On the pitch
Star man: For the sixth successive season the same player stands out as Watford’s most important: Troy Deeney, the club’s heartbeat, spokesman, inspiration and actually quite technically accomplished striker, though Marco Silva has been markedly noncommittal about his chances of retaining the captaincy or even remaining at the club.
Biggest summer buy: Abel Braga, the Fluminense coach, described the £13m Brazilian forward Richarlison as “a boy who delights” and “has everything to be one of Fluminense’s big names”, though Richarlison angered the club by responding to a bid from Palmeiras in June by asking to be excused from a match against them because he was feeling a bit distracted. He later insisted: “I am not a mercenary,” before turning down Ajax and jumping upon the first flight to Hertfordshire.
Breakthrough season: Nathaniel Chalobah has made only 32 league appearances since the end of his loan spell at Watford in 2012‑13, but with an important admirer in the shape of Gareth Southgate just waiting for an excuse to give him an England cap and the possibility of a fine midfield partnership at Vicarage Road with the dynamic Frenchman Abdoulaye Doucouré, this could and should be the year he steps out of the shadows after leaving Chelsea.
Bad boy: No player in all four divisions was booked more last season than José Holebas, who picked up 14 cautions at the rate of one every 2.4 games. This achievement makes him the least ruly of an astonishingly unruly bunch: the list of the Premier League’s least disciplined players had Holebas, held back by a lack of red cards, at No2, team-mates Sebastian Prodl at No3 and Miguel Britos joint fourth.
Boo boy: Étienne Capoue scored seven goals from midfield last season and is probably the most technically gifted player at the club, but his attitude and application are so questionable so often that he is unpopular all the same. Reports of a pre-season training‑ground row with Silva suggest the new manager might have already figured this out for himself.
Destination Russia: Isaac Success started only two league games in an injury-affected first season in England, leading to reports in his homeland that “some people who are not happy with his progress are chasing him with evil witches”, but he still made his full debut for Nigeria, after which he reassured the nation’s fans that “success is guaranteed because now they have Success in the team”.
Glass half-full: So low did Walter Mazzarri’s stock fall by the end of last season that Watford could have Noddy and Big Ears in the dugout and fans would be cheerful about it.
Glass half-empty: One of their strikers might be being chased by evil witches.
Off the pitch
The manager: Marco Silva vaulted from relative obscurity – Paul Merson will surely never live down his “What is this geezer?” reaction to his appointment by Hull in January – to enormous popularity by transforming a side apparently sure to go down into one for whom relegation was, at one stage, merely very likely. He is a fan of dark jackets, white shirts, unbuttoned collars and 4-2-3-1.
The owners: The Pozzo family has kept the club in the top flight despite regular changes in the dugout and on the team sheet and without overspending on transfers, though more recently they have also signed and loaned out a puzzling amount of young South Americans with no imminent chance of getting a work permit (including, earlier this summer, the promisingly-named 19-year-old Colombian striker Luis Suárez).
Matt Rowson’s fan’s view: I’m more optimistic than our nosedive at the end of last season ought to warrant. Silva unified Hull and we could do with a bit of that. We’re one of several sides that could struggle if the wind blows the wrong way but that happened last season and we stayed up anyway. Prediction: 14th. Follow Matt @mattrowson
Title odds 1,000-1
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