Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores faces uncertain future in the crazy modern game

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The headline says it all. Premier League minnows Watford have looked anything but a struggling newly promoted side this season. Ask any Hornets fan what their expectations were during their first season back in the top-flight and a general pattern will emerge - avoid relegation.

Unfortunately, owners in the modern game are becoming increasingly demanding. One such family of board members is the Pozzo's, owners of Watford, Spanish side Granada and Udinese of Serie A.

Now it goes without saying that since their 2012 takeover, the Pozzo's have been of huge benefit to Watford FC, with their unique transfer policy and tendency to hire new managers.


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In the first year under their guidance, Gianfranco Zola took the group of players, including ten Udinese loanees to the play-off final. Loan striker Matej Vydra finished as top scorer as Wembley bogey-side Crystal Palace won the final, and other managers and the media were rightly unhappy with this so-called 'ludicrous' transfer policy.

The second year of Italian ownership was one to forget for Watford. After signing many of the loanees on a free transfer after the loophole became shut, the Hornets managed a dismal 13th placed finish.

2014/15 was the kickstart of the owners' lofty ambitions, with four managers being utilised, including Billy McKinlay, who was generously given eight days before being removed from his position. 

As the club started their own managerial merry-go-round, Slavisa Jokanovic was the man to eventually take Watford over the line, playing some slick attacking football to gain promotion from an extremely competitive Championship.

After reported wage disputes, Jokanovic was shown the door as Spaniard Quique Sanchez Flores replaced him and hit the ground running straight away. A three game unbeaten run in August provided the platform that Watford needed to finish in 7th place on Christmas Day, with their four game winning streak in December a highlight of the season. 

The form of strikers Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo have been mirrored by excellent performances from the likes of Tottenham Hotspur misfit Etienne Capoue, defender Craig Cathcart and Chelsea loanee Nathan Ake. This exceptional start meant that there have been no worries whatsoever of a relegation battle for the Premier League new boys.

Plenty of the new players have had their first taste of English football, such as winger Jose Jurado signed from Spartak Moscow, and Napoli import Miguel Britos. An incredible 20 new players have been brought in since the summer of 2015, but on the pitch they look like a side that have been playing together for years.

Huge credit must go to the manager for leading such a well-drilled side to a very respectable league finish, and an FA Cup semi-final in his first Premier League season.

If you had to describe an unconventional approach to owning a football club that was destined to fail, it would probably go along the lines of the following: Signing many foreign players at once who have limited or no experience of the league, before employing a foreigner with zero experience of the league to take over as the fifth manager in under 12 months. 

Plenty of owners have paid the price for these types of gambles, notably Leeds United who have, if anything, gone backwards since eccentric Italian Massimo Cellino took over. Yet for the Italians who gained control of Watford, everything has seemed to run smoothly at Vicarage Road.

This unconventional approach to the top flight can also be seen in the way in which players switch between the three Pozzo-owned clubs with such regularity. Allan Nyom and Odion Ighalo have all ended up at Watford after being employed under the Pozzo's elsewhere. Miguel Layun and full-back Juan Carlos Paredes both technically signed for the Hertfordshire outfit from Granada, though they had never even made their debuts for the Spanish side.

Yet somehow, for all the calmness that Quique Sanchez Flores has brought to the club, he faces an uncertain future.

All sorts of rumours began after the Spaniard had been called into board meetings for an 'end-of-season review', with reports of other managers being lined up to replace him.

The Pozzo's have had good fortune so far with their approach to removing managers, even the ones who have performed well, but there are no guarantees their luck will remain.

If Sanchez Flores is allowed to build on his squad for next year, fans can look forward to a potential top-half finish, and who knows, maybe even more success than that. Alternatively, Sanchez Flores could get the sack, players could easily leave given the current transfer policy, and you are left with a club trying to rebuild from scratch. 

It doesn't seem like a sustainable method, and you would be forgiven for scratching your head at how this approach would emulate Sanchez Flores' remarkable achievements in 2015/16.

Are the Watford owners made to think about replacing Quique Sanchez Flores? Have YOUR say in the comment section below!

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Troy Deeney
Premier League
Manchester United
Heurelho Gomes

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