Final heroics. Arriving at Vicarage Road at the start of 2018 from Barcelona (initially on loan, then made permanent), the Spaniard became a favorite to many. Although his attitude is condemnable on occasion, his contributions to the Club outweigh the sparse moments of negativity. 

The Hornets’ former number seven (new signing Philip Zinckernagel now claims the number) has seen his time with Watford hampered by injuries. He missed seven matches at the end of the 2017/18 campaign and seven more at the start of the 2018/19 season. His most unfortunate, untimely injury occurred in Watford’s famous 3-0 victory over then-invincible Liverpool. His cruciate ligament injury sidelined him for the last 10 matches of the 2019/20 season. His unavailability destined the Hornets for relegation, as no one was able to fill his shoes in his absence. 

Despite being a left-winger by trade, Deulofeu found success in both the wide-position and centrally. In his most prolific season with the Hornets, Deulofeu found the back of the net 12 times and assisted five times. His form was pivotal in helping Javi Gracia steer the Golden Boys to their second-best finish ever in the English Football pyramid. The bulk of the now 26-year-old’s goals came from the central-forward position.

The former Everton and AC Milan player has appeared 70 times for Watford in all competitions, scoring 17 goals and assisting 11. Despite how well Deulofeu settled in at Vicarage Road, the truth is a player of his caliber does not belong in any nation’s second tier. So, the Hornets sent him on loan to, unsurprisingly, Udinese. 

Loan Analysis

After spending the summer recovering from his injury, Deulofeu made his Udinese debut against Parma on October 18th. He appeared in the Pozzo-owned club’s next four matches, including starts against his former club AC Milan and scoring against LR Vicenza in the Coppa Italia. 

A full 120 minutes played in a defeat to Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia proved Deulofeu had moved past his ligament injury. Deulofeu created a goal in a start against Torino soon after. But, after minutes started to pick up for him, he fractured his foot in a defeat to Benevento. After missing three matches, he returned to the bench in Udinese’s recent fixture against Sampdoria.

The four-time capped Spanish international player, despite featuring in eight Serie A matches, averages 35 minutes on the pitch per league match. This is primarily due to Udinese’s manager being cautious of his recent injury history. However, even when appearing fully fit, Deulofeu does not seem to be Luca Gotti’s first-choice. To Gotti, Deulofeu is both a wide player and a central-forward when need be, meaning he does not have a solidified position in the starting eleven (as of yet).

What Deulofeu Said Post-Relegation

Following the Hornets’ relegation and his subsequent loan-move to Udinese, Deulofeu took to Twitter to say, “Hi Watford fans. I just wanted to thank you for the support you have given me in my time at the club so far. I wish you all the best for the season and am sure the squad will give everything to return to the Premier League straight away. All the best for now.”

Reading into so-called “cryptic tweets” is usually not a wise idea. However, the “for now” Deulofeu included gave fans hope that the Spaniard’s time in the Gold and Black might not be over after all. 

What Needs To Happen 

Following Zinckernagel’s usurping of the number seven kit, the return of Deulofeu grew more unlikely. However, this is not to say there is zero chance he returns. It is not likely, but there is still reason to hope for Watford fans.

First and foremost, the Hornets need to secure promotion to stand a realistic chance of retaining Deulofeu. He is a top-flight player who needs top-flight football. The prerequisite of the Club’s return to the Premier League in order to see him at Vicarage Road is evident. A scenario where he returns to the Hornets to play in the Championship is unrealistic, and it would be a shock (albeit joy) to all.

Even though Zinckernagel has the number seven kit, the two 26-year-old’s prefer to line-up on opposite wings. With rumors regarding a potential Ismaïla Sarr move swirling as always, the odds of seeing Sarr with the Hornets for the 2021/22 campaign, regardless of promotion, are shrinking. Zinckernagel, who currently is seen as a two-sided winger due to a managerial reluctance to drop right-winger Sarr, is the long-term replacement for Watford’s record-signing. 

If Sarr departs, thus bumping Zinckernagel permanently to his preferred right-wing, then Deulofeu’s only competition would be Ken Sema (who can thrive in many other positions). Deulofeu, who is not currently seeing starters’ minutes with Udinese (even when fully recovered from injuries), would once more be a first-choice for Watford. Many teams will still be concerned about purchasing Deulofeu permanently due to his recent injury record. Vicarage Road might be viewed as the best destination to reclaim fitness reliability ahead of a permanent move away further down the line.

Considering Deulofeu’s ties to Hertfordshire, the conjunction of promotion and the return of fans to stadiums would be hard for him to turn a cold shoulder on. Yes, any potential return is surely contingent on promotion. Going up, as of now, has a decent chance of occurring, but is not necessarily “probable” either. Still, the realistic target and aspirations of promotion mean all hope is not lost. 

It is hard to find fans who would oppose Deulofeu’s return. Deulofeu’s coming back is not likely, as supporters have long-accepted. However, there are still keys that can be turned to bring Deulofeu back to the Club. There may be many pieces to the puzzle and those parts may be hard to acquire. Nonetheless, the glimmer of hope is worth holding on to. The pieces needed for his return exist and are in reach.