Our series on the newly promoted Premier League sides continues with a look at Watford’s midfielders and forwards.
We have already assessed the Hornets’ defence, with focus now moving to some of their key Fantasy Premier League (FPL) players who operate higher up the pitch.
WHAT IS WATFORD’S GOALSCORING POTENTIAL?
Watford return to the Premier League as the Championship runners-up but could boast only the sixth-best attacking record in the second tier of English football, having scored a modest 63 goals in their 46 league fixtures.
Brentford (79), Norwich City (75), Bournemouth (73), Cardiff City (66) and Blackburn Rovers (65) all found the back of the net more often than the Hornets last season and their success was largely built on a solid defence that conceded just 30 goals, a record-equalling total in the Championship as we know it now.
Given that they were rarely free-scoring and created the ninth-fewest chances across the division, Watford’s attacking potential does seem somewhat limited.
Another consideration is that nearly one in six of their goals arrived from the penalty spot: across the campaign they converted 10 spot-kicks, more than any other side.
WATFORD’S CHAMPIONSHIP TOP GOALSCORERS 2020/21:
However, despite some underwhelming attacking numbers, Watford do start with an appealing run and sit top of our Season Ticker for ease of fixture in Gameweeks 1-7:
It’s also worth bearing in mind that Xisco did up the goal output upon his appointment, with predecessor Vladimir Ivic chiefly culpable for the shortage:
|Games||Goals||Goals per game|
|Watford under Ivic||20||23||1.15|
|Watford under Xisco||26||40||1.54|
Had Watford scored at that rate across the whole of 2020/21, they would have hit around 71 goals – that’s still short of what Brentford and Norwich managed.
From February onwards, the new manager set the Hornets up in a balanced 4-3-3 formation, with the aim of getting their wingers on the ball as often as possible.
As a result, the wide areas are where most of their attacking threat stems from, which is where our assessment of Watford’s midfielders and forwards begins.
Ismaila Sarr (£6.0m) is the most expensive Watford player listed in FPL, and for good reason.
The Hornets’ Player of the Season finished as the club’s top scorer last year with 13 goals, and also provided four assists.
He racked up 86 goal attempts and 57 shots in the box, more than any other team-mate, and ranked second for key passes (42).
Playing on the right of Muñoz’s 4-3-3, Sarr looks like the go-to pick for FPL managers next season, should Watford prove to be more of an attacking force than they were in the Championship.
On the other flank, Swedish winger Ken Sema (£5.5m) also established himself as a regular and impressed. He combined five goals with five assists, and was the Hornets’ top creator with 51 key passes.
Outside of the wingers, there isn’t too much to get excited about from a Fantasy perspective, but Tom Cleverley (£5.0m) led by example in the engine room and will be pushing for a starting place again, while Will Hughes (£5.0m) played more of a deep-lying midfield role at the base of Watford’s midfield three:
Above: Will Hughes’ touch heatmap 2020/21, via Sofa Score
However, his future is still uncertain as negotiations have stalled over a new contract, with defensive midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah (£5.0m) in a similar position.
Other options include Philip Zinckernagel (£5.5m), who will aim to build on a good second half of the season and could offer value if he can establish himself in the starting XI.
Domingos Quina (£4.5m) and Dan Gosling (£5.0m) will need others to leave before being handed first-team spots, and may move on loan, which also applies to youngsters Kwadwo Baah (£4.5m), Ayotomiwa Dele-Bashiru (£4.5m) and Joseph Hungbo (£4.5m)
Of the new signings, Oghenekaro Peter Etebo (£4.5m) has arrived on loan from Stoke City and will compete for a defensive midfield role, while Imrân Louza (£5.5m) is a box-to-box midfielder who scored seven goals in 35 appearances last season at Nantes. He has played six times for the France under-21 side, which suggests there is plenty of potential, but of course will need time to adjust to Premier League football.
Up front, the expectation is that Joshua King (£5.5m) will compete with Troy Deeney (£5.5m) for the no. 9 role.
The last 12 months have not gone to plan for King as he had limited opportunities to impress at Everton, but he is an experienced striker who likes to run in behind and could be a useful FPL asset if he gets enough minutes; they’re aren’t many other viable forward options in the £5.5m-and-under price rung.
Club captain Deeney has scored 19 goals across his last two Premier League campaigns, and chipped in with seven despite injuries last season. He is also on penalties, but given his advancing years, it seems unlikely that he will be a week-in, week-out starter.
João Pedro (£5.5m) produced nine goals and two assists last term and is highly thought of, and like new signing Emmanuel Dennis (£5.0m), can play both centrally or in a wide position. The latter has featured in both the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League for Club Brugge, though it’s difficult to see exactly where he fits in given how many options Watford have in the forward department.
One interesting thing to note on the spot-kick front under Xisco: in the games when Deeney wasn’t on the pitch, the two players who won penalties – Pedro being one, Sarr the other – ended up taking them.
New signing Ashley Fletcher (£5.0m) has been brought in as a back-up option, which moves Andre Gray (£5.5m), Isaac Success (£5.0m) and Stipe Perica (£4.5m) further down the pecking order, and there is a distinct possibility they will all leave the club in the coming weeks.
Cucho Hernández (£5.0m), 22, is training with the first-team, and another youngster Adedapo Awokoya-Mebude (£4.5m), who signed as a free agent after leaving new Scottish champions Rangers, is likely to go out on loan.
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