Sunday, 1 December 2013

North v South

I haven’t got all the answers for Watford’s current malaise (who has? Certainly not the manager), but there is one thing that strikes me as pertinent, and it’s to do with the origin of our loanees.

In general terms, European football can be divided into two styles of play. In northern and central Europe, the emphasis is on strength and speed, while in the south they favour style and skill. A massive over-simplification, of course, but I think it’s basically valid. Look at it this way: I doubt there’s ever been a Swedish team that played like the recent vintage Barcelona, or an Italian one that imitated Dave Bassett’s Wimbledon.

Since the Pozzos took over at Watford, the loanees from our sister clubs who have been most successful have largely been those originally from north or central Europe: Anya (Scotland), Ekstrand (Sweden), Vydra and Pudil (Czech Republic), Abdi (Switzerland).

In contrast, few of those from Mediterranean countries (or Latin American ones, for that matter) have established themselves as first-choice selections. Angella has, but as a central defender, the Latin mentality is perhaps less important to his game (though his error late in the game at Middlesbrough shows what can happen when defenders forget to keep it simple). Ditto Cassetti, though he’s only first-choice at the moment because of injury. Then there’s Forestieri, though he’s still very much a work in progress. I’m not convinced he’s the right foil for Deeney, but he’s done okay this season.

The other southern Europeans (Battochio, Fabbrini, Faraoni, plus Geijo last season) and Latin Americans (Iriney and Acuna) have all struggled to turn their undoubted talent into effectiveness on the pitch. That’s not surprising: the Championship is a northern European league where strength and speed tend to win out over style and skill.

None of this is to say that they won’t eventually come good. We’ve got most of these players on long-term contracts that will (hopefully) give them time to adjust their game to English football. Feel free to remind me of this post in a few years’ time, when Fabbrini is scoring 20 a season and Battochio is running the midfield. But in the meantime, the next time the Pozzos are looking to send us a batch of players, maybe they should focus on the Udinese and Granada players who were originally signed from colder climes.