In August last year, Cristiano Giaretta arrived at Watford charged with the mammoth task of ensuring promotion back to the Premier League.

The Italian sporting director was parachuted in from Bulgaria, where he had been performing the same role at CSKA Sofia, and worked closely with both CEO and chairman Scott Duxbury and owner Gino Pozzo, helping to make important decisions that would have a sizeable impact on the Hornets' fortunes.

Having previously spent three years working with the Pozzo family at Udinese, he arrived as a trusted figure, but quickly realised that his brief for this season was far from a simple one.

He immediately found himself having to persuade players to stay at Vicarage Road and trust in the club's ability to steer them back to the top flight and was also involved in the decision to sack head coach Vladimir Ivic after just 20 league matches.

"It was and still is an amazing season because after relegation, especially at the start of the season, we had to pick up the pieces," Giaretta told the Watford Observer.

"It wasn't easy at all, for many reason, not just because of coronavirus, but because also the market was open until the fifth of October, so you can imagine after relegation, normally players never want to stay because they want to play in the top flight, so we struggled at the start to convince the players to stay, to keep the chemistry in the club and to trust the club, regardless of the relegation.

"To be fair, the second that we started, the group started to work correctly. The first part of the season, you know better than me, that we struggled just a little bit. We had to change the manager at a certain point and then we started to run very, very fast.

"To obtain the promotion with two games left after the start of the season, after relegation, is amazing. It was an outstanding goal for us."

The decision to remove Ivic from his position came from a sense of frustration among the club's hierarchy, who were irked by a coach seemingly unable to establish a discernible identity on the pitch.

After "many hours" spent working with both the coach and the players, without the desired results coming to fruition, it was agreed that a change simply had to be made.

"We had the perception, a concrete perception, that we weren't able to transmit to the players a certain kind of concept on the pitch," he said.

Watford Observer:

"Many hours were spent on the pitch and off the pitch with the manager, with the players, but again we were struggling, in terms of our system and identity. We weren't able to have our identity on the pitch, we weren't able be dominant and that's why we made the decision - we had to. We had to change."

The next decision Giaretta would be involved in would change the course of Watford's season, and was one the club needed to get absolutely right.

Gambling on Xisco Munoz, a man with only 11 games of managerial experience, in Georgia of all places, seemed to outsiders like a choice made out of grim desperation rather than intelligence.

However, Giaretta insists the club were always confident about their selection.

Bringing in not just a head coach, but an entirely new team of staff, embedded a fresh approach and eventually produced the identity that they had been looking for from the start of the campaign.

"Most of the people were undecided about the choice, but we were quite confident about our knowledge as a club," he said.

"The first choice was towards a culture and a certain type of football. That's why we choose the Spanish guys who have the mentality to normally have the ball, to build up the game from the back and defend by keeping the ball instead of kicking the ball long, so this was the starting point."

Giaretta believes that getting the right team around Munoz was as important as bringing in the head coach.

"We were really confident about a young manager like Xisco," added the 53-year-old. "We built around him a team of important staff because Xisco never works alone. But at Watford we imported the staff around him, we have around 25 human resources, in terms of physiotherapists, sports scientists, head of performance, assistant coaches, and also we didn't change just the manager, but also we signed new profiles in terms of our club staff and they created an important working group and they work really rapidly, with intensity, taking care of the details of our individual players, and giving them an important identity and concepts.

Watford Observer:

"We really trust, as a club, in hard work. You can't obtain anything in football if you don't work hard every day and take care of the details. They started to work in this direction, with everyone focused on winning every single game, because if you want to succeed the Championship, you have to try to win every single game. So there was a huge amount of work from this working group, where Xisco is the boss."

Looking ahead to next season, the priority for Giaretta and those in charge of the club is to maintain that on-field identity and play with the same style they have produced following Munoz's arrival.

"We need to maintain and to improve on this system and this way of playing football," he said. "This identity, this concept, that we gained over the season is very important to develop and to work on, but we trust in our identity. We are really convinced that we can defend by keeping the ball and with our quality, we have many quality players, and our identity, we can also have a good start, and this is our hope for the Premier League."

In order to keep that identity, the club know that strengthening is important.

However, Watford are looking to add "profiles" rather than names and are not looking to make drastic changes to their current playing squad.

They see the retention of their own big names as the key to maintaining their style.

"Planning for Premier League level football is different and we need to strengthen the team in certain positions," Giaretta said. "It's also true that we have a solid base to work on and on which to build a new team, and I think we don't have to add many profiles or many players, but we have to identify specific profiles for specific positions. It's important to have good choices in terms of either technical potential and preparation for the Premier League, so in defence, in the midfield and also in attack, we need to add some players, but without having to revolutionise the team."