From the moment Watford signed Abdoulaye Doucoure from Rennes in 2016 for a little over £8m right up to the present day, two details have remained true of the French midfielder.
The first is that he is exceptionally good at what he does; one of the very best around in fact. He bosses Premier League centre-circles via a powerhouse physique and with endless stamina he is equally proficient at breaking up moves as starting them. His passing range is varied and always shrewd, as illustrated by a 80.3% pass completion rate this term so far. 2.1 tackles – and to a lesser extent, 1.4 fouls -per game meanwhile reveals his enormous value to a Hornets side that is scrapping it out at the foot of the table.
After returning from a loan spell at Granada, where he was immediately sent upon signing for Watford, Doucoure has routinely been magnificent and never less than highly influential. Two campaigns back he won a clean sweep of individual honours at Watford’s end of season awards. Last season a formidable and balanced midfield partnership with Etienne Capoue continued to impress and was a sizeable reason Watford finished in mid-table while reaching a FA Cup final.
In the summer a reported £32m bid by Everton was batted away by the Hertfordshire club and who can blame them for doing so. Abdoulaye Doucoure is immense.
The second trope that follows the 27-year-old around is related to this truth but is altogether more abstract. It is that everybody accepts he is immense; it’s just that no-one really talks about it.
Quite why any fuss made about the former French under 21 international is kept to an absolute minimum remains a mystery. Granted, Watford do not garner the same attention as many of their Premier League peers but with the English top flight holding such fascination that every tiny aspect of it is widely discussed, it is strange to find Doucoure’s brilliance emitting little more than a collective shrug.
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Perhaps his new role, furnished by incoming manager Nigel Pearson, might change that however, with a push further forward already leading to two goals and one assist. It is worth noting too that the only other occasion this term that Doucoure has been employed in an attacking midfield role was against Spurs back in October. The player scored then too.
Goals will always get a player noticed and with the freedom to advance at will the former cross-country champion is increasingly playing a pivotal part in the Hornets’ resurgence, while his attacking aptitude should perhaps not come as a huge surprise given he was his club’s leading scorer in 2017/18.
The positional switch to this point is working like a charm and that is arguably due to Watford possessing a rare player in the Frenchman: a goalscoring number 8 with all the attributes of a committed central midfielder. That alone should be enough to get people talking. At long last.