Written by David Robinson
Last week a fellow Watford fan had their say on who they thought were the best set of eleven players to player under the club since the Pozzo family took over at Vicarage Road. With constant change frequently occurring throughout the summer months in the build up to each season, we as supporters have become accustomed to plenty of new signings, ones that have flourished but many that naturally haven’t worked out. This got me thinking about my best XI. My selections are not necessarily the ‘best’ signings that have played at the club as I’m sure many agree, that will consist of a lot of the current players but instead my team represents the ‘best’ side under the Pozzo family who have made great contributions towards building the Hornets to where they are today. So with the league status and current situation at the time in mind, here is my Best Watford XI under the Pozzo era…
Goalkeeper – Heurelho Gomes
Manuel Almunia has to be considered unfortunate to miss out particularly when considering his iconic double penalty save in the play-offs but Gomes has been a revelation since joining in 2014. His reputation developed previously at Spurs would’ve put doubts into the minds of supporters but he hasn’t half crushed those with a player of the season accolade collected last season. He has saved the club a lot of points and his passion for the club and the community alike means he is a real fans favourite. It’s a pleasure to have Gomes at Watford in my opinion.
credit Paul Dawson
Right Back – Hector Bellerin
Just eight appearances during a loan spell from Arsenal means it’s possibly an odd selection. But during a time of real misery for the club in which Watford continued to disappoint in the Championship particularly woefully at home, it was clear to see they had been part of one of the best right back’s in the countries development. Deputising in a 3-0 loss to Yeovil summed up the current situation, Bellerin had incredible composure and class that was lacking with far more experienced players at the time. Bearing in mind he was just 17 when he appeared, you just have to look at what has he achieved so far at Arsenal to acknowledge what a player we had loaned. Bizarrely we didn’t even make the most of his capabilities as he wasn’t a regular before his loan ended but I thought Bellerin was great to watch in a difficult time.
Centre Back – Fitz Hall
A massive shame that Hall was constantly injured during three spells with the club. He was for me, the best defender we had in the Championship during the seasons under Zola where the defending was uneasy at times to say the least. His presence was clear to see and he might have been the singular difference between an earlier promotion under the Pozzo’s should he have stayed fit throughout.
Centre Back – Craig Cathcart
I’m a big Craig Cathcart fan and while he does have the odd mistake in him, he’s been a fantastic addition on a free transfer. A massive part of the promotion season and success of last, his consistency and dependability is key. A player that really cares about defending first and foremost, he has also provided Watford fans with some top quality goals to shout about, most noticeably the winner against Birmingham late on in the promotion season. Since then he’s put ‘top quality’ strikers in his pocket and been a player that quietly but effectively goes about his work. A player who should be greatly appreciated.
Left Back – Nathan Ake
Unfortunately Daniel Pudil misses out, a left back that was really part of the big story since the Pozzo’s took over but Ake takes this spot. The young Dutchmen was really impressive to watch last season, he was another who consistently put in good performances. In similar fashion to Bellerin, you could tell Ake had a lot of quality, another one that didn’t seem phased by what’s ahead of them. Unfortunately his parent club could threaten his potential as I think he demonstrated enough to show he could end up at the top of the game.
Central Midfield – Nathaniel Chalobah
Talking of Chelsea loan players, Nathaniel Chalobah burst onto the scene under Gianfranco Zola as teenager in 2012. He has to remain as one of the most eye catching players to arrive in the Pozzo era. His ability was second to none as his confidence made him a fairly complete midfielder who’s technique suggested he might have a future at Chelsea. Of course he was denied that opportunity but it was a great journey for player and club alike during the first season under the Italians.
Central Midfield – Etienne Capoue
A Premier League arrival from Spurs, Capoue shouldered a fair bit of responsibility for Flores’s side in a pivotal role. It was fair to say he made an instant introduction with a series of fantastic displays early on last season. His vision, technique, drive from midfield and physicality in the challenge meant the Frenchman was superb all round. He has added goals to his game this season which is a massive surprise considering it looked destined to never happen. I was a massive fan of Capoue last season, his form did dip at times and he’s starting to show that again lately which is even more frustrating, because we’ve seen that he is comfortably one of the most talented players to pull on the yellow shirt in recent years.
Attacking Midfielder – Fernando Forestieri
My favourite player of the Pozzo era so there’s maybe a bit of bias but going into a match day where Forestieri started always had the potential to be something special. Unfortunately it was a bit too much ‘on his day’ for a player of his talent, the current Sheffield Wednesday forward lit up games by himself and produced stunning pieces of magic and imagination that meant he was unique. His relationship with the fans only added to his popularity and his unpredictability meant you could be tearing your hair out one minute but in awe at something he produced the next. Certainly for me the most entertaining, Fernando was definitely never dull and produced many good moments in a Watford shirt during his time with the club.
Attacking Midfielder – Almen Abdi
A completely different type of attacking midfielder, Abdi was sensible yet spectacular. His intelligence and ability on the ball meant he was the standout player at the club in the first season. The Swiss player definitely has to go down as one of the most successful signings since the takeover. Numerous goals, assists and consistent matches means he was a class above regularly in the Championship. He never got a real chance to being played out of position in the Premier League so we didn’t see the best out of Almen Abdi but he still made contributions and goes down as a great player to play for the Golden Boys.
Striker – Matej Vydra
Championship player of the season in the first under the Pozzo’s, Vydra like many others went through a lot since. His sulky attitude and at times frightening ability meant it was always a tussle to get the best out of the Czech forward. When he hit form there was simply no stopping him. His strike partner Deeney setup the perfect duo which saw Watford as the most threatening side in the league during two separate spells, Vydra was outshone by Ighalo in the promotion season but as ever found the net and played his part in that campaign. It’s a real shame that he hasn’t made the most of his ability, as I think many agree he is still one of the most talented players to play for the club under the Pozzo’s. His movement, pace and precision finishing meant he had it all as a goalscorer.
Striker – Odion Ighalo
A massive shame that in 2016 Ighalo is considered a hindrance to the side rather than a key player. His form in 2015 was amazing to watch, everything fell into place and with his Twitter hashtag #ItMustEndInPraise it was almost destined he was going to drag us to promotion. A very impressive opening set of months in the Premier League meant Ighalo was a massive asset and simply irreplaceable, these times should definitely overshadow the current situation as the Nigerian has produced an awful lot at Vicarage Road since his arrival from Granada.
Watford fans, what changes would you make? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image by Franziska