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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

Premier League preview 2018/19 - Watford: Solving away form the pivotal problem for Gracia

Richard Jolly is analysing all 20 teams competing in the Premier League and giving his verdict on how they will fare. Here he looks at if the Hertfordshire club can again steer themselves clear of the relegation zone

Watford captain Troy Deeney netted only five times last season. Getty Images
Watford captain Troy Deeney netted only five times last season. Getty Images

Lowdown: The model may confound many, with revolving-door managerial appointments and a constant churn of players, but Watford have established themselves as a top-flight club for the first time since the 1980s.

That said, despite Richarlison’s club-record sale to Everton, the turnover of players has been less this summer.

Ben Foster could take over from a declining Heurelho Gomes in goal, charged with improving a poor defensive record, and Gerard Deulofeu should replace Richarlison as the resident bundle of tricks.

It would help, though, if any of the strikers could prove prolific. Troy Deeney only mustered five goals last season and even that meagre tally was swelled by penalties.

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Read more

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Key player: Abdoulaye Doucoure – A revelation last season, allying powerful performances in the midfield with seven goals. It may be a surprise Doucoure is still at Vicarage Road.

Should he repeat those performances for another year, he may not be for too much longer. The good news for Watford is that Nathaniel Chalobah is fit again to partner him.

Manager: Javi Gracia – Parachuted in to replace Marco Silva, the Spaniard only won four of his first 15 games. Given how quick Watford are to sack managers, it may be imperative for him that they start well. Four of the first five games are at home – though they include Tottenham and Manchester United.

Talking point: Can Watford change the pattern of their seasons? The major difference last year was that the manager left in January, not May.

Otherwise, Watford have got into the habit of starting well and tailing off after securing safety, top-10 places becoming lesser finishes.

Banking points by Christmas can be useful, but sooner or later, it would help if they could display more consistency and continued resolve.

But only two of their first eight games of 2019 are at home while, if their early-season excellence can be attributable in part to new-manager bounces, Gracia is not a new manager.

Prediction: 17th.