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Premier League 2016-17 season preview: Watford

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Yet another new man is in charge at Watford as Italian tactician Walter Mazzarri looks to take the Hornets to the next level.

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Watford survived comfortably last season after promotion and 2016-17 marks their first-ever back-to-back campaigns in the Premier League.

Former manager Quique Sanchez Flores had great success early in the season but that form petered out and led to his departure for Espanyol in the summer. With Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo up front, Watford have plenty of attacking threat as their pace and power dovetail lethally.

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The Pozzo family (they also own Udinese in Italy and Granada in Spain) have been criticized for appointing eight managers in the last five seasons at Watford but the club continues on an upwards curve and after spending over $35 million on new players this summer, the hope is to push into the top 10 of the PL. Mazzarri will have his work cut out to do that but the Hornets should be tough to break down, especially at home.

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Watford will get off to a flier and push for a top 10 finish because… They have invested heavily over the summer and are a bit of an unknown quantity with a new manager at the helm. Any teams who underestimates them will find Deeney and Ighalo breathing down their necks.

Most likely second-season syndrome will strike and it’ll be a relegation battle: Look at Watford’s first five games and it is brutal. They face Southampton, Arsenal, Chelsea, West Ham and Manchester United. Ouch. If Mazzarri’s boys are struggling for points going into October, expect the Pozzo family to make a managerial move. History says that aren’t afraid to wield the axe.

Best Possible XI

—– Gomes —–

—- Kabasele —- Cathcart —- Britos —-

— Anya — Suarez — Watson — Capoue — Holebas —

—- Deeney —- Ighalo —-

Transfers in: Jerome Sinclair ($5.2 million, Liverpool), Issac Success ($16.3 million, Granada), Christian Kabasele ($7.5 million, Genk), Brice Dje Djede ($5.2 million, Marseille), Juan Camilo Zuniga (Loan, Napoli)

Transfers out: Jose Manuel Jurado (Undisclosed, Espanyol), Gabriele Angella (Undisclosed, Udinese), Daniel Pudil (Undisclosed, Sheffield Wednesday), Almen Abdi (Undisclosed, Sheffield Wednesday), George Byers (Free, Swansea City), Josh Doherty (Free, Leyton Orient), Jorell Johnson (Free, Hemel Hempstead Town), Bernand Mensah (Free, Aldershot Town), Luke Simpon (Free, York City), Alfie Young, Mahlondo Martin, Uche Ikpeazu, Joel Ekstrand (All released), Adalberto Penaranda (Loan, Udinese), Obbi Oulare (Loan, Zulte Waregem), Dennon Lewis (Loan, Woking), Steven Berghuis (Loan, Feyenoord)

Last season: The Hornets started off superbly and were in the top half of the table up until January time. Then the slide happened and former boss Flores had to battle to keep them away from the relegation zone in the closing weeks of the season after just four wins in 2016. Still, Watford were never really in danger of going down and they also reached the semifinal of the FA Cup where they narrowly lost to Crystal Palace. They were one of the real success stories of last season.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 30: Troy Deeney of Watford during the pre season friendly match between Queens Park Rangers and Watford at Loftus Road on July 30, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)
(Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Star player: Troy Deeney – He scored 13 goals in his first-ever season in the Premier League and Deeney is the heart and soul of this club. The captain has been with Watford for six seasons and alongside Ighalo they are a real handful for PL defenses. He can drop deep to hold up the ball and bring others into the game, plus he always seems to be at the right place at the right time in the box. A warrior.

Coach’s Corner: Mazzarri has been working his squad hard on the training ground and his lack of English could be hurtful but there’s no doubting his resume. The former Napoli and Inter Milan manager has experience in the UEFA Champions League and led Sampdoria to success in a two-year spell. Expect Watford to line up in a 3-5-2 formation  and like most Italian coaches, Mazzarri is known to be a stickler for defensive organization. With the players at his disposal, that philosophy will slot in nicely. Still, a tough task to push Watford into the top 10 but their fans would take another season of midtable.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 30: Watford manager Walter Mazarri during the Pre-Season friendly match between Queens Park Rangers and Watford at Loftus Road on July 30, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)
(Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)

PST predicts: Watford have plenty of goals in them with Deeney and Ighalo and the rest of their squad should benefit from a years experience in the PL. The aim is to mirror the achievements of a Stoke City, Swansea or Southampton. First Watford must solidify their status as a PL club and then they can kick on. This season is hugely important but you get the sense that they could be struggling after being handed such a difficult start. Expect the Hornets to be hovering just about the relegation scrap and to potentially get dragged into it.

Summer transfer window opens; flurry of deals on July 1

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July 1 marks the opening of the summer transfer window in England and plenty of Premier League clubs have been confirming deals.

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It has been a busy day so far, with a few teams particularly busy as free agents can now officially sign for another team with their contracts expiring a midnight last night.

Below is a list of the moves so far on Friday and we will update it as the deals continue to be confirmed.

Manchester City

Pep Guardiola has made his second signing as Man City’s boss, Nolito. The Spanish striker, 29, reunited with Guardiola and joins from Celta Vigo in a deal worth around $17.2 million. He will wear the no. 9 jersey at the Etihad Stadium. MORE DETAILS

Crystal Palace

The Eagles have signed Andros Townsend from Newcastle United for $17.2 million on a five-year deal and French goalkeeper Steve Mandanda from Marseille for an undisclosed fee on a three-year deal. MORE DETAILS

They have also sold striker Dwight Gayle to Newcastle for $13.7 million.


Striker Lys Mousset signs from Le Havre for $8.1 million. The 20-year-old excelled for Bob Bradley’s side in Ligue 2 last season, scoring 14 goals in 34 games.

Emerson Hydnman’s move from Fulham on a free transfer has been confirmed on July 1, as the U.S. international midfielder moves up to the PL.

Bournemouth sold winger Matt Ritchie to Newcastle United for $15.9 million as the Scottish international was instrumental in getting them into the PL and scored four times in 36 appearances last season.

Also, Callum Wilson has sign a new four-year deal with the Cherries after impressing last season before his ACL injury.


The Hornets have been very busy with new manager Walter Mazzarri adding Belgian international defender Christian Kabasele from Genk. The 25-year-old central defender is currently part of Belgium’s squad at EURO 2016.

Watford’s captain Troy Deeney has also signed a new five-year contract at Vicarage Road, following on from Leicester City’s interest in him. He scored 13 goals in 35 games in his debut PL season last year and will remain in Hertfordshire.

Jerome Sinclair joined from Liverpool late on Thursday as the young forward completed his long-awaited move from Anfield.

It is rumored that Watford have also signed Nigerian forward Isaac Success from Granada for a club record $16.6 million and have rejected a $49.8 million bid from Chinese side Shanghai SIPG for Odion Ighalo.

Plus, Gabriele Angella has left Watford and joined Udinese after spending last season on loan at QPR.

Hull City

Tom Huddlestone has signed a contract extension with Hull City after the Tigers were promoted back to the Premier League. Huddlestone, 29, joined Hull from Tottenham Hotspur in 2013 and has been a major part in Steve Bruce‘s success in Yorkshire.


Paris Saint-Germain have signed free agent Hatem Ben Arfa after his contract expired with Nice. The former Newcastle playmaker scored 17 times in Ligue 1 for Nice last season, rejuvenating his career as the mercurial talent flourished in the south of France. Now, he will slot into PSG’s superstar lineup.

Barcelona used today to quell any speculation about them selling superstar Neymar, as the Brazilian striker signed a new five-year deal at the Nou Camp. MORE DETAILS