Newly promoted Watford have enjoyed a new lease of life under somewhat unknown manager Quique Flores.
The Spaniard has had a turbulent managerial career, taking the reins at Getafe, Valencia, Benfica, Atletico Madrid, Al Ahli, Al Ain and Getafe (again), all within the space of twelve years.
But it seems to be at Watford where he has settled, guiding previous relegation favourites to ninth in the Premier League, and now a side who are 7/4 on to remain in the top ten at the end of the season – some feat.
But how has he succeeded?
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Few will be surprised when I say the form of Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney has a lot to do with it. The Hornets have been as high as 7th in the table already this season and their pacey, strong and ultimately goal-scoring style has seen them impress many as they have gone.
Unfortunately for Flores, with impressive play comes the transfer rumours to boot. Both Ighalo and Deeney have been on fire this season and have been a handful for most opposition they have faced.
Ighalo finished as the highest scorer across the four English leagues, no mean feat for a player that was linked with a move to the Middle East in the summer.
But following his good form, Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal are thought to be sniffing around and, according to reports, could be set to make a January swoop for the Nigerian.
Despite transfer rumours, Flores has stood his ground, dismissing any potential reports of a bid as ‘impossible’.
Let’s be honest, without either Ighalo or Deeney, Watford aren’t the same side. Their slightly unorthodox use of the old fashioned 4-4-2 is to be desired, especially at this level. Whilst most teams prefer using wingers with a ‘centre-attacking-midfielder’ playing behind the striker, Watford have found success using the good ol’ fashioned way.
By playing two upfront it gives them the depth to push forward as a unit, supporting their two strikers from both the wings and the middle of the pitch. It’s a formation that has widely diminished in recent years, but it’s good to see the newly promoted side playing it, and playing it to such good effect.
And Watford’s league placing shows it’s working. The Hornets sit 12th in the Premier League, and could climb up to 8th with a victory over Swansea on Monday night.
But what about Deeney? Time and time again the Birmingham-born striker has proved that he can get goals at the highest level of English football. And he hasn’t been without transfer speculation, with some even suggesting a transfer to a Premier League rival could be in the offing this transfer window.
But Watford must resist. These two strikers are key to keeping their Premier League relegation worries at bay. Yes the time for big transfers might come, but it can’t be now.
Flores must try to keep hold of his two biggest assets and motivate them to see staying at Vicarage Road is best for now, at least.