Troy Deeney, a name both Watford and Non-Watford fans know well. Rather infamous for speaking his mind on all things football, Troy is undoubtedly a Hornets legend, with over 350 appearances and 120 goals to his name throughout a brilliant Watford career. There is little doubt he deserves his title of “Mr.Watford” but recently, Troy has been an area of controversy amongst the Watford faithful. But why is that? This article aims to answer that question on the Watford captain and the growing questions related to his place in the starting eleven.
A major reason for the uncertainty surrounding Troy’s place in Watford’s starting eleven comes down to a lack of goals, or more importantly lack of goal threat, and Troy’s lack of presence on the pitch as a whole. As Watford’s lone striker due to Pearson favouring a conventional 4-2-3-1 formation, Troy’s main role in his Watford side is to bring Watford’s two wide players, Deulofeu (or Pereyra/Welbeck due to his injury against Liverpool) and Sarr, into the game, bullying the opposition back line in the process.
Since the restart, however, it has become clear to Watford fans more than ever that Troy isn’t actually doing this job, infact, it is becoming a liability that is hurting the team as a result. After the restart, Watford’s main tactic has simply been to hoof the ball to Deeney, with the idea that he would flick the ball onto the two wide players he is trying to bring into the game, or rather to the onrushing Doucoure, the more advanced midfielder in Watford’s trio.
The problem with this, however, is its predicability, and thus its ineffectiveness. Watford’s 3-0 defeat to Chelsea was a prime example of the opposition dealing with the “threat” of Deeney effectively. Kurt Zouma, a giant 6 foot 3 centre back, had a fantastic game, warding off the threat of Deeney with ease by winning most of the aeriel duels between the two (Deeney only won two ariel duels all game).
This has been a familiar trend for Troy, who has one very little of the duels he has been involved in, especially against teams who’s back line consists of at least one giant, no nonsense player. This, in turn, means Watford’s wide players are seeing very little of the ball, due to the teams over reliance on hoofing the ball up to Troy, despite the tactic offering very little in terms of practicality (Sarr only had 20 touches vs Chelsea, for example).
Of course, Deeney’s lack of goals is also a major cause for concern. The forward has six goals to his tally this season, two of which have been penalties. Whilst this does make him Watford’s top scorer, it still must come into question. As a lone striker, Deeney must be contributing more, as he is, in a sense, Watford’s main attacking outlet.
Another alarming stat is Troy’s npXG per game (non penalty expected goals), in which he consistently scores 0.00, awful for a top flight striker, especially a lone one. But why is Troy underperforming in this regard? Well one factor could be Watford’s actual main attacking outlet, Ismaïla Sarr. The young winger, now arguably infamous due to his major role in Watford’s shock win against the then unbeaten Liverpool, is a constant threat to the hornet’s opposition when utilised correctly, with his pace being too much to handle.
The issue, however, is that his pace makes Deeney redundant when attacking, especially on the break. Troy, a bulky 32 year old target man, simply can not keep up with the Senegalese sensation, usually resulting in Sarr with no one or perhaps one player in the box to cross the ball into.
Sarr also specialises in near post crosses, and Deeney seemingly never takes a gamble to meet it when actually in the box, usually resulting in an easy catch for the opposition goalkeeper. The latter is more so a probelm with the entire Watford attack in general and their reluctance to try a near post run, but as Watford’s lone striker, Troy must be making those gambles at least occasionally.
In a normal attack, Troy also usually drops deep to become a playmaker of sorts. This would be ideal if Deeney had a strike partner, but as a loan striker, he can not do this as often as he currently is, or again, he risks not being in a good enough area to attack the ball when Sarr delivers a cross.
So is Troy Deeney a hindrance for Watford at the moment? I’d say so. So why hasn’t he been dropped? Well, here in lies a major problem or over reliance and perhaps ignorance which is costing Watford so much on the pitch. Troy has practically become “undroppable” in this Watford side, with his club legend status, captaincy and leadership the driving force behind this revelation.
Watford have relied on Deeney for far too long now, perhaps even leading to complacency for the cult hero, maybe another reason why his performances have noticeably dwindled over the years. This is something that in my opinion Watford must get over if they are to progress and match their owner’s ambitions for the club, European football.
Deeney is 32, and leadership isn’t a justifiable cause to be in the starting eleven alone. Watford must look past his club legend status and allow others to take their opportunities to push Watford forward, such as fellow English man Danny Welbeck, who scored a stunning goal to help Watford beat relegation rivals Norwich in their attempt to survive in the Premier league.
To answer the article’s title, I do believe Deeney is holding Watford back, and at a time they certainly don’t want to be. This article was kept as short as possible, however, there are many more things that could be said about Deeney’s game, and how it is affecting the club he practically represents.
Should Watford survive this season, they must let others have their chances to prove their worth to Watford, especially the promising incoming loanees that are Luis Suarez and Cucho Hernandez. Leadership means very little when nothing else can be offered, and with Troy now in the latter stages of his career, it is due time he pass down the torch to his younger attacking counterparts, and be remembered as a true Watford great, rather than a problem.