When Gerard Deulofeu was linked with Watford on a loan deal, there was a renewed excitement, as the Spaniard was returning to the Premier League. He spent two and a half seasons at Everton, playing on the right flank, posting a season best three goals in 2013/14, followed by nine assists, a year later. In 2017, Everton loaned Deulofeu to AC Milan in Serie A, upon the end of the loan, Everton sold him to FC Barcelona for £10.80 million. Unfortunately, returning to his native Spain, he did not flourish as expected. In a combined 20 games, Deulofeu registered just three goals and three assists, but was unable to crack the starting XI at Barca.
At the end of January 2018, Barcelona loaned Deulofeu to Watford, as he returned to the Premier League. Tipped as a player capable of being one of the world’s best, coming up through the Camp Nou, his transfer to Watford immediately improved the offensive prowess of the Hornets. “Now I just want to play regularly. I want to play a lot of games in one season, scoring goals and helping the team, and I believe that’s what I can find here in Watford,” said Deulofeu.
It took just two games to show why Watford wanted the wide man, against Chelsea, he netted his first goal and assist in a 4-1 loss. Three weeks later, Watford would lose him to injury, as he fractured his foot. Upon his return two month later, he finished out the year, but rumors were management were looking to secure his services on a permanent basis.
At the start of July, Deulofeu joined Watford for £11.70 million. After sustaining an injury in the preseason, Deulofeu missed the start of the 2018/19 Premier League season. Watford got off to a tremendous start, as Deulofeu rejoined the team in early October, making a 16-minute cameo appearance in a 4-0 loss at home to Bournemouth.
Since Gracia’s been in charge, Deulofeu has been partnering with captain, Troy Deeney up front as a forward. His play, since returning from injury has been outstanding. Dynamic, excellent ball control skills and his speed complements Deeney’s power up top. The big knock against Deulofeu this season has been his finishing. With 85 penalty touches this season, Deulofeu has 34 goal attempts, 24 from inside the box but a disappointing 10 shot on target. He’s scored four out of 10 big chances that have been presented to him.
At Cardiff City, he picked up his first hat trick, making good of three of his four shots he attempted. His speed was key in two of his three goals, as Etienne Capoue played two well weight balls that Deulofeu ran onto, going past the Bluebirds defense. With 6 goals on the season, doubling his season total this last weekend, is he viable going forward as an FPL asset?
At £5.5 I feel he’s too expensive to keep on the bench, but looking ahead, Watford’s FDR is last in the Premier League through game week 34. The Hornets blank in game week 31, but face Liverpool, Man City, Man United and Arsenal over the next seven weeks. The only viable fixtures, a home game against Leicester City in game week 29 and a home fixture in game week 33 against Fulham.
Like many Watford assets, they are collective good as a Premier League team, but individually, I can’t recommend any of them as the business end of the season approaches. While I touted Deulofeu earlier in the season, I was never able to transfer him in, as he was a bit price restrictive for a fifth midfielder, instead I selected Will Hughes, a transfer that never did pan out this season.
Watford Review: GW27 at Cardiff City
As a supporter it’s one of those games you like to relish in, as Watford dismantled Cardiff City, 5-1. The only negative, giving up a late, consolation goal to Sol Bamba in the 82’. However, it was a game to remember for the duo of Gerard Deulofeu and captain, Troy Deeney, as they combined for all five goals, including two assists.
While the final score isn’t the only indication on how the game developed. Watford has struggled in the final third of the pitch for much of the year. That said, they have been playing a very consistent and positive brand of football under Javi Gracia, a far cry from what we saw last year before he came aboard.
Deulofeu was one of those players, who had struggled inside the opposition 18-yard box. As cited above, just 10 shots on target in near 90 penalty touches! To see Deulofeu slot home the third goal has given the Spaniard confidence as the Hornets face a tough business end to the Premier League season. This is the sort of finishing we need to see in the upcoming run.
Picking up all three points, Watford is now on 40 points for the season, good for 7th in the league table, ahead of Wolves on goal difference. Last year, this would have meant players “going to the beach,” having secured Premier League play for next season. Goalkeeper, Ben Foster believes there will be no backing down for the Hornets.
“There’s a lot of teams that get into our position, pull the handbrake up, and think about the beach already,” Ben Foster said. “But there’s absolutely no chance of these players wanting to do that. “They’re so hungry for wanting to do more. One of the big drives from the start of the season was not just surviving and doing the minimum.
While knocking off Cardiff City, Watford enter a very tough schedule that sees them play four of the top six teams over the next seven weeks. Watford want more, as they look ahead the remainder of the Premier League season, as well as quarterfinal action in the FA Cup. “I’m happy with my players, with the way they are playing. We are competing in all the games with this mentality and with this ambition and we can achieve something different this season,” said Gracia after the game.
Watford Preview: GW28 at Liverpool
Watford travel to Anfield midweek to take on league leaders, Liverpool. In the reverse fixture, late November at Vicarge Road, it was a 3-0 loss. Going back to last season, Watford need to be wary of Egyptian winger, Mo Salah, as he picked up four goals last March, in a 5-0 win at Anfield.
Playing consistent and controlling the midfield will be key for the Hornets, as it’s been much of the season. Etienne Capoue and Abdoulaye Doucoure will have their work cut out for them, containing the high-powered offense under Jurgen Klopp. Watford will be without left back, Jose Holebas, serving his second game, suspended for yellow card accumulation.
With confidence high, Watford will need to play flawless to remain in the game. The partnership up top will be important to build up the attacking play or attempt to released Deulofeu behind a very strong defensive unit, anchored by Virgil van Dijk and Andrew Robertson.
Realistically, I want the Hornets to put in a good showing. I have no doubt Liverpool will return to make a statement after their 0-0 draw at Old Trafford last weekend. The Reds are now a single point ahead of Man City for the title chance, as they must continue to win to keep a grasp on their potential championship season.