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New Watford boss Gianfranco Zola targets improvement in Championship this season
Gianfranco Zola spoke with purpose and confidence this week ahead of his first season at Vicarage Road.
This is a new era at the Hornets and the changes at the club have been as dramatic as they have been swift.
Watford’s tight-knit squad has been joined by eight signings – with a ninth on the way – and a host of new backroom staff.
It is difficult to predict the Championship at the best of times, let alone when a side brings in several foreign imports – even if a couple of them are internationals.
The fact most of the new signings have barely featured during pre-season means it is even harder to predict how far away the new Hornets are from the Pozzos’ ultimate goal of Premier League football. Will it be a year of struggling or will Watford once again exceed expectations?
“The target of the club is to improve the position we had last year,” Zola stated.
“That would be the target because it is our first year and there is going to be a lot of changes; so we want to at least improve on what we did last year.
“Then we’ll see how it goes and we might adjust our target, but we want to improve on 11th position from last year.”
Zola has had to complete a summer’s worth of work in six weeks after arriving at the club just days before training was set to begin.
It was a mixed pre-season for Watford; there was the emphatic 8-0 win over Barnet behind closed doors and an impressive display by a young side against Gillingham.
But they have also struggled to score in a few of their matches and a couple of the games have been poor spectacles for supporters.
It is important to note Zola is attempting to implement a certain style of play though and it will take time to perfect, certainly longer than six weeks.
Zola has mentioned on several occasions how pleased he has been with the squad, especially how quickly they have adapted to the new way of playing.
The Italian is “satisfied” with how things have gone so far and believes it won’t be long until he has the team playing the way he wants.
Zola said: “To be honest I don’t think we are far away [from where I want the team to be style wise].
“Every now and then there are setbacks but I don’t think we are far away.
“I believe that if the players understand what we want to do then it is only a matter of time before we start doing it very well.”
When asked what has surprised him most since becoming Watford head coach, Zola added: “I have been surprised with how good the football has been and how good the approach has been towards the work.
“The players have been fantastic; it has been a joy for me to be here. That has been the best thing.”
With the help of technical director Gian Luca Nani, and the Pozzo family, Zola has signed two players on free transfers and six on season-long loans, with another one set to join shortly.
However, all eight players have missed part of pre-season, with Fitz Hall yet to play, Steve Leo Beleck appearing just once and Matej Vydra only making his debut last week.
Hall, Leo Beleck and Daniel Pudil are still struggling with injuries and Alex Geijo is trying to bring himself up to speed after joining last week.
Zola rejected the suggestion the numerous injuries have been a disappointment though.
He said: “In pre-season you always pick up injuries and have problems – that’s normal.
“I have no regrets; injuries to some players gave me an opportunity to find out more about other players, so it hasn’t been a problem. I have no complaints.
“Things never go according to plan in football.”
We ended the interview by asking Zola if he had a message for the Watford supporters ahead of the new season.
He replied: “The message is that we really want to give the fans something they can enjoy and, in order to do that, we need their support.
“But we need their support when things are not going well as well as when they’re going well.
“All together we can be successful.
“We need to stick together all the time and then we are going to come out with the right results.”