A relegation contender or will Marco Silva work magic? – Watford 2017/18 Season Preview

Watford look likely to be among the Premier League relegation suspects this season, but Marco Silva is an exciting appointment for anyone of a Hornets persuasion.


When we play them: March 17 (home); August 12 (away)

Last season: Won 6-1 (home); Won 1-0 (away)

Watford disposed of Walter Mazzarri and brought in Silva this summer, in the hope that the Portuguese can guide the Hornets well clear of safety.

Although the 40-year-old took Hull City down in 2016/17, it was clear that he is a talented manager with a bright future.

He has acquired some interesting players in the transfer window, with Will Hughes and Nathaniel Chalobah particularly encouraging buys, as Silva looks to promote young English talent.

It is difficult to see Watford being in anything other than a relegation scrap, however, and whether or not they beat the drop will come down to fine margins.

 

Watford

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 15, 2017: Burnley's Andre Gray in action against Everton during the FA Premier League match at Goodison Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Players IN: Daniel Bachmann, Tom Cleverley, Kiko Femenia, Will Hughes, Harvey Bradbury, Sam Howes, Nathaniel Chalobah, Richarlison, Andre Gray.

Players OUT: Ola Adeyemo, Charlie Bannister, Rene Gilmartin, Ogo Obi, Rhyle Ovenden, Mathias Ranegie, Mario Suarez, Steven Berghuis, Juan Carlos Paredes.

Best XI: Gomes, Janmaat, Prodl, Kaboul, Holebas, Doucoure, Chalobah, Richiarlison, Pereyra, Deeney, Gray.

We spoke to Watford supporter Mike Parkin to get the lowdown on the Hornets, and see how well he expects Liverpool to perform in 2017/18.

How optimistic or pessimistic are you for the new season, and why?

I think I’m suffering something of a hangover from last season, which saw Walter Mazzarri preside over an energy-sapping, lacklustre and uninspiring campaign, ending with five straight defeats.

Since then, the dour Italian has been replaced by the ebullient Marco Silva, and a handful of decent-looking signings have arrived at Vicarage Road. There is a definite feeling that the squad remains a work in progress, though.

What are your aims for the season?

After a retrograde season last time around, Watford need to gain some momentum. The first step is to secure safety, but the Hornets’ will hope that it is done with more style and more to spare than last time out.

Hull City manager Marco Silva before the EFL Cup Semi Final, Second Leg match at the KCOM Stadium, Hull. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday January 26, 2017. See PA story SOCCER Hull. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

The football served up during 2016/17 was turgid at best, and while Watford supporters are sensible enough to accept that there should be a limit to their aesthetic expectations, an improvement in entertainment levels isn’t an unrealistic hope.

Getting closer to the middle of the table and a half-decent cup run would do nicely for me.

Anything else that’s new for you this summer?

There has been a slight shift in transfer policy during the off-season, with young, British talent brought in in the shape of Will Hughes and Nathaniel Chalobah.

This has been a welcome change in direction, and more in-keeping with Pozzo family’s recognised way of doing business – buy young, nurture and sell for a profit.

Our new transfer record has also been broken with the signing of Andre Gray.

 

Vicarage Road

A general view of Vicarage Road during the Barclays Premier League match at Vicarage Road, Watford. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday November 21, 2015. See PA story SOCCER Watford. Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.

Capacity: 21,577

Away fans’ pubs: Oddfellows or Moon Under The Water.

One piece of advice for visiting fan: On a practical level, beware of parking in the local residential streets. There are strict parking regulations and they are enforced by a predatory gang of eagle-eyed traffic wardens.

If you are looking for a pre-match beer, don’t be tempted to head into the ground – there is no alcohol served in the away end. No parking and no booze – I bet you’re looking forward to it already!

 

Liverpool

MUNICH, GERMANY - Tuesday, August 1, 2017: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring the second goal with team-mate Sadio Mane during the Audi Cup 2017 match between FC Bayern Munich and Liverpool FC at the Allianz Arena. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

How do you rate Liverpool’s chances heading into the season?

From a neutral point of view it’s tough to judge whether Liverpool supporters are satisfied with Jurgen Klopp or undecided with him.

There certainly seems to be an element of discomfort, with continued speculation on the future of key man Philippe Coutinho adding to the uncertainty.

That said, Liverpool have impressed in pre-season, with Sadio Mane looking to be in frightening form. The other top-six sides have strengthened their squads, barring Tottenham, so it is going to be a fascinating tussle at the top.

I’m afraid I wouldn’t want to put too much of my own money on Liverpool cracking the top four, but if they can settle their various transfer issues swiftly, the Reds will be in with a chance.

I will be watching with interest to see which Liverpool turns up.

Who is the Reds’ key player?

At the risk of stating the obvious, Coutinho is a vital cog in the Liverpool machine and losing him would be a major blow. He’s one of the best players in the Premier League and keeping him, at this stage, would seem to be something of a coup.

I’m also going to surprise absolutely no-one by saying Mane is a heck of a player. On the evidence of pre-season, he is going to give plenty of Premier League defences a torrid time this season.

 

Predictions

WATFORD, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 20, 2015: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson and Watford's captain Troy Deeney during the Premier League match at Vicarage Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

TIA’s Watford Predicted Finish: 19th * Average of the TIA writers predictions.

Where Mike says Watford will finish: 12th

Where Mike says Liverpool will finish: 5th

Read more of our opposition previews, here

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