While Leicester write their own fairy tale and steal every headline along with the nations hearts one club and their manager have been living in their shadow.
Watford recently booked their place in the F.A. Cup semi-final at the expense of holders Arsenal. Up to this point at least it is Quique Sanchez Flores’ greatest achievement as a manger and highlights the remarkable job he has done with his Watford team.
The Hornets are currently 12 points above the relegation places and are just three points away from Chelsea in 10th. Team that with their place in the last four of the F.A. Cup and Flores is manager of the year in any other season. Unfortunately for him Claudio Ranieri will surely be taking that honour when the time comes.
However, Flores has caught the eye of many this season with how he sets up his team and how the players are motivated to work for him. The former Getafe boss won Manager of the Month in December and has gained respect across the Premier League. His man management skills are superb and tactically he’s smart being able to get the best out of the personnel he sends out on to the field.
To draw a comparison, Flores has taken a similar route to the latest hot manager in the game, Mauricio Pochettino. Pochettino came to England by way of Southampton after being appointed from La Liga side Espanyol and quickly showed his qualities. Fast forward to the present day and he finds himself entrenched in the most intriguing title race ever.
Flores demands his sides work hard as a unit, play quickly on the counter attack and forms great partnerships all over the pitch – almost identical to how Pochettino set up his Southampton sides.
The best example of Flores’ work can be seen in the strike partnership of Troy Deeny and Odion Ighalo. Ighalo takes most of the headlines for the goals but his partnership with the industrious Deeney has caused teams many problems. The Watford captain is willing to drop into midfield to help and consistently supports his strike partner with clever passes, holding the ball up and decoy runs. Deeney epitomises everything about Flores’ Watford team – selfless.
With speculation around the futures of Louis van Gaal, Arsene Wenger and Pochettino managerial moves are sure to be made during the summer. Flores is not at that calibre yet – but the managerial merry-go-round could see him linked with a moved to a bigger club come the summer change the calibre of clubs interested in his services- again similar to the current Spurs boss. When the Argentine took over at Tottenham they picking up the pieces of poorly spending the Gareth Bale transfer money and a dressing room in great unrest.
Flores has the man management skills to be able to get a dressing room to respect him and work hard for him while playing good football. He has successfully turned round the fortunes of goalkeeper Gomes – a former Spurs laughing stock as well as Etienne Capoue – another former North London misfit. This is not to mention his excellent work with Chelsea loanee Nathan Ake who has proved he is ready to play at Premier League level consistently.
Watford are just one or two more wins away from almost guaranteeing themselves another season in the Premier League. Should they reach, or even win, the F.A. Cup final Watford may be fighting not only to keep their star striking tandem but also their manager who will certainly start cropping up on bigger club’s radar after a remarkable season.