YOU might remember we ran a feature a couple of months back on the site called You Are The Boss. The idea was our contributors detailed what they would do if they were given the keys to a Premier League club (not Liverpool). June, this was. During the summer lull, when footie has finished and we’re all wandering around wondering quite how we can pass the hours. And now here we are, on the eve of the new season, and the esteemed reporter NEIL DOCKING has finally decided to cough up his contribution, with the courtroom scribe taking the reins at WATFORD. “Better late than never I hope,” said Neil. You decide…
SOMEHOW I was under the impression that Watford had appointed Marco Materazzi as their new manager.
The Zinedine Zidane-baiting, World Cup-winning, former Everton red card-magnet seemed an odd choice to replace Quique Sánchez Flores. But the Pozzo family aren’t exactly known for safe appointments, so I shrugged my shoulders when I heard they had picked the ex-Inter Milan man.
The news broke after the Europa League final, when I was still sulking and pretending football didn’t exist, save for laughing at Alan Pardew’s FA Cup final dance. So that was the last I thought of it until TAW asked me to take part in a ‘You Are The Boss’ feature and revealed I was now in charge of The Hornets.
I decided to find out a bit more about The Golden Boys (who knew that was their other nickname?) and started scouring Wikipedia for crucial information. Shockingly, it appears the manager sat beside me in the dugout at Vicarage Road (where of course Watford have played since 1922) is in fact Walter MAZZARRI. I need my ears syringing.
Appalled by my lack of knowledge about The Yellow Army, I moved quickly to remedy the situation. Running a football club is a serious business and it demands thorough research.
First up, I spoke to the senior sports writer at the Northwich Guardian, Andrew Simpson, to get the lowdown on MAZZARRI. You may think a scribe based at a regional newspaper in Cheshire was an odd choice for this task. Au contraire.
Mr Simpson (@simmo_on_sport ) happens to be an expert on all things Calcio. He’s an avid Internazionale fan, who definitely knows his Dino from his Roberto Baggio.
He’s at least 25% Italian – just look at his profile picture, the sunglasses, the perfectly sculpted beard… and just the person to help.
I attempted to tease some insight with a rapier-like opening question. “How good is this lad at Watford?”
“MAZZARRI?” he replied. “Depends if his tactical straitjacket fits their guys.”
I don’t know about you, but I love tactical straitjackets. My favourite manager is Rafael Benitez and he always makes his players wear them.
I had to probe some more, to get to the bottom of what makes MAZZARRI tick. Is he right for The ‘Orns? Will he respect our 135-year history?
Grumpy, egotistical, paranoid, inflexible. Did a fantastic job making Napoli credible again, but bombed spectacularly at Inter.
— Andrew Simpson (@simmo_on_sport) June 8, 2016
“Grumpy, egotistical, paranoid, inflexible.” Again, he sounds just my cup of tea.
The only blot on his copybook seems to be his time at the San Siro. Well, even Benitez failed at Inter, so sorry Materazzi, MAZZARRI is the man for me.
Now the identity of our manager is confirmed, I’m going to take up my position as Watford’s new director of football.
Elbowing Gino Pozzo to the side when it comes to player recruitment isn’t going to be easy, so I’ll play politics and appoint John Barnes as my assistant.
I could do with an ally in the boardroom. Who better than a Watford legend who voted for Remain and always has a bottle of Lucozade to hand?
MAZZARRI is famous for deploying a three-man defence, whether his team shapes up with a 3-5-2 or 3-4-3, which is interesting, given how rare that is in the Premier League. That’s right, I’m actually talking about football now. A 3-5-2 obviously requires wing backs and Watford fortunately have five men suited to this role in the shape of Ikechi Anya, Juan Carlos Paredes, José Holebas, Brice Dja Djedjé and Juan Zuniga.
Scottish international Anya, Ecuador’s Paredes and the Ivory Coast’s Djedjé are all right sided players, although Anya can play both sides.
The veteran Greek left-footer Holebas didn’t get a lot of games last year, despite his Champions League experience.
Colombian veteran Zuniga, on loan from Napoli, did a good job for MAZZARRI in Italy and will have his backing. But he’s past his best and how well can he adapt to English football so late in his career? I think we need another left wing back.
This is where I come in. I’ve searched far and wide for a pacy and athletic player, who is more suited to a quasi left midfield role than being a traditional defender, and I’ve unearthed a gem.
Alberto Moreno is going to be an absolute revelation with a hart (that’s a male deer, animal lovers) on his chest. I’m confident Liverpool will accept my £20million offer. I guess this means they’ll have to buy a replacement like Jonas Hector as soon as possible. But that’s not my concern.
Tasked with the unenviable duty of covering his forward runs will be the impressive Uruguayan Miguel Britos. He’ll need more than a drink of ‘mate’ after playing alongside Albie for 90 minutes.
The right-sided centre half spot will probably go to Austrian stalwart Sebastian Prödl, a 6ft 4in colossus who deserved better than his national team delivered this summer.
One man who won’t have any Euros hangover however is Craig Cathcart, one of the Ukraine-conquering Ulster boys making all the noise over in France.
I am reliably informed by ‘Handsome’ Craig Hannan that the Belfast man is “very good” (although not as good as Jonny Evans) and Watford will never concede more than one goal in a game again with him in the side.
Completing my League of Nations options in defence are Cameroonian right back Allan Nyom, who is walking at 6ft 2in and plays for the ‘Lions Indomptables’ — that’s almost as good a nickname as the The Golden Boys — and 6ft 1in Belgian newcomer Christian Kabasele. Rock solid.
Onto central midfield, I reckon MAZZARRI will love the French hulk Étienne Capoue and I know he’s already a big fan of the experienced Swiss dynamo Valon Behrami, who shone for his Napoli team.
Former Atletico Madrid man Mario Suárez is a good deputy, even if he’s not been the same player since leaving the Vicente Calderón, as is the former Wigan FA Cup hero Ben Watson.
Adlène Guedioura scored our best goal last season, when the Algerian lashed in a thunderbolt against Arsenal in the FA Cup, but he is too inconsistent.
Dutch wingers Nordin Amrabat and Steven Berghuis, plus the well-travelled Spanish attacking midfielder José Jurado, didn’t impress last year. They have no future in Hertfordshire.
Thankfully we’ve signed a man whose very name instills confidence — Isaac Success! The big money acquisition from Granada is an exciting 20-year-old, equally comfortable playing out wide or centrally, with bags of trickery. Yet, for all his promise, the £12.5m Nigerian doesn’t produce great numbers. And it’s clear that overall this midfield lacks goals. Good job ahead of them we have the best strike partnership in the land — all £70m of it!
Leicester were prepared to pay £30m for the Birmingham-bred battering ram Troy Deeney who scored 13 times last season. Meanwhile, Chinese moneybags Shanghai SIPG offered £38m for 17-strike Nigerian goal machine Odion Ighalo. Well they can both do one. Neither of my star strikers are going anywhere.
They need some support and I’m not convinced Jerome Sinclair is the answer — he didn’t show anything at Liverpool to suggest he’s as good as Aidy Ward seems to think he is. Given time he may show his potential but he’s a fourth-choice option.
So, what do I do? Sign a veteran attacker who will be happy playing second fiddle to Deeney and Ighalo? Or try and bring in a genuine rival who could displace one of them?
I don’t think breaking up such a great duo is wise. So I want somebody to come in when needed, score some goals and play his part as an elder statesman of the squad. And I’m setting my sights high.
This player speaks Italian, so him and MAZZARRI will get on like a house on fire. He’s the deadliest foreign striker in the history of Lazio, has scored 71 times for his country and best of all, he doesn’t currently have a club.
I’m assured he wants a new challenge and would love life in the Premier League. Oh and did I mention he’s the record goalscorer in the history of the World Cup?
That’s right, it’s the net-bursting German legend Miroslav Klose. It’s all boxed off. He tells me he loves Elton John, dreams of visiting Leavesden Film Studios and can’t get enough of scoring goals. This astute signing will cement my reputation as the best director of football in the game today.
Up the Yellows!
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