Throughout 2015-16, Watford effectively managed (and managed very well, it has to be said) with just three strikers: Troy Deeney, Odion Ighalo and Obbi Oularé. Given that the latter was only trusted to play in the early rounds of the FA Cup, it’s a good thing neither of our two star strikers picked up an injury.
We got away it with it last season, but the signs are that the club aren’t prepared to take a similar risk for 2016-17. As of today, we have no fewer than nine strikers signed to full-time contracts: the three named above, returning loanees Matej Vydra and Mathias Ranegie, new signings Adalberto Peñaranda (that accent is going to get very irritating), Isaac Success and Jerome Sinclair, and under-21 goal machine Alex Jakubiak. Moreover, the club has publicly stated that it has no plans to sell any of its strikers.
Okay, we can take that last statement with a pinch of salt (I’d imagine that if anyone came in with a decent bid for Vydra or Ranegie, Watford would bite their hand off). Nevertheless, Walter Mazzarri has an embarrassment of riches up front, and you’d hope this might make for a more entertaining style of football than Quique served up.
Much will doubtless change between now and the first game of the season, but it’s fun to speculate about how Walter will deploy his strikers. My best guess is that Deeney and Ighalo will start, with Success and Peñaranda on the bench and ready to take over if either of last season’s stars falters. Oularé, Vydra and Ranegie will all be sent out on loan (and it would be a major surprise if either of the latter two is ever seen in a Watford shirt again), while Sinclair and Jakubiak will be forced to scuffle around in the under-21 team, waiting for a call-up to the big time (or a decent run in the League Cup).
But who knows. Maybe Mazzarri will be so impressed by Matty Vydra in pre-season training that he’ll build a team around him. Maybe Success will play as a winger (as far as I can make out, he’s a forward in the broader sense), giving Sinclair a shot at the first team (or at least the bench).
Whatever happens, if Steven Berghuis can carry on where he left off at the end of last season, and Walter restores Almen Abdi to a more forward-looking role, we ought to have the capability to pose a serious threat to opposing defences. I can’t wait.