When Matej Vydra struggled to make an impact against Shrewsbury Town two weeks ago, Beppe Sannino conceded playing him on the left could have been the reason and acknowledged the dynamic striker would be better suited playing through the middle.
But after two below-par showings in the last week whilst being used as the lone striker, it appears the central role in a 4-3-3 won’t bring out the best in Vydra either.
Sannino has been trying to utilise the best attributes of attacking players like Lloyd Dyer and Ikechi Anya by trialling the 4-3-3 formation.
But the 3-5-2 system remains a proven option and if Troy Deeney does stay at the club then pairing him with Vydra may be the answer to helping the Czech Republic international recapture the form which earned him the 2013 Championship Player of the Year award.
Sannino was asked if he knew why Vydra was struggling to make an impact after the 1-0 defeat to Coventry City. He replied: “All friendly matches for me are very important because on the pitch you watch the whole team and not just the single players.
“We look ahead with optimism as we try to solve the problems you saw on the pitch.”
Asked if Vydra was fit, Sannino responded: “You can’t always measure that.
“The fans, the club and we (the management) have to see on the pitch a strong Watford and a team that play to win in the Championship. I think in the future we look ahead with optimism because I see the positives and the results belong to the past.”
Vydra is currently living with his good friend Daniel Pudil and the defender admitted his fellow countryman was struggling to play as the central striker in a 4-3-3.
Pudil said: “I am not sure if his best position is to be the top striker because whilst he is not small, he doesn’t like so many duels. So maybe his best position is on the wings [in a 4-3-3] where he can get the ball and be one-on-one with the defender or get in behind. Maybe that is why [Vydra has yet to show his potential].
“We are still looking for the best formation and the best XI so probably against Udinese we will have the final XI heading into the first game in the league.”
He continued: “We (Vydra and Pudil) have played a couple of games together on the left so maybe him on the left or right is better because he can go one-on-one because he is quite quick. But it is not my choice, you will have to ask the manager because it is his responsibility, not mine.”
Pudil insisted Vydra is enjoying being back at Watford, the club where he burst on to the scene and scored 22 goals in his debut campaign in England, to attract the interest of several Premier League clubs.
“Yes he is happy and he is looking forward to the first game,” Pudil said.
“He wants to help us get promoted to the Premier League. It is not only his target, it is all of ours and we will try to do our best. It starts on Saturday [against Udinese] because it will be the first game in front of our supporters.
“We will do everything to win the game and be ready for August 9.”
Pre-season has seen Sannino rotate his players significantly and try out the new 4-3-3 formation, whilst also using 3-5-2 earlier in the summer.
Pudil said: “Pre-season is like that. The manager has his vision for the game and for our formation so right now we are trying 4-3-3 or 3-5-2. It’s up to him to find the right solution and formation for the first game of the season.”
He added: “We have spoken about this [4-3-3] as players and this formation is not too bad, we like the formation. It is good but maybe if you played 3-5-2 then we would have more players to attack. Maybe the formation is a little bit better but this is the decision of the manager and he has to put the right players on the pitch. He still has another week to find the right solution and everybody has to be ready for August 9.”
Sannino was in charge of Watford for the second half of last season and stamped his mark on the team immediately by providing more defensive stability.
The side had an awful end to the campaign, with three demoralising defeats on the bounce, but prior to that had shown progression.
Pudil believes the Golden Boys’ defensive shape and pressing have been the major differences between now and the final game of the 2013/14 season.
He explained: “We are working harder to press the ball higher up the pitch and move all of the team closer to the ball and work together.
“We look better and more solid at the back but we have to improve on keeping the ball, playing faster and creating more opportunities for the strikers. Today [against Coventry City], particularly first half, we didn’t have many chances to score. We need to improve this.”
Pudil has clearly been first choice when Watford have used the 4-3-3 formation during pre-season but he is not taking a starting place on August 9 for granted.
He said: “I have played all the games, that is true, but to be honest we don’t have left defenders so I am just the one who can play this position most because I am left footed. It looks like it may be me who starts but we could change the formation to 3-5-2 and someone else could play there.
“So I am just doing my best and hopefully I can play as much as possible.”
“The squad looks really strong right now,” he continued. “There will be more expectation from the fans and the owner, everyone, but it is always like that at Watford because it is a club that has to be in the Premier League.
“We will be under pressure from the first game but we have to go on to the pitch and win. Then we will be ok.”