With Alan Pardew, Bob Bradley and Mike Phelan all having bitten the dust in recent weeks, Watford head coach Walter Mazzarri has now emerged as the bookies’ favourite to become the next Premier League manager to leave his post. The Italian, hired last summer to succeed Quique Sanchez Flores, seems in real danger of the tin tack after presiding over a dreadful run of six defeats in eight games, most recently a 2-0 loss at Stoke City on Tuesday night (3 January).
Watford have not exactly shown leniency towards managers in recent years, with owners the Pozzo family appointing no fewer than eight during their tenure to date. Such a ruthless streak was evidenced by the departure of Flores, who left his role after just one season despite steering the Hornets to a respectable 13th in the league and an FA Cup semi-final. Mazzarri will be only too aware that it was a post-New Year slump that ultimately did it for the Spaniard, with his side taking just eight points from a possible 30 over their last 10 games in 2015-16.
The distance between Watford, who are certainly no strangers to high player turnover, and the bottom three has now reduced to seven points, amid a desperate injury crisis that the club will surely seek to offset with new signings in January.
What they need
Mazzarri, eager to conduct his transfer business in swift fashion with so many absentees, previously claimed that Watford “need to think about getting players not just for two or three months but for the future as well”. A new back-up goalkeeper to provide competition for Heurelho Gomes has previously been mooted, with Costel Pantilimon failing to impress and Giedrius Arlauskis not included in their 25-man Premier League squad.
Additions in all areas would likely be welcome with injuries persisting throughout the team, although the addition of a deep-lying, creative midfielder appears to be a priority. A new striker would not go amiss either, considering Watford’s low tally of 23 goals from 20 top-flight matches this term.
Who could join?
The club have been priced out of a move for Lazio’s Africa Cup of Nations-bound winger Keita, according to the Watford Observer, while competition for Nottingham Forest captain Henri Lansbury is expected to be particularly fierce. Likewise 14-goal Brentford forward Scott Hogan, who The Guardian believes was the subject of an £8m (£9.8m) bid from Watford that includes £2m in add-ons.
Ashley Young has been linked with a possible return to Vicarage Road amid a lack of regular first-team football at Manchester United, and reports from Italy suggest Mazzarri is keen on a deal for Japan stalwart Keisuke Honda, out of contract at AC Milan this summer.
Who could leave?
Odion Ighalo has significantly regressed this term and Sky claim that the previously prolific striker is attracting interest from the mega-rich Chinese Super League. Teenage frontman Adalberto Penaranda has now joined Malaga on loan after spending the first half of the campaign at Udinese and Kenedy’s injury-plagued season-long stint was ended prematurely last month with an early return to Chelsea.
Anderlecht are said to be eager to borrow Christian Kabasele. Former Liverpool striker Jerome Sinclair is also being tracked by several Championship clubs with a view to a potential loan deal.
What the manager has said
“The problem is that the January transfer market is not very easy,” Mazzarri said. “In 15 years of my career I haven’t had all these injuries in one season but we’ve got enough experience to get back and improve in the table. We will see what players come back and when they will come back. The important thing is also to get all the injured players back and recovered.”