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2019/20 Premier League preview - Watford: Javi Gracia and Hornets hope for more Gerard Deulofeu magic

Richard Jolly runs the rule over Watford ahead of the new season, including key player, new signing to watch and predicted league finish

Watford's Gerard Deulofeu celebrates after he scores his sides second goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Huddersfield and Watford at the John Smith’s stadium, Huddersfield, England. Saturday, April 20, 2019. (Clint Hughes/PA via AP)
Watford's Gerard Deulofeu celebrates after he scores his sides second goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Huddersfield and Watford at the John Smith’s stadium, Huddersfield, England. Saturday, April 20, 2019. (Clint Hughes/PA via AP)

Go back a year and some were tipping Watford for the drop.

Rather fewer thought they would spend much of the season in the top 10 and reach the FA Cup final, even if that did end in a 6-0 thrashing by Manchester City.

It was testament to the job Javi Gracia did, with the rejuvenated Etienne Capoue and Abdoulaye Doucoure forming a forceful, fine central-midfield partnership and Roberto Pereyra flourishing off the left.

One concern is that Watford conceded 59 goals, the most outside the bottom six, meaning summer signing Craig Dawson has work to do at the back. Another may be end-of-season defeats, but Watford have a habit of starting seasons strongly.

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Who finishes where in 2019-20?

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Key player: Gerard Deulofeu

Watford replaced Richarlison for a quarter of the price when the Brazilian left last summer. Deulofeu brought magic, particularly in the FA Cup semi-final, but also more consistency than in the past. The Spaniard contributed 12 goals and a player of his talent has the ability to deliver still more.

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The best summer transfers

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Signing to watch: Craig Dawson

Returns to the Premier League a year after West Bromwich Albion’s relegation and 12 months after most expected. A right-back in his younger days, Dawson is more of a central defender these days. He could replace a fellow Craig, Cathcart, in the starting 11 and will add a set-piece threat.

Talking point: Have Watford finally got stability?

When Gracia was appointed, he was Watford’s fifth manager in under three years. Now he has a contract for another four seasons, the affection of the fans and the backing from the board.

Meanwhile, a club who had a fine scouting system but a revolving-door transfer policy have made fewer additions. Prize assets with talent to play for bigger clubs, like Doucoure and Deulofeu, have stayed so far and have long-term contracts.

Some ageing teammates may need to be replaced next summer, but Watford seem to have a continuity that suggests they could become established in mid-table.

Prediction: 12th

Updated: August 2, 2019 03:40 PM

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