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Gianfranco Zola claims new signings won't be prioritised over Watford old guard
Gianfranco Zola insists he won’t be forced to prioritise Watford’s new signings over players who were already at Vicarage Road but did admit he faces some “painful” decisions due to the club’s large squad.
The Hornets made 16 summer signings, 13 of whom came from the Pozzos’ other clubs Udinese and Granada, but Zola has stressed performances on the pitch will decide who is selected.
The Italian even claimed he currently values the players who were at the club before the takeover more than the new signings.
Zola said: “I understand there might be some concern [among the players already at the club] but at the end of the day, what happens on the pitch will decide things so this is not about being British, Italian or Spanish; it is about playing football and the players who play the best football, and the ones who perform best for this team, will be the ones who are going to play.
“So it doesn’t matter whether they are from Udinese or whether they are players already here, I think every player at this club knows that is the rule, and that rule will remain.”
The 16 new arrivals mean there are currently 39 players available to the club, and 42 if you include the three players out on loan .
Last week Zola admitted making so many signings was “not ideal” and the size of the squad was “not normal”.
He accepted players would leave the club and claims their departures will not only be upsetting for those exiting Vicarage Road .
Zola said: “We have 39 players; they are very good players and I value them. I value the players who have arrived, and the ones who have been here so far, I value them even more.
“But at the end of the day I will have to make some choices and some of them will be painful; they will be painful for the players and they will be painful for me.
“That is because since I have arrived, the players have given me everything and I’m very grateful for that. And now I’m in a situation where I have a much bigger range of players to choose from and the best players will be picked.
“That is the rule for the sake of the team and also it puts everybody in a position where they can show me what they can do.”
The former West Ham United boss believes the international break came at the perfect time due to the high number of arrivals and their heavy defeat at Derby County.
Some of the summer signings do not speak English and Zola admits that will be “a problem” initially but insists they will learn the language or face punishment.
He said: “Well obviously at the beginning language might be a problem because some of the new players don’t speak English. But they know there is only a certain amount of time in order for them to learn how to communicate in English, because this is an English club and the official language is English. After that there will be some fines handed out.
“This is for communication off the pitch, because on the pitch we all speak the common language of football. It didn’t take Matej Vydra a long time to communicate with Mark Yeates or Jonathan Hogg; it took them ten minutes of a game or 20 minutes of a training session for them to speak the same language.”
Football League rules stipulate clubs must have six players in their 18-man match-day squad who are deemed ‘home grown’.
A ‘home grown’ player is someone who, irrespective of nationality, has been with a club affiliated to the Football Association or the Football Association of Wales for three years before their 21st birthday.
Of the 16 new Watford signings, only three – Fitz Hall, Ikechi Anya and Nathaniel Chalobah – would qualify as ‘home grown’ but Zola stressed he was not concerned by the rule.
He said: “If there are eight home-grown players who deserve to play then there will be eight in the squad. If there are six players who are home-grown who deserve to play then there will be six and if there are ten then there will be ten.”