Transfer rumours and wild suggestions of dressing room disharmony have filled some of the void since May, but now focus finally shifts to Watford’s opening game of the 2014-15 season as Bolton Wanderers prepare to visit Vicarage Road on August 9.
Inspired by From The Rookery End’s crystal ball gazing, we got the Forza Watford! team together to predict what may or may not happen during the upcoming campaign.
Let us know what you think in the comments below!
Who will be the Hornets’ player of the season?
Jamie Leah: A fully fit Almen Abdi will be like a new signing for the Hornets – and an extremely good one at that – but I’m going to go for Daniel Tozser.
The only loanee to really make an impression at Vicarage Road last season, Tozser, who joined on a deal until the end of the season from Serie A side Genoa in January, filled the Hornets’ problematic holding midfielder role to everyone’s satisfaction.
With the loss of Nathaniel Chalobah last summer as well as the prolonged absence of Abdi, Tozser has provided a calming influence in the middle of the park which has only resulted in positivity going forward; I think he’ll continue to assert himself during the upcoming campaign.
Tom Kerridge: I would be impressed if anyone manages to beat Almen Abdi to the award this season. Having had a nightmare of a season last time out, his absence was a major reason for our poor run before Christmas, I believe that he will come back stronger and fitter for the new start.
Although many Watford fans will pick their player of the season based purely on whoever scores the most goals, this man is a cut above everything we currently have at the club, and everything else we have had for a long while.
Adam Drury: A tough one as there are so many players who could ‘come off’, Matej Vydra and Fernando Forestieri to name two, but you can be almost certain that none of them will contribute as consistently or brilliantly as Almen Abdi.
Gianfranco Zola described Abdi as Watford’s most influential player on more than one occasion, and that plantar fascia in the midfielder’s right foot which plagued him and his team-mates terribly, can largely account for Zola’s job and the Hornets’ disappointing 2013-14 campaign.
Which player will finish as Watford’s top goal scorer?
JL: I’ll go with Matej Vydra providing Beppe Sannino opts to play him at the top of a 3-5-2 formation, or if he’s given the central role in a 4-3-3.
As we have seen in pre-season, the Czech Republic international is not as effective as a wide forward and is at his best playing through the middle, and on the shoulders of opposition defenders.
TK: I think the key to our possible success this season will be in being able to supply goals from all over the pitch, so I would predict that we will see a change from the 20+ goal scorers of the past two seasons, and a swing towards a more even spread. That said, should he re-find the eye for goal he had two years ago, it’s difficult to look beyond Matej Vydra.
AD: Without yet knowing the destiny of the ‘main man’ it is hard to really be sure where to start here, but if Troy Deeney is still a Hornet on September 1 then it is hard to look beyond him.
In his absence, then the obvious candidate would be Matej Vydra, whose return caused a mammoth stir. But, as Deeney recently labelled him, the ‘slot machine’ has yet to really settle into a preferred position under Beppe Sannino.
Which player will be the ‘surprise package’?
JL: I’ve got a feeling that Diego Fabbrini might be the popular choice here. His pre-season form has suggested that he will make an impression on the first-team this season, rather than being shipped back to Serie B on loan.
He can be both mesmerising and frustrating at the same time, but I have a feeling that Fabbrini may start to show Watford fans why he has been capped by Italy.
TK: This is tricky given that there are still quite high expectations for the squad in the new season. However, I really feel that Diego Fabbrini has something to offer this squad and the switch to a new formation, better utilising wing-backs, will benefit him.
He has been much maligned over the past 12 months, and probably hasn’t shown too much on the pitch to indicate that he is cut out for the Championship, but most would agree that there is a very talented footballer in there somewhere and he has to come good sometime… hasn’t he?
AD: For this, I look no further than Diego Fabbrini.
He can be frustrating, be totally unaware of his surroundings and possesses a surly demeanour at times but he has talent which if channelled could be a serious proposition in this division. I just fancy him to produce it this year.
Which player will have a ‘breakthrough’ season?
JL: I’d like to pick someone like Uche Ikpeazu, Alex Jakubiak or Bernard Mensah here, but with the Hornets’ so stacked up front, all three are likely to be sent out on loan.
Providing Watford don’t sign another left-sided player as cover for Daniel Pudil, I feel that Northern Ireland Under-19 international Josh Doherty could find himself in a perfect position to get some minutes and establish himself in the first-team rotation.
TK: Aside from Fabbrini as mentioned above, I really think that Juan Carlos Paredes is a very exciting new arrival. I watched him keenly over the summer, in the England warm-up match and then the World Cup, and was impressed with his performances down the right-hand side for Ecuador.
He is as defensively astute as he is dangerous on the attack, and will provide a more than adequate replacement for the departed Davide Faraoni.
AD: Not so much a breakthrough, but it would be fantastic to see Tommie Hoban fulfil all of his undoubted talent by playing at least 30-40 games and not limping through an injury-ravaged campaign.
Hoban is arguably the best defender at the club and shows extraordinary maturity for a player his age.
An improved defensive showing this season may well be owed to Hoban although he may have to settle for a role at full-back, where Sannino has experimented with him in the 4-3-3. He is at his best as one of the wider centre-backs in a 3-5-2.
Where will Troy Deeney be playing when the summer transfer window closes?
JL: Last week, as bids from Premier League sides appeared to be escalating by the hour, I’d have said Troy Deeney would be plying his trade in the top tier next season.
However, it appears that Watford’s reported £10 million asking price for the forward has priced out a number of interested parties, while Everton’s £28 million deal for Romelu Lukaku is likely to have removed them from the running.
Deeney will be a Watford player this season. I hope.
TK: I’m probably in the minority in believing he’ll actually stay with Watford. However, I would be surprised if he finished the season with us. The January transfer window usually brings with it desperate, over-inflated bids, and I feel that Watford will get far more value than they will this summer.
AD: Watford! The signs are that he won’t be pushing through a move and the club appear for now to have priced out any bidders. Never rule out a late ‘Arry attempt on Deadline Day though!
Which game are you most looking forward to?
JL: Bournemouth away (although I’d rather it was in the warmer months) as the 424-mile round trip from Cornwall makes it my ‘local’ game! I’m also looking forward to watching the Hornets play Fulham at Craven Cottage.
TK: It has to be Brentford away doesn’t it? I’m sure that most will probably answer the same but the prospect of a pub on each corner of the ground and a short travel, coupled with a possible away victory, should make for a great day out.
AD: You hear a lot about the ‘special atmosphere’ at Craven Cottage so I’d probably say Fulham away. Although I think the away end is actually a neutral area, which probably dilutes the atmosphere a little bit, playing football right on the Thames is pretty unique so that should be one to look forward to.
Where will Watford finish in the Championship?
JL: We all assumed Watford would be in and around the automatic promotion places last season and, while we were all wrong, Watford should be much better equipped to make a run at the Premier League this time around.
But while the acquisitions made this summer will undoubtedly improve the squad, I’m not entirely sure Beppe Sannino is the right man to bring all these players together; the Italian has been given all the tools he needs by the Pozzo family, so now is the time to deliver.
I think a top-six finish is a realistic – if not slightly conservative – prediction.
TK: I’m going to answer conservatively here and plump for a third place finish with a glorious victory at Wembley next May, to vanquish any memory of Kevin Phillips last time out.
It’s so difficult predicting the table in any season in the Championship and the quality (and riches) of the clubs come down will surely make the automatic places difficult to obtain. However, the squad feels strong this season and, with a bit of luck, we should easily make the play-off places.
AD: After so many of us fell into the trap of thinking we might attain automatic promotion with ease last season, it is hard to know what to think now. On the face of it we should be looking up into similarly high echelons.
Watford signed their top two transfer targets, Matej Vydra and Daniel Tozser, while some knowledge and experience of the division, which was badly missed last season, is now in the building with the signings of Gabriel Tamas, Craig Cathcart, Keith Andrews and Lloyd Dyer. However, having got it so spectacularly wrong last season, it is natural to be a little less optimistic.
It really is impossible to predict so I’ll plump for the halfway house and say that we will finish in the play-offs.