After a second place finish in the Championship last season, Watford is back in the Premier League for just the third time in club history. Unfortunately, in the Hornets’ previous two PL campaigns (1999-00, 2006-07), the club finished in dead last and was sent immediately back to the second tier.
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This time around, the Hornets will look to avoid relegation and stay in the top flight, and they’ve been making moves this summer. Quique Flores was named manager in June, and the club has brought in plenty of talent in the transfer window, including the signing of Etienne Capoue from Tottenham Hotspur for a club record transfer fee.
Watford’s biggest fan is Sir Elton John, who had two stints as club chairman and is now an Honorary Life President at Vicarage Road. The Hornets have a long-standing rivalry with League Two’s Luton Town, but in the Premier League their closest rivals will be the London clubs.
Best possible XI:
— Gomes —
— Nyom — Prodl — Cathcart — Holebas —
— Capoue — Behrami —
— Abdi — Ighalo — Jurado —
— Deeney —
Transfers in: Allan Nyom (Free, Udinese), Sebastian Prodl (Free, Werder Bremen), Etienne Capoue ($10 million, Tottenham), Steven Berghuis ($7 million, AZ Alkmaar), Valon Behrami ($4 million, Hamburg), Jose Manuel Jurado ($9.5 million, Spartak Moscow), Jose Holebas ($2.75 million, Roma), Miguel Britos (Free, Napoli), Giedrius Arlauskis (Free, Steaua Bucuresti)
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Transfers out: Jonathan Bond (Undisclosed, Reading), Uche Ikpeazu (Loan, Port Vale), Lewis McGugan ($475,000, Sheffield Wednesday)
Last season: Second in the Championship –Watford finished with the most wins in the Championship, but ended the season a point behind Bournemouth for the top spot. However, this is a much different team than last year, as the Hornets have brought in a handful of new summer signings as well as a new manager. Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo combined for 41 goals last season, which accounted for nearly half of the team’s total offense.
Star player: Troy Deeney — Deeney is the club’s captain and leading goalscorer, having tallied at least 20 goals in each of the past three seasons, the first player to do so in Watford history. The striker had a few Premier League teams looking to buy his services this summer, but he penned a new five-year deal to stay at Vicarage Road. The 27-year-old has worked his way up the ranks of English football, and he will have to continue his goalscoring ways if Watford is to have a shot at avoiding relegation.
Coaches’ Corner: Quique Flores became Watford’s fifth manager in a year when he replaced Slavisa Jokanovic in June. Jokanovic had earned the Hornets Premier League promotion, but left the club after the two sides failed to work out a new contract. Flores comes in after a short stint at Spanish side Getafe, and has no experience managing in England. However, he led Atletico Madrid to a Europa League title in 2010, so he does know how to win on the big stage.
PST predicts: It’s going to be a tall order for Watford to survive in the Premier League, but the Hornets could be one of the surprise stories of the season. With a new manager and so many new players, it’s hard to get a read on how they’ll perform in the most competitive league in the world. The Hornets will likely be hovering around the relegation zone, but this could be the year they survive the drop.