Quique Sanchez Flores: Comparing the Current Watford Squad to the One the Spanish Manager Left

If it was a little surprising to see Quique Sanchez Flores depart Vicarage Road in the summer of 2016, his return to the Watford hot seat ​was equally unexpected. 

Although the old saying rightly tells us that ‘if you love something, let it go. If it comes back, it is yours forever’. Or at least until the hierarchy decides it’s time for another managerial reshuffle.

Watford welcome Arsenal for Quique’s second debut this weekend, but how much has the squad changed since he last took charge in a ​2-2 stalemate against Sunderland?


Goalkeepers

Ben Foster

The situation between the sticks is remarkably similar to the Spaniard’s last spell in charge. There’s a safe pair of hands for him to turn to, but those hands aren’t getting any younger!

Heurelho Gomes was the club’s number one during the 2015/16 campaign and, after signing a surprising one-year extension in the summer, he’s resumed his more recent role as Watford’s second choice. The issue is that the Brazilian was 35 when Quique departed and 38 today.

His replacement has been Ben Foster, who put in a number of standout performances as a 2018/19 ever-present for the ​Hornets. The former England international has showed no signs of slowing down but at 36 there’s only so long he can go on for.

Is 20 year old goalkeeper Pontus Dahlberg the answer? Will Quique even be around long enough to find out?


Defence

Miguel Almiron,Craig Cathcart

The final defence under Quique comprised of Craig Cathcart and Sebastian Prodl (still at the club) alongside Miguel Britos and Nathan Ake. Javi Gracia had preferred to pair Cathcart with summer signing Craig Dawson this season, but perhaps his successor will consider getting the old band back together.

Juan Carlos Paredes replaced Cathcart at half time that day, while Allan Nyom was an unused substitute. It is easy to argue that there are better full backs at Flores’ disposal this time around, with Daryl Janmaat and Kiko Femenia down the right and Jose Holebas on the left.

Versatile club stalwart Adrian Mariappa is also an option, as is the Belgian Christian Kabasele. 


Midfield

Manuel Lanzini,Etienne Capoue

Arguably the area of ​Watford’s squad​ that has undergone the most significant change, there has not been a single midfield survivor from that game against Sunderland. Etienne Capoue was absent that day but will at least be one familiar face for Quique.

Other than that, it’s a clean slate. If there’s not wholesale changes for the Arsenal game, it’s likely that Flores will select Will Hughes and Abdoulaye Doucoure – who have featured in the opening four fixtures.

Roberto Pereyra and Tom Cleverley have featured in three each, while exciting youngster Domingos Quina might be hopeful of more game time under a new manager.


Attack

Troy Deeney,Seamus Coleman

The prolific partnership of Odion Ighalo and ​Troy Deeney essentially carried an otherwise misfiring Watford squad in 2015/16.

​The pair helped themselves to 28 Premier League goals between them that season, while the ​next highest-scoring Hornets were Almen Abdi and Prodl with two apiece. 

This might be the biggest dilemma for Flores, whose current striking options have contributed a solitary goal in 2019/20.

Andre Gray

Andre Gray laid claim to that goal in the home defeat to West Ham, while Gerard Deulofeu has failed to hit the back of the net in the same appearances. Deeney, Danny Welbeck and Isaac Success have neither done well or been successful, with zero goals in their two respective appearances.

A lot might depend on whether Deeney can get back among the goals under the manager that helped him reach his highest Premier League goal return of 13.

It might have felt like a doom and gloom season so far, but in reality it’s only been four games so Watford are by no means cut adrift. 

In Flores they have a manager that comfortably led to the club to safety in their first season back at English football’s top table and took them to an FA Cup semi final along the way. In that run to Wembley they toppled the ​Gunners at the Emirates, if he can match that result this weekend then the feel-good factor could return sooner than fans might think.


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