What next for Watford?

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There are two things that are certain for Watford and their fans – they will be playing Premier League football next season and they have reached the FA Cup final.

The Hornets have had an interesting season, in a similar way to Wolverhampton Wanderers, but without a football agent helping them sign top talent.

After sacking Marco Silva six months into his reign as manager, they replaced the highly-rated Portuguese with former Real Sociedad and Villarreal defensive midfielder Javi Gracia. Although he failed to impress in the early stages of his tenure, he has turned Watford into a realistic underdog in both challenging for a Europa League place via the Betfair English Premier League, which they have ultimately failed to do, and for their upcoming FA Cup final, where they take on the mighty Manchester City. But once the season comes to an end, what will be next for Watford?

Miguel Britos
Watford playing against Newcastle

Keeping the squad together

Although managers like to impose their own ideas and make changes to squad, most will acknowledge that making too many changes too soon can disrupt the dressing room and play havoc the following season.

Gracia has a good core squad, with players like Will Hughes, Roberto Pereyra and Abdoulaye Doucoure keeping the centre of midfield ticking and Gerard Deulofeu, Andre Gray and Troy Deeney providing the fire power up front. A healthy mix of youth and experience has proved a success this season, and Gracia should be highly praised for getting the best out of former Barcelona player Deulofeu, as the Spaniard has shone in recent weeks.

Experienced goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes is retiring at the end of the season, leaving Ben Foster as the only senior goalkeeper at the Hornets’ disposal. Foster has played the majority of the Premier League games this season, and Gracia should at least keep him for next season. Gomes has taken over for the cup games and it’ll be interesting to see who Gracia picks for the FA Cup final at Wembley.

Areas to improve

While the manager will want to keep the majority of the squad together, he will no doubt be aware that you cannot rest on your laurels, and when the transfer market re-opens, he will need to act quickly.

With Gomes retiring this summer, and especially with Foster being 36 years old, a goalkeeper will be a huge necessity for next season. Realistically, a player like David Ospina could provide the quality they need, while not being too expensive. The Colombian shot stopper is currently on loan at Napoli from Arsenal. The deal contained a clause saying that Napoli will have to sign him permanently if he plays a specific number of games, and Napoli’s apparent reluctance to play him now could result in Arsenal making him available this summer.

Troy Deeney and Andre Gray have provided reasonable fire power up front for Watford, but a striker should be on the list for the club. Deeney turns 31 this summer and Gray has hardly been prolific, meaning that if Watford are to take the next step in the 2019/20 season, a new striker will be required.

Young English striker Tammy Abraham is a realistic option should Watford want to continue to use English strikers. He’s impressed on loan at Aston Villa, scoring 25 goals in 37 appearances so far. He has some Premier League experience, having played on loan at Swansea, scoring five goals in 31 Premier League games.

If Watford are willing to look beyond England, then Kevin Volland of Bayer Leverkusen could be worth a try. The German has 12 goals in 29 Bundesliga appearances this season and with Leverkusen sitting in seventh in the table, he may look for a new challenge should Leverkusen fail to secure European football for next season. They are currently five points off a place in next season’s Champions League, but only two points off a Europa League place.