Football

Watford could be the Premier League's surprise package this season

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Football, more so than any other industry, is crammed full of tiresome clichés and adages. Among those most commonly cited include that managerial stability is key to success - certainly that’s what supporters of Arsène Wenger would have us believe.

Yet Watford, under the ownership of the Pozzo family, firmly displaced this myth last season with the remarkable feat of gaining promotion to the Premier League under the guidance of four different managers in the shape of Peppe Sannino, Oscar Garcia, Billy McKinlay and lastly Slavisa Jokanovic.

Such an achievement was testament to the unique leadership the Pozzo family have brought to the club since buying it at the close of the 2011/12 season and illustrates that Watford are certainly not to be written off as relegation certainties this year.

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The Pozzo family arrived in Watford in the summer of 2012 with good pedigree, having owned the Italian club Udinese since July 1986 and in that time seen the club reach as high as 3rd in Serie A in the 1997/98 season despite a series of match-fixing allegations in the preceding years.

Such success was based on an extensive scouting network which led to the emergence of such international players as Alexis Sanchez, Kwadwo Asamoah and Samir Handanovic at the club and the subsequent sale on for far greater sums of money. The later purchase of Granada CF in 2009 has only aided the growth of this network.

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Given this backdrop, perhaps the relative success of the Pozzo family at Watford in recent years should come as no surprise.

However, the work of the Pozzo family has not been to everyone’s liking. The new owners were quick to replace the popular manager and former player Sean Dyche immediately after their purchase of the club and dismantle the British core of the team, bringing in 10 players in on loan from Udinese alone.

Ian Holloway, manager of Crystal Palace at the time, was among those to criticise this international loan policy, branding it “ludicrous” after a 2-2 at Vicarage Road.

Fightback

Regardless, it proved effective, with the club finishing that season in 3rd place with 77 points and ironically only denied promotion by virtue of Holloway’s team after a 1-0 defeat at Wembley in the play-off final. The Football League acted swiftly to quell any potential repeat of Watford’s success with the amendment of the rules of foreign loans.

Despite all this, the foundations appeared to have been laid for future success; and so it proved with Watford’s promotion to the top tier last season in 2nd place, amidst all the aforementioned instability surrounding the club.

So what of Watford’s prospects for this season? The scouting network of the Pozzo’s appears to have again paid dividends, with the purchase of no less than 16 senior signings.

The captures of Etienne Capoue and Valon Behrami appear to be the most eye-catching with the pair both offering Premier League experience having made a combined total of 82 league appearances with Tottenham and West Ham respectively.

Capoue was highly rated in France prior to his move to Tottenham, having been nominated for Ligue 1’s young player of the season award in 2013 and capped seven times for the French national side,whilst Behrami was once famously dubbed 'the Swiss David Beckham'. The pair should provide a solid shield in front of the back four.

Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo have the potential in time to compliment this solidity with goals, having notched an impressive 41 league goals between them en route to promotion last season.

In typical Watford fashion, there is a new man at the helm in the shape of Quique Sanchez Flores, who, despite a lack of Premier League experience, boasts an impressive CV having led Atletico Madrid to the UEFA Europa League in the 2009-10 season.

Clearly there is concern about the ability of such a multi-national group of players to gel and thrive in the most competitive of leagues. The Hornets have though made a solid, albeit unspectacular, start the live in the Premier League in the shape of three draws from three, including a tricky away trip to Goodison Park. And after all, given the recent history of the club under the Pozzo’s, who am I to say they can’t reproduce their success of the last couple of years on the biggest stage of all?

Can Watford stay up this season?

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Topics:
Football
Premier League
Watford

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