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Manuel Almunia feels Watford lacked enough players with Championship experience this season and says the squad didn't work hard enough on a daily basis
Manuel Almunia believes Watford lacked enough players with Championship experience this season and conceded the squad didn’t work hard enough on a daily basis.
The fact Almunia mentioned Jonathan Hogg and John Eustace as players the Hornets missed during the 2013/14 campaign will not surprise supporters but the other name listed was indicative of what attributes the goalkeeper believes were lacking from the squad.
“When you have a bad season you always remember the people who weren’t here,” Almunia said on Tuesday.
“Hoggy is an example of the type of player Watford have missed this season. John didn’t play much because he was injured but in training he had an experience that we have missed this year.
“Also Chris Iwelumo had a good mentality. He was always joking in training or shouting and arguing – these are the things that make a team.
“They are people who all left and we didn’t have these type of players this year.
“When new people come to the club they have to learn the country, the language and the football. We have no time for this because it takes a while to get used to the country.
“Everyone who comes to this club should come with a little knowledge of how everything works here.”
He continued: “We have probably missed people this season who know the Championship and English football. The Championship in this country is so different compared to other countries.
“For example the Championship in Spain is so different so maybe we have missed the experience of people who know English football and know what you need to be successful in every game.”
It is important to note Almunia is a brutally honest individual in interviews and he was last season, even when the team were enjoying success.
The goalkeeper has played with some of the finest players to grace English football during his time at Arsenal and knows what makes a successful dressing room.
The goalkeeper, who is 37 in ten days time, dismissed the suggestion there were any issues with team unity but did acknowlege the team lacked leadership qualities.
He said: “We respect each other a lot. In my opinion you need to have disagreements and argue with people because that means you can solve problems.
“We didn’t have many problems. Perhaps we should have had more problems to get more people involved in solving them.”
Watford finished the current campaign in 13th place, 12 points below the play-off places.
The season ended with the Hornets losing their final four matches. The 2-1 loss at QPR was one of their finest performances of the season but the next trio were arguably the worst.
“It’s been a long, difficult and hard season for everyone and it had a sad finish,” Almunia said.
“If I knew [exactly what went wrong] then I would have tried to put solutions forward.
“The league has been harder because we came from a play-off final last year and everyone was thinking it would be easier.
“Thinking a season will be easier is the worst thing you can do. We probably didn’t work as hard as we should have on a daily basis but there are a number of things you can improve during a season. This season is no exception.
“We also had a change of manager and a lot of players coming in and out.”
The Hornets attempted to strengthen their squad last year following several key departures but the results were mixed.
“This year we had good quality and good players like last season but maybe we didn’t have the right mentality to play this season,” he added.
Head coach Beppe Sannino questioned his players’ commitment and passion after recent defeats to Derby County and Charlton Athletic.
Almunia responded by saying: “When you lose and are not doing well you can find excuses or weak points in the team. We had weak points last year where nothing was working and moments when we thought we weren’t a good team, but our reaction was always good.
“This season has been flat and at the same level. We haven’t had reactions when we needed them."
The goalkeeper continued: “I can only speak from my point of view; which is every day you need to train and do better than you did yesterday.
“If you don’t start with this point as a professional then you are lost. I don’t think everyone tried to beat themselves every day.
“If you don’t try hard in professional football every day then you are dead and football will put you where you deserve to be. Maybe we didn’t have the same ambition. It’s definitely a mix of things.”
The final three matches were of real concern for the club and their fans. It wasn’t the fact the Hornets lost, it was the manner of the performances.
The battling defeat to QPR ended the club’s play-off hopes and that appeared to take its toll on the squad.
“Mentally it has been hard after QPR,” Almunia said.
“Our hopes were in that game and the previous games so the team has been tired mentally after that match.
“Our commitment has been great every day and there haven’t been complaints. Our problem in the last three games has been mentally.
“We’re not physically tired but we have had a big stone on our shoulders in the last three matches and that made us look heavier on the pitch.”
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