Watford and their new manager, Martin O’Neill are set to kick of their season with a capital one cup first round fixture versus league 2 side, Northampton Town. On paper this should be an easy victory for The Hornets, who would definitely love a cup run.
The North London side concluded their pre-season a few days ago, with a defeat at Vicarage road to Estudiantes, the score was 4-2. However, the Northern Irish manager would have been fairly delighted with the quality of football his side played throughout the pre-season.
For many managers, especially those who manage in the championship and lower, results are not the main concern when it comes to pre-season fixtures. The main concern is for the managers to be able to assess various players, decide who they like, who they send out on loan and who they get rid of for good.
On the other hand, managers usually use pre-season to test out new tactics and if you’re a new to your squad, just like Martin O’Neill, to get to know your players a little better. We actually spoke to Martin O’Neill about what he thought of his sides pre-season and he was all but negative:
“ I’ve enjoyed this pre-season if I’m quite frank with you. We’ve played some excellent football, premier league quality actually but I guess it’s only pre-season. Despite losing twice, on one occasion to a league 2 side I’m very happy and impressed. We’re all raring to go and can’t wait for the game vs Northampton Town. ”
Very positive words from O’Neill, something the soldiers of the Yellow Army will be pleased about. However, that wasn’t all he had to say about his side. When asked what he thought about the performances of Yaya Sanogo and Albrighton during the pre-season he heaped praise onto the two of them:
“ Oh they’ve been brilliant, the two of them. We just call him Yaya here *laughs*. He being the striker has scored more goals, I think he got four in total. Marc has put in some very good performances in the midfield. I’ve known him for a young lad, from the time he was still in the youth academy, a very nice and humble lad that all managers would love to work with.”
Lastly, but certainly not least, we asked if O’Neill was planning to still strengthen the squad or if he was happy with it already:
“ The squad’s pretty strong already actually, but I still think it needs a bit more depth. We will be looking to bring in a few more players, mainly on loan. Not only do we want to just add more depth but quality to. Once we get a good mix of the two, we’re ready to go alongside with youth and experience. ”
It seems like Watford are ready to go ahead of the upcoming season, will this be the season Watford gain promotion, or will they fall short once again?
Here are the fixtures and results of Watford’s pre-season:
Today, Martin O'Neill himself confirmed in a press conference that Watford have broken their transfer record to sign Moroccan youngster Abdel Barrada from Al Jazira for a fee of 4.1 million. The previous record was 3.3 million for Nathan Ellington from West Brom a couple of years ago. Watford fans will be delighted that O'Neill managed to attract a player of his capability to Vicarage Road.
This deal in particular is very interesting, in fact something you would see in a video game as Barrada only just joined Al Jazira in this current transfer market, so why the Abu Dhabi team allowed him to leave, nobody knows, maybe they just couldn't turn down such a high fee, according to their standards.
In previous years, the 23 year old has played for teams such as Getafe, Getafe B and US Sénart -Moissy. He was at PSG for three good year but failed to make one senior appearance during his time in Paris. Here's what O'Neill had to say about the signing of Barrada:
" I can confirm that we have signed Abdel Barrada from Al Jazira for a fee around 4 million. Many of you may be wondering where that came from. We asked Al Jazira to keep it confidential. This is English football, bigger clubs could have hijacked the deal, however, they would have had to pay a lot more. We're happy that he is now a Watford player."
Along with that transfer deal, Watford have brought in Nick Powell and Guillermo Varela have been signed on loan from Manchester United. The deal will see the two players spend the rest of the season at Vicarage Road. O'Neill didn't confirm this himself, however club officials confirmed it on the clubs website saying:
"We can announce the signings of Nick Powell and Guillermo Varela on season long loan deals, both players have been signed from Manchester United."
Its very unlikely for Watford to add any players to their squad, especially now that they've added 5 players in total. The Hornets defeated Northampton Town 3-0 to advance to the second round of the Capital One Cup where they will face Norwich City. Meanwhile, they kick off their league campaign with a home fixture vs Nottingham Forrest.
Experienced goalkepper, Manuel Almunia, has tried to motivate his teammates by publicly stating that this year would be "Watford's year". As we all know, last year Watford narrowly missed out on promotion, following a 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace at Wembley stadium. Almunia will remember it like it was yesterday as he failed to save Kevin Phillips penalty.
In the whole Watford squad, Almunia is definitely the most experienced, having played for Arsenal, West Ham, Celta, Osasuna and many more teams. The Spaniard, who is eligible for England, is most remembered for his playing time at Arsenal. The Arsenal fans always had mixed feelings about Almunia being the first team goalkeeper, but he has certainly proved why he should at Watford.
In an interview with Watford TV, Almunia talk about many things, firstly what he thought about Watford's chances of promotion this season:
"We have a very good chance of promotion this year. A very good chance. Last year we missed narrowly and it hurt everyone at the club. All our hard work came to nothing. This year, that cannot happen. We are ready, we have a new manager a very experienced manager too. He has brought in some very good players and we want to succeed, I believe this our season."
Next, Almunia was asked what he thought about the new signings that have been brought into the team by Martin O'Neill, the keeper admitted how he impressed he was with them saying:
" I'm very happy, happy with the players he has gotten. All have been impressive in training, Yaya and Marc did very well in pre-season. Hopefully at the end of the season, those who were signed on loan will sign on a permanent basis. That would be nice. Last season, many of the players that came on loan left, this year I would like to see that change. Many of them are young, they are bound to improve as time goes on. "
Finally, Almunia was asked about his thoughts on new manager Martin O'Neill and what its been like so far in training with him and throughout the pre-season:
" He is a great man. Very experienced. To be honest I wasn't too sure why he was sacked by Sunderland but I'm glad he's here at Watford now. Hopefully his experience can benefit all of us here at the club."
O'Neill is obviously aware of the former Arsenal keeper's experience as he as appointed him as his vice captain for the season, while Fitz Hall has been appointed captain once again. Watford won their first league game 3-0 against Nottm Forrest. Daniel Pudil (15), Marc Albrighton (72) and Forestieri (82) picked up the goals. Albrighton getting a goal on his debut. Sanogo and Barrada did not feature in this game due to injuries they picked up in training.