When we play them: Home – November 5th; Away – April 29th
Vicarage Road is gearing up for its second successive Premier League campaign for the first time since the top-flight change in 1992.
The Hornets secured an impressive 13th place finish last season – helped by beating Jurgen Klopp’s side 3-0 at Vicarage Road – with an excellent campaign back on the top stage continuing the rapid progress made under the Pozzo Family’s ownership.
A sign of this forward movement is that the Hornets hierarchy persuaded former Napoli and Inter Milan boss, Walter Mazzarri, to take charge from Quique Sanchez Flores, who parted ways with Watford at the end of last season.
But as has become the norm at Vicarage Road in recent seasons, it’s been another hectic summer of change, leaving few with a genuine idea of what to expect from the Hornets this season.
Hi Scott. Firstly, how are you feeling about the new season and what do you hope Watford can achieve?
Another season with much change, but as a football fan it’s impossible not to start the season optimistic. That said, I’d settle for a season of solid, Premier League consolidation.
How have the Hornets fared in pre-season?
Solid if not spectacular. In truth the level of opposition hasn’t been the highest. We lost against a QPR team fitter than ourselves (a week before their opening league game) and drew against French Ligue 1 side Lorient. The others were largely fitness run-outs.
As has become the norm under the Pozzo’s it’s been another busy summer of comings and goings at Vicarage Road. Are you pleased with the transfer business conducted?
In a word, Yes. Although, we find ourselves in a strange situation as our biggest transfer deals were actually all completed in January with the players joining up this summer. Isaac Success is the one that’s caught the imagination – young, athletic and direct. All qualities we’ve lacked, and a club record fee to boot.
How do you feel about the managerial change – the decision to part ways with Quique Sanchez Flores and the subsequent appointment of Walter Mazzarri?
The managerial merry-go around is expected with the Pozzo’s way of work. A shock to the system every so often keeps everyone on their toes – admittedly not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s given the Pozzo’s years of success so who am I to argue!
From the outside looking in the QSF departure may look knee-jerk, but despite some incredible results (* 3-0 vs Liverpool… *) and Premier League survival all but confirmed after the Christmas break, the downhill second half of the season set a dangerous precedent for the coming season.
Mazzarri remains to be seen. On paper he is a manager of stature and with a track record of success at clubs bigger than ours. However, he seems intent on implementing a very Serie A 3-5-2 system and I think the success of the system (or his willingness to adapt) will be the key decision in his success for the coming season.
Onto matters at Anfield…what are your impressions of Liverpool ahead of the season?
Positive. Klopp seems to have had time to implement his high-pressing game, and that’ll make Liverpool a much improved side this season. The Barcelona friendly result certainly came out of the blue too!
Expectation versus reality will be key for Liverpool though. I think they’ll do very well, but are towards the back of a group of teams who are all much, much improved this season.
When Liverpool play there: April 29th
Away Fans Pub: Oddfellows or Moon Under The Water.
Watford Summer Signings and Departures – 2016/17
Players IN: Juan Camillo Zuniga, from Napoli – Season-long loan; Brice Dja Djedje, from Marseille – £3million; Christian Kabasele, from Genk – £6million; Abdoulaye Doucoure, from Granada – £8million (joins this summer after loan spell away); Isaac Success, from Granada – £12million (club record fee); Jerome Sinclair, from Liverpool – £4million (compensation fee)
Players OUT: Miguel Layun, to Porto – £6million; Jose Manuel Jurado, to Espanyol – £3million; Gabriele Angella, to Udinese – Undisclosed fee; Steven Berghuis, to Feyenoord – Season-long loan; Daniel Pudil, to Sheffield Wednesday – £3million; Almen Abdi, to Sheffield Wednesday – £3million; Joel Ekstrand, released.
Scott’s Best XI (3-5-2): Gomes, Kabasele, Cathcart, Britos; Nyom, Capoue, Doucoure, Watson, Holebas; Deeney, Ighalo
TIA Predicted Finish: 18th