Despite last Monday’s defeat at Queens Park Rangers surely now putting an end to any hopes of Watford clambering up into the play-off positions, there is an air of positivity about the direction that the team is going in on the pitch.
The Hornets outplayed the riches of QPR on Easter Monday for long periods and lost the game as a result of their commitment to winning it.
Two excellent performances over the Easter weekend against Ipswich Town and the aforementioned defeat at Loftus Road appear to have finally won over any lingering doubts about Beppe Sannino’s suitability to the role of head coach and if the virtually impossible doesn’t happen this season, as expected, then there is plenty to be positive about heading into the 2014-15 campaign.
Below are five reasons for Watford fans to be positive ahead of next season.
The return of ‘The Professor’ Almen Abdi
Almen Abdi’s reintroduction and the instantaneous improvement of the team’s performances has reaffirmed the Swiss playmaker’s role as Watford’s most vital cog.
He plays with an effortless panache, never taking two touches when one will do, and creates space for others with his excellent movement. Lewis McGugan appears so much more of a threat when afforded that room on the edge of the opposition penalty area and Abdi’s relationship with Daniel Tozser is verging on the telepathic already; a mouth-watering prospect heading into next season (provided we sign the latter permanently).
It is hard not to look back and think what might have been had last year’s player of the season been fit throughout this campaign but if Abdi is a fit-and-happy Hornet come August then the rest of the Championship should beware.
We’ve finally found the right balance
Sannino’s tenure began a complete overhaul of the Hornets’ playing style. Adopting more of a 5-3-2 formation than a 3-5-2, the emphasis was on keeping tight at the back and looking to take one of a few chances created in order to win the game.
As time has gone on, we have remained tight defensively, and are scoring more freely. The late goals conceded are a major concern but I feel that this is more of a psychological problem than tactical one.
Watford have scored three or more in five of the last six home league games, while also putting four past Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough, and if they could defend as tightly in the last 10 minutes as they do throughout first 80, we would undoubtedly be sitting pretty in the play-off positions right now.
Sannino has found the correct tactical balance.
We have Beppe Sannino
Speaking of Sannino, the Vicarage Road faithful are beginning to fall in love with eccentric Italian who is making the team truly tick for perhaps the first time since February 2013.
His extravagant approach on the sidelines may well have been treated with scorn had results not gone our way, but have now endeared themselves to Hornets’ fans.
Sannino has instilled belief and confidence into a team that looked bereft of such facets in the autumn.
Within weeks of his first job in a foreign country and culture, the Italian had turned around a run of five consecutive home defeats, in which Gianfranco Zola’s side failed to score in the last four, into the greatest home form in the club’s history; quite extraordinary.
The away form is not as bad as appears on paper either. A combination of late goals, poor refereeing decisions and a bit of bad luck has culminated in a run of results that don’t reflect the performances we have been putting in.
Sannino is absolutely the right man to spearhead our promotion push next season; as he reminded us on the BBC’s Late Kick-Off recently, ‘I am Gaffer’.
An exciting transfer window beckons
The club’s hierarchy have accepted that mistakes have been made this season which will be put right this summer.
Allowing experienced players with knowledge of the league and the grit to succeed in it, i.e. John Eustace, to leave has been accepted as an error by Gianfranco Zola in the aftermath of his resignation and one would imagine that the scattergun approach to signings last summer is one that Gianluca Nani will not want a repeat of. It is a huge summer for the Hornets’ technical director.
Nani’s successful signings ratio this season has not even been particularly close to 50% and for every Daniel Tozser there has been a Samba Diakite; for Albert Riera, a Lucas Neill.
But it is worth remembering that the Hornets were acting under a transfer embargo over the summer which appeared to restrict them from spending any sort of transfer fee. If we spend a bit of money over the summer and use the Udinese link a little more prudently, then there is every reason to be positive.
Watford won’t be viewed as a threat
It has been obvious from day one this season that opposition were setting up with ten men behind the ball to frustrate us, and it has worked.
Watford surprised opposition throughout the 2012-13 campaign but this season they simply knew what to expect but perhaps, after a season of relative under-achievement, they can aim to surprise a few more next year.
If, from a mid-table season, the Hornets have lulled a few opponents into a false sense of security going into games against us, then we can use that to our advantage.
I see no reason why this season can’t just be a bad one-off in what is undoubtedly a very positive time for the club. We are now getting very close to being very good, but others may not know it yet.