Marco Silva should take Watford to their second stage

Words By Seb Stafford-Bloor
August 12, 2017
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Yet another cracking result for Watford yesterday saw them comprehensively take all 3 points against Newcastle United. Marco Silva is being linked to the vacant job at Everton, and this article, from May 30th, 2017 lays claim that Marco Silva is the man that can take Watford to the second stage.

The natural response to the news of Marco Silva becoming Watford’s new head-coach, is to wonder whether his arrival represents ideological change for the club itself. Silva was highly sought after following his nearly miraculous performance at Hull and so, presumably, he has been given some kind of assurance over the length of his tenure at Vicarage Road.

That would make sense. If he was being invited to take part in the same short, sharp shock experiment that has seen the Pozzo family burn through a small army of managers since 2012, he would likely have declined the opportunity in favour of more stability. Having endured half a season at Hull, he’s likely had his fill of nebulous situations and vague ownership models; that he has been convinced to accept this new role implies that Watford are ready to think more long-term.

It is only May and the new Premier League season remains months away. For now, all theories are perfect and every move made by each different club can be massaged to look smart. In this instance, though, Watford and Silva might just have arrived at something highly convenient.

There are two factors in-play, the first of which concerns how the Portuguese arrived in this country. With the smirks of the Proper Football Men echoing in his ears, Silva quickly and efficiently instigated an improvement at Hull. Ultimately, they may have disappeared down the Premier League drain, but he at least showed the capacity to work on a short timescale with players he didn’t know particularly well. He had the benefit of a strong January transfer window, signing Oumar Niasse, Lazar Markovic, Kamil Grosicki, and Andrea Ranocchia, but he also oversaw an improvement in many of the existing players. Harry Maguire developed considerably, Andrew Robertson had a strong finish to the season, and Sam Clucas played his best football of the year after Silva had arrived.

In collective terms, Hull rapidly became a convincing attacking side. That improvement may generally have been limited to their performances at the KCOM stadium, but it was still notable: they played with a level of offensive accuracy and technique and, as per the many interviews given at the turn of the year, became tactically far more aware in a hurry. That isn’t normal; in that kind of situation, a new manager’s focus is typically on rigidity. It’s the old Allardyce/Pulis trick: focus all the coaching resources on how a side performs without the ball and let the possession phases look after themselves. Silva didn’t do that, preferring instead to pursue a more rounded solution.

Transferring his performance this season to next is an imperfect science. However, the specific capabilities which Silva has shown obviously have relevance to his new job. Watford is a place of flux and an international environment in which a sense of collectivisation must be extremely difficult to maintain. But Silva has that quality: call it mastic, call it whatever, his personality evidently allows him to forge credible team units in short periods of time. The Pozzo family have one of the most elaborate (and deep) scouting networks in European football and firmly believe in a progression-by-recruitment mentality. For that to be a success, it’s imperative that the manager employed is capable of constructing on-field combinations quickly and that his message – his beliefs – are understood from the very first training sessions. Silva possesses those strengths; it’s actually the lasting association from his Hull days. He’s believed to be a forceful personality and, from interviews given with the players he’s coached, his style is evidently taught with a distinct clarity. Comprehension is extremely important, particularly when – as Watford are – a club experiences a high volume of turnover.

On a more superficial level, it’s also intriguing to wonder what effect he might be able to have on the existing talent. Between now and August, Watford will likely strengthen their squad – maybe also with the fabulously talented Adalberto Penaranda returning from loan – but they already carry some significant attacking weight. Isaac Success has been underwhelming so far and, flickers of influence aside, Roberto Pereyra, M’Baye Niang, and Nordin Amrabat have all been similarly disappointing. But irrespective of those performances, that group is not short of talent; it collectively possesses the kind of ability which, with the right management, could equate to a place in the top-half of the table. Silva has already demonstrated a nous for smartly repurposing misused attacking pieces, so it’s not too outlandish to suggest that he could extract far greater efficiency from his new squad. Consider some of the phases constructed by Hull during their more impressive moments and the quality of some of the goals scored. Now imagine what he might have been capable of creating with an attacking unit comprised of better players with broader skillsets.

It’s Intriguing, because that’s what Watford will arm him with. Time will tell if it’s for the long-term but, certainly, it would at least appear to represent a short-term alignment of ideals.

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