Under the Pozzo family's ownership, Watford returned to the top flight after eight years and few will have predicted the impact they have made this season. With Udinese and Granada also part of the owners' portfolio, the Hertfordshire-based team appears to have become their main focus thanks to the lucrative appeal of the Premier League.
Manager Quique Sanchez Flores must have been initially concerned when he took the reins, what with the club having parted company with three managers in the previous nine months. The Spaniard had lasted just seven weeks in his own previous managerial position at Getafe, which thus made it seem like a marriage of convenience to the casual observer.
However, Flores is much more than a journeyman and has an incredible eye for detail. He has won six cup competitions in his 11 years as a first-team manager, including the Europa League with Atletico Madrid in 2010. The coach is part of a famous family in Spain and unafraid of making big decisions with his star performers.
"He's thorough and makes you think about the game differently," said playmaker Pablo Aimar, who he worked with at both Valencia and Benfica. "He is a passionate guy," confessed Watford shot-stopper Heurelho Gomes. "After the games he runs onto the pitch and shakes hands with everybody."
Only Leicester have secured more points in the last six matches than Watford, with Flores's team having won three in a row. They may have lost five games this season, but they were against Manchester City, Crystal Palace, Arsenal, Leicester and Manchester United.
The club made 16 signings in the summer and with 22 different nationalities in the dressing room, it was the 50-year-old’s assignment to gel the players into a cohesive unit. This has been attained by trying to keep a fairly settled side; goalkeeper Gomes, right-back Allan Nyom, centre-back Craig Cathcart, central midfielder Etienne Capoue and strikers Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo have featured in all 16 of their league matches this campaign.
At left-back, Flores was initially unconvinced by Jose Holebas and Ikechi Anya, as he rotated between the pair before on-loan Chelsea defender Nathan Ake made the position his own. Valon Behrami started the first five games of the campaign before his sending-off against Swansea cost him his place in the side, and Ben Watson has since replaced him.
Miguel Britos had to wait until the end of October to make his league debut after arriving with a suspension from Napoli for a headbutt, and then getting sent off on his first appearance against Preston in the Capital One Cup. The centre-back has since dislodged Sebastian Prodl, which has meant that Watford's defence has made just one change in the last last seven league matches.
Rotation out wide
However, one position which has featured a number of rotations – and successfull so – is that of the wingers; Flores has used seven different permutations in the 16 league matches. It's a trait which he used at his last club Getafe, where he deployed six winger partnerships in seven matches.
On the opening day of the season, Miguel Layun and Anya started against Everton. Anya moved to left-back for the following game against West Brom, as Jurado came into the side. It was Anya and Jurado for Southampton, before Flores's surprising move against Manchester City, when Almen Abdi and Jurado were in the first XI but forwards Ighalo and Deeney took up wide positions.
Layun then left for Porto on loan and Abdi and Jurado played the next three matches against Swansea, Newcastle and Crystal Palace. Anya replaced Jurado for the games with Bournemouth, Arsenal, Stoke City, West Ham and Leicester before the alterations started again. Watford have used five different combinations in as many encounters; with Juan Carlos Paredes making his only start of the campaign against Aston Villa, although he has been a regular from the bench.
"We have the possibility to put four or five players in this position; now it's Anya, last week it's Paredes, today it's Jurado," confessed Flores after victory over Norwich. "The most important thing is that the players are knocking on the door and it's very good to have competition."
The Christmas period is always a challenging set of fixtures for new managers to the league, but more so for the Hornets as they face Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City in a fortnight. But Flores is unconcerned and takes each day at a time. “We just plan for the next match," he continued.
The plan is an important component of Flores's preparation, as he admits that his winger tinkering "depends on the plan of the match" and that it's a combination of both tactics and form of individuals which he uses to base his selection.
With Liverpool the visitors on Sunday, Flores may opt for Jurado and Abdi to play against Nathaniel Clyne and Alberto Moreno. The two defenders are strong tacklers and like to get forward, so running at them isn't the best approach, but passes into vacated space might well be. With the full-backs suspect to aerial duals, striker Deeney may look to compete in that area with the third-highest amount won in the league.
An away trip to Stamford Bridge is next on Boxing Day, with Chelsea's full-backs having struggled all season. Jurado and Anya will probably be utilised in competition with Branislav Ivanovic and Cesar Azpilicueta, as they look to combine take-ons and key passes in wide areas.
Tottenham arrive in between Christmas and New Year, which means Abdi could be restored in order to pass his way around the excellent tackler Danny Rose, and track the full-backs' forward runs – he averages 2.9 challenges per game himself. Jurado is the most likely option on the left, as Kyle Walker is better at intercepting than tackling and the Spanish winger doesn't dive into challenges when defending.
Finally, Manchester City come to Vicarage Road on January 2, which could pit Abdi and Anya together. Jurado and Abdi are both quality passers, but the Switzerland international may get the nod on the left wing due to his better defensive contribution. Anya could look to beat Aleksandar Kolarov in quick transitions, but should Gael Clichy get chosen he will find that more difficult.
Watford and Flores won't be judged in the next four matches, although some good performances and a few points will certainly help the feelgood factor around the club continue.
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