First Team 3 days ago

Gracia On Deulofeu: “He's One Of Our Most Important Players”

By Kevin Affleck

Gerard Deulofeu returns to Everton this weekend hoping to make his first start at Goodison Park since he left and with the Watford dressing room underlining the rich potential he possesses.

Deulofeu was a substitute when the Hornets slugged out a 2-2 draw in the blue half of Merseyside in December and only came on for the last half-hour. But judging by the reception he got from the home fans at Goodison Park at full-time, and the fact he threw nearly every item of his kit into the crowd, he is still remembered fondly on Merseyside for his 29 Premier League starts and five goals during two spells with the Toffees.

Whatever happens in his subsequent career at Vicarage Road, Deulofeu will always be remembered for that goal against Wolves in the FA Cup semi-final, and Ètienne Capoue is pleased to have someone with those match-turning qualities in the ranks.

“Before he signed we needed that player,” Capoue told Premier League Productions. “We signed him and he brought us the thing we missed offensively. He did it very well last season so I hope he will do much better. He has a big space to reach something else. I hope he will do it.”

Deulofeu partnered Troy Deeney in attack for most of last season and the captain has made no secret of how he demands more of a player with the Spaniard's gifts and how he wants him to do what he did at Cardiff more often.

“There is a lot of pressure on him,” said Deeney. “And he's put a lot of pressure on himself in recent interviews saying he wants to be scoring more goals. A player of his calibre should be scoring more goals. There is an expectation for him to score but it's a team game and we've all got to chip in. All the teams have players who are scoring a lot of goals, so we need four or five to chip in.”

Javi Gracia redefined Deulofeu's role last season, positioning him in a front two and asking him to weave his magic in more central areas. The Head Coach has been reluctant to play him out wide but did so in the final game of last season and the first one of this, suggesting he plans to mix things up, especially now with Danny Welbeck and Ismaïla Sarr as attractive attacking options.

“Gerard has different options to play as a winger or as a striker and in different shapes as well,” said the Head Coach. “His virtues are always offensive and he has speed. His quality gives me the possibility to play different ways. He is one of the most important players for us.”

Ladies 3 days ago

Ladies: “Promotion Is The Ultimate Goal”

With under a week to go until the new season gets underway, things are starting to take shape for Watford FC Ladies.

Three new signings have already been announced and there’s likely to be more to follow ahead of the opening game away at Portsmouth on Sunday (August 18).

With a mix of familiar players and trialists amongst the line-ups, the Golden Girls have impressed so far in pre-season, scoring 17 times in four games and also defeating higher division opposition.

“I think it’s been a good pre-season so far,” Head Coach Armand Kavaja told watfordfc.com. “We had several players to look at and we’ve managed to get a lot of minutes for everyone, which has been good.

“Without looking at the results, because I think that tells a lie sometimes in pre-season, we’ve definitely been progressing. Against Chesham I thought we did well, creating a lot of chances despite the result. We had a lot of young players and trialists playing in that game, so you can’t really see it as a negative thing.

“The second game [against Lewes], I thought we played really well in possession and we naturally dropped into good positions out of possession, which was great to see.

“Against Ipswich, it was good to get a clean sheet and most importantly, we kept the ball really well and created some chances from two, three and four passes.

“Last time out against Billericay, we still noticed things to work on but it was another positive result for us and hopefully setting us up for the season.”

Megan Chandler was the latest signing to be officially unveiled, as the midfielder became the third player to join the Hornets this summer, after Nina Wilson and Ryah Vyse was announced last week.

“I think it was key for us to make sure we kept the core players and built around them,” explained Kavaja. “They know what we want, the philosophy of the club, the values of it and they care about the club.

“The new ones that we’ve brought in are not only good players, but really good characters and positive, nice people, which is really important to us.

“We began the season well last year and then dropped off before picking up again, so we want to have that consistency throughout. Having those players with a bit more maturity and experience will obviously help us.”

The beginning of the campaign is crucial, with almost a third of the league season scheduled to take place in August and September.

“Our opening few fixtures are tough, but if we can get off to a good start, we’ll send a message to the other teams in the league that we’re serious this year,” said Kavaja.

“We want to compete and be in and around the top three this season. We came close last time, but didn’t have that strength in depth, whereas this year, we’re adding those players that will hopefully take us that extra step.

“Promotion is the ultimate goal. Ideally, we would have liked to have gone up last year, but we had a three-year plan in place.

“We want to show the FA that we’re serious with what we’re doing here. The club has invested a bit more, we’re training at the men’s training ground and now have an extra session on the Wednesday.

“We’ve got to now make sure we compete and that we’re around that top three throughout the season, because it will come down to the head-to-heads between the sides that are up there. The coaching staff and I are confident.”

There was hardly a dull moment last campaign, with several entertaining games. Two of the most memorable were probably against Portsmouth, who Watford will be taking on in their first two matches, first in the league, and then in the cup.

“We’re looking forward to the games against them,” said Kavaja. “We came from behind to win in the away game last year, while in the return fixture, they came back to 4-4 from 4-1 down, before we won it in the last minute.

“While we want to be more solid, we want to entertain, get goals for the people that come to watch and play good football. Portsmouth are similar, they try to play, and we’ll do likewise, so may the best team win!”