By 90Min
August 06, 2019

Watford kick off the 2019/20 season with a home fixture against a new-look Brighton and Hove Albion in a tie which provides the Hornets with a great opportunity to get off to the best possible start.

Watford have been ever improving in recent years with Javi Gracia only continuing this trend since replacing Marco Silva, meaning the club now have ambitions of securing European football.

Here's all you need to know as they aim to achieve that in the 2019/20 campaign.


Last Season

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Javi Gracia's side were one of the surprise packages of the 2018/19 season, finishing in a secure 11th place, just seven points behind the final Europa League spot occupied by Wolverhampton Wanderers.

But inconsistency ended up being their major downfall. They ended their campaign in pretty dismal fashion, with defeats to Chelsea and the equally inconsistent West Ham United.

And whilst the 6-0 loss to Manchester City in the FA Cup final won't have been the kind of result they were hoping for, the fact they reached this stage is a real sign of progress, eliminating Premier League opposition like Newcastle United, Crystal Palace and Wolves en route to Wembley.


Pre-Season

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The Hornets started their pre-season with a loss, but we can forgive them for that given the opposition. The 2-1 defeat to last seasons Champions League semi-finalists Ajax proved that Watford are more than capable of competing among the best.

And if pre-season is anything to go by, Watford look to finally be adding some consistency to their game, securing a number of impressive victories like 2-1 wins over both Bayer Leverkusen and Real Sociedad.

Impressive performances - one of which included two goals from Andre Gray to complete a second half comeback in their final game - will be an encouraging sign for Gracia, particularly in the attacking department.


Transfers In

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It's been a very quiet summer for Watford on the transfer front, having only completed a single signing which is likely to have an impact on the starting XI.

The arrival of West Bromwich Albion's Craig Dawson will offer another option in central defence, but with Craig Cathcart, Christian Kabasele and Sebastian Prodl already competing for a first team spot, it's unclear how much match time Dawson will receive.

Their only other arrival is former Manchester City under-21 midfielder Ayotomiwa Dele-Bashiru who is likely to be a future prospect rather than someone who is going to have an immediate impact on the squad.


Transfers Out

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Dawson's arrival makes more sense when we consider some of the players who departed Vicarage Road ahead of the new season.

One of those is Miguel Britos, who left the club following the expiration of his contract, suggesting Dawson is a straight replacement for the Uruguayan.

Others include flop Dodi Lukebakio, who only managed 15 minutes of game time since joining from Anderlecht in January 2018. Whilst he is someone with plenty of potential, cashing in for a fee in excess of £18m from Hertha Berlin looks to be a sensible choice.


Strengths

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We've already touched on Watford's attacking prowess; the strike partnership of fan favourite Troy Deeney and Andre Gray is a powerful combination we know is capable causing damage in the Premier League.

Although Gray's impressive pre-season showing should leave him in contention for a starting spot against Brighton in their opening game, Gracia could also make use of other forwards within the squad.

Ricardo Pereyra and tricky winger Gerard Deulofeu provide plenty of creativity, whilst central midfielders Etienne Capoue and Abdoulaye Doucoure allow those in front of them the freedom to create attacks.


Weaknesses

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In truth, it's difficult to pick out a particularly weak position within the squad, with Gracia having established a well-rounded unit signified by their lack of transfer business.

However, a lack of depth in certain areas could leave them short given they experience some injuries throughout the campaign, something which is almost inevitable during an arduous season of Premier League and cup football.

Having established the threat Deeney and Gray pose, as well as the creativity they have in midfield, Watford are still somewhat short on when it comes to other out-and-out strikers. Isaac Success only scored a single goal in his 30 appearances last season, while Stefano Okaka is only just returning from a loan spell with Serie A side Udinese.


Key Man

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As much as Watford do have a strong team across the entire pitch, there's only one individual who truly stands out as their key man.

Given the interest Abdoulaye Doucoure has attracted both in January and this summer, Watford have done well to keep of hold of him for this long, and will be eager to do so come the end of the transfer window on Thursday.

He's someone who can act as an anchor in central midfield but is also capable of getting forward and finding the back of the net himself on occasion. It's no surprise he's caught the eye of other Premier League sides like Arsenal and Everton, who have reportedly just had a bid in the region of £30m rejected.


Predictions

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Despite the lack of signings, Watford look set to enjoy a solid Premier League season similar to that of their 2018/19 showing.

But meeting ambitions of European football could be a real task. The strength of the 'big six' means that it's extremely likely only one more Europa League spot will be up for grabs next season.

Teams of similar quality like Wolves and Leicester City have strengthened significantly during the transfer window; improvements to their squads leaves them as favourites to compete for seventh place, whilst West Ham could also progress up the table given their summer business.

Watford will certainly compete but they could be left behind in the race for European football.

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