Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “life is a journey, not a destination.” I feel this fits Watford’s run through the Premier League season, while savoring the moments in our FA Cup run. Along the way, as supporters we never stopped believing in our gaffer, our players…our club.
Watford had an amazing season, when compared to previous years, the Hornets posted their best season, 50 points in the Premier League, on the back of Javi Gracia and his leadership in his first full season. As a supporter I’m, proud of what the club achieved this season, starting off the season with four wins, a big come from behind victory against Spurs, 2-1. It was great days on High Street and at Vicarage Road this season, black and gold, flags and song. Good cheers on the back of a good season.
Looking back on the last 10 weeks of the season, this year was no better then last year for Watford, losing six games, including the last three to finish the season, dropping out of the top half of the league to finish 11th in the table. Wolverhampton got their revenge at the Vic, 2-1. Chelsea dismantled up at Stamford Bridge, 3-0 and our final tune up game ahead of the FA Cup final, the lads played without a tenacity seen earlier in the season, not to get hurt, losing 4-1 to West Ham.
While things were not “golden” to finish the season, we had an eye on the cup final since early April and our extra time, come from behind win over Wolves, 3-2 in the semi-finals. This was one of the high points on the season as a Watford fan. Doing Crystal Palace three times also comes to mind, as does the game week four, come from behind winner from Craig Cathcart, over Spurs, 2-1.
As an American, I’ve never had the opportunity to visit Watford, as Wembley Stadium is a bucket list item for the future. Still the support I show for Watford has been unwavering this season. Heading into last Saturday, after watching Watford FC’s #ImageIf campaign on Twitter kept that flame of hope burning. Realistically, no Premier League team was as good as Manchester City this season, our chances slim.
Big money can buy players, championship but it can’t buy heart, which is something that Watford supporters will always have. Even waiting 35 years to return to Wembley Stadium and the FA Cup Final. We knew the chips were stacked against us, but the fact remains, we were one of two teams out of 736 in the overall competition to be playing in the final game.
As I mentioned in a preview article, as well as on Planet #FPL Live, capitalizing on chances and putting balls on target were key for the Hornets. We had some early chances from Roberto Pereyra and Gerard Deulofeu. On target, but Ederson was determined to keep things clean for City. Had we been able to score, would that have affected the flow of the game? Would it have made a difference after 90 minutes?
At the intermission, down 2-0 I knew there was no coming back, especially against a Pep Guariola side as dominate as this. At no point did Watford stop signing or enjoying the day. While the real heart of the support was at Wembley Stadium, feelings across Twitter were quite the opposite, which frustrated on the day. Many believe Wolves would have given City a better game. That’s debatable, but Nuno and his players were watching, not playing. Watford deserved to be in the finals but there would have been very few teams favored against the sky-blue juggernaut.
Looking ahead to next season, we’ve got a lot to be excited about. There is a great nucleus in our starting XI that will return next season under Gracia. If we need to point to a deficiency in our team, it’s our central defenders. Adrian Mariappa has play 49 games in the last two seasons, the 32-year old will enter the final year of his contract. Craig Cathcart, now 30 has been a mainstay in the starting XI since Watford won promotion in the 2014/15 season.
At one point, it appeared Christian Kabasele could be the central defender we were looking for, playing in 28 games in the 2017/18 season. He started this season well, but a Boxing Day injury saw him sidelined. When he returned to fitness, his play was more a liability, costing us goals. During the summer transfer period, this will be a key position for Gino Pozzo, Scott Duxbury and Javi Gracia.
Our inspirational leader and captain, Troy Deeney isn’t getting any younger, but had one of his best season’s in the Premier League partnering with Gerard Deulofeu. His nine goals were second to Deulofeu on the season, but his presence on the pitch isn’t easy to replace.
Watford will accept bids on Roberto Pereyra and Abdoulaye Doucoure over the summer. There have been rumors of both players leaving the club, Pereyra returning to Italy to play under former boss, Walter Mazzarri at Torino, as Doucoure was linked with PSG in the January transfer window. Doucoure signed a contract through 2023, so Watford are under no pressure to sell. Arsenal have also been rumored to be interested in Doucoure, as Aaron Ramsey departs to Italian champions, Juventus. As we saw with Richarlison last season, if the right price comes, Watford is a business. Having signed Deulofeu for £11.5 million this season, it would not be surprising to see teams come calling for his services.
Too early to say if success breeds success, but Watford should be in a great position to start the 2019/20 Premier League season. Another off season under Gracia and this team will be stronger and ready to compete. Andre Gray said it best after the loss to City, “We’ve just got to take it as one of those things and the gaffer said it, sometimes you’ve got to lose to win and that’s how we need to take it now and just come back next year a lot stronger.”
Just want to have a final word and give thanks to Suj and James for the opportunity to be the Watford correspondent for Planet #FPL. It’s been incredible following the Hornets so close this season, providing articles and opinions on my club and sharing knowledge as it relates to FPL. Thank you to everyone who’s taken time to read any of my articles.