Why Watford should reignite their interest in James Lea-Siliki
Back in June, during the summer transfer window, French outlet Foot Mercato claimed that Watford were interested in signing midfielder James Lea Siliki from French club Rennes. However, a move to the Premier League failed to materialize and Lea Siliki stayed put in his homeland.
Watford went on to complete a club-record deal for Lea Siliki’s Rennes teammate and Senegalese international winger Ismaila Sarr, while Danny Welbeck was another high-profile signing on a free transfer from Arsenal.
Having narrowly missed out on a top-ten finish in the Premier League last season and enjoyed a wonderful run to the FA Cup final, the Hornets were expected to push on under Javi Gracia and challenge the big boys in the division for a Europa League qualification spot.
With that in mind, however, the fans at Vicarage Road have every reason to be bitterly disappointed with how Watford have gone about things in the ongoing campaign so far.
Still looking for their first league win after seven games, Watford are currently languishing bottom of the table in the Premier League and things have hardly taken a positive turnaround since the dismissal of Gracia and the subsequent appointment of former manager Quique Sanchez Flores.
Of course, susceptibility at the back has been one of the key takeaways from their nightmarish start to the season and, while the defenders have been quite shocking, it is worth noting that the midfielders and the attackers haven’t done a lot to help the team either.
While the likes of Welbeck, Deulofeu, Deeney, Gray and Sarr have all struggled to make an impact up top with goals, the central midfield pairing of Abdoulaye Doucoure and Etienne Capoue has also left much to desire with their coverall contribution, both in terms of attack and defence.
Doucoure and Capoue were amongst the standout performers in what was a wonderful campaign for the Hornets on all fronts under Gracia last time around but they have been well below-par this term.
Sanchez Flores hasn’t shown much trust in 19-year-old Domingos Quina, while Nathaniel Chalobah continues to be a marginalised figure at Vicarage Road.
In fairness to Doucoure and Capoue, they still have time to recover from a slow start but it won’t be a bad idea for Watford to look at a few alternatives in the market.
Doucoure has been linked with moves to several top clubs in the recent past (h/t Express) and the manager would have a massive void to fill should be head for the exit door in the near future.
On paper, Watford have a pretty strong midfield cavalry but bringing in fresh faces is the need of the hour after a calamitous start to the season and with that in mind, the Hornets should look to revisit their interest in James Lea Siliki when the transfer window reopens in January.
Born in France to parents of Cameroonian descent, Lea Siliki hasn’t really been an undisputed starter for Rennes in Ligue 1 since his senior breakthrough in the 2016-17 campaign but the 23-year-old left-footed enforcer has plenty of tricks up his sleeve to add that much-needed spark and the X-Factor to a Watford midfield that has looked quite pedestrian and ineffective this term.
The former French U-19 international has the right blend of pace and power in his game to make an impact in the Premier League, while his high work rate, ability to create space, pick the right pass and get into the channels should provide another dimension to Watford’s overall gameplay in the middle of the park.
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Sanchez Flores needs to try out a few tactical tweaks and play some gambles to find a way of overturning a poor start to the campaign and Watford reigniting interest in the summer target could go on to pay rich dividends.
Having said that, the Hornets should go back in the market for the Ligue 1 star in January to freshen up things in the middle of the park.