The first pre-season game of the summer, 22 players used, no goals scored but the woodwork hit twice, no goals conceded – if you want to find fault or positives, then the 0-0 draw at National League side Boreham Wood provided ammunition for both the glass half-empty and half-full brigades.

The fact is, this was little more than a training game: an opportunity to see what differences new head coach Valerien Ismael has made in little more than two weeks in a match played in public rather than at a training ground away from supporters.

Summer friendlies should come with a bit of a health warning at all times. Had Watford rolled their hosts over comfortably it would have been no greater evidence that a much better season was on the way than a defeat would have suggested the Hornets were potentially relegation fodder.

As it was, a draw flattered the home side as Watford dominated possession and created the best chances.

They should have won: Ismael Kone hit the post early in the second half when he probably should have found the net, and the upright rescued Wood again when Joseph Hungbo’s low guided shot came back off the frame of the goal.

The home side barely created anything – Dan Bachmann made one save in the first half, Ben Hamer hardly had a touch of the ball in the second period.

New signings Tom Ince and Rhys Healey were at Meadow Park, but neither played. A shame for the healthy Watford contingent in a crowd of 1,703 and some fans seemed a bit more than mildly disappointed.

Ismael will doubtless have his reasons, not least because as he made clear when interviewed on Tuesday he is using pre-season to assess and make decisions on those players he has inherited. Some will be up to the job, others won’t – that was roughly how he put it.

So, while not seeing either of the new boys on the pitch was a let down for those who made the short trip, Ismael may well have decided that having signed both players and clearly wanting them for the coming campaign, the chance to see 20 other outfield players in 45 minutes of football that was competitive to a point would be more useful to him as he decides where he needs to add to his squad.

That he will need reinforcements is perhaps the one thing pretty much every spectator or fan following on social media would agree upon. He may have 25 players, but there are obvious gaps and lack of competition/quality.

Only one left-sided full/wing back meant Joao Ferreira played out of position in the second half, Shaq Forde can’t have made many 45-minute outings as a pretty deep-sitting midfielder, and it’s hard to imagine Ismael wants to go into the season with only Vakoun Bayo and Tobi Adeyemo giving Healey competition.

There are other areas Ismael will want to look at, almost certainly.

He will, at some point, be able to factor in the watching Yaser Asprilla and Edo Kayembe, but unless his change of approach and style can magically transform a squad that under-performed so badly last season with the benefit of Joao Pedro and loanees such as Hamza Choudhury, then it has to be expected that the coming weeks will see more fresh faces.

One player not even watching on was Ismaila Sarr. His almost obligatory extended holiday after playing for Senegal means he’s still not reported back at London Colney. However, with the need for some money it’s got to be expected that he may never return, especially as he has only a year left on his contract.

Ismael made it clear ahead of the game that it would not be right to expect too much given he is only just over two weeks into a seven-week pre-season, but there were still obvious signs of a different modus operandi both in shape and style.

The first half was 3-4-3, the second was 4-3-3, although in both halves there was a clear fluidity within the formation. Noticeably in the first half, Francisco Sierralta would often step forward from his role as one of the back three and pop up in midfield, thus freeing the likes of Tom Dele-Bashiru and Imran Louza to slip in between the lines or even make a fourth forward.

Watford Observer: Imran Louza at Boreham Wood.Imran Louza at Boreham Wood. (Image: Alan Cozzi/Watford FC)

The only downside to that was when the ball was turned over and the home side quickly knocked it in behind, the two remaining defenders were stretched by pacy forwards.

Louza also limped off at half-time after taking a hefty whack on the ankle. There seemed no concern after the game though, and the midfielder was all smiles as he left the dressing room.

Both James Morris and Ryan Andrews had clearly been told to bomb on from their wing-back position, and the latter did that particularly well, often creating an overload which dragged one of Wood’s centre halves out of the middle to help his full-back.

The returning Matheus Martins posed more threat as one of three forwards than he did last season when deployed as a winger. It was a position he played to very good effect for the Under-21s, and with better decision making in the final third he may well have scored or created a clear-cut chance.

The oft-maligned Samuel Kalu still shows signs of being a box of tricks, waiting to be opened. He’s fast, he’s got good feet and he loves running at players: it’s his lack of end product that’s the problem. Slaven Bilic said regularly there was a player within the Nigerian if someone could unluck it. Perhaps, given time and no injuries, it’ll happen under Ismael.

In both halves, the two wider forwards would regularly swap sides and then change back again.

Kone caught the eye in the second half, a couple of superb passes that totally unlocked the Wood defence deserved better endings – and his willingness to take charge in midfield perhaps shows a growth in confidence now he has settled in after moving continents.

At the back, Mattie Pollock looked what Aberdeen fans have said all summer: a commanding, no-nonsense defender who is very good in the air. If three at the back is the way forward, playing alongside a vocal leader like Ryan Porteous might show him in his best light.

None of us has seen much of Kwadwo Baah given he’s spent most of his time at Vicarage Road on loan elsewhere. However, he seems physically stronger than last summer and the flashes he showed suggested he’s worth further consideration.

There was definitely a desire to press in both halves, and a very obvious energy to get the ball back when it was lost – both traits expected of an Ismael team.

At times there was a tendency to over-play in the final third, something that bogged Watford down in many games last season. As the many on the terrace might say, ‘hit it’ is sometimes a good idea instead of trying to thread a pass into an over-crowded box.

Early on, hitting it seemed to be the order of the day as both Bayo and Dele-Bashiru missed the target from range.

The only thing close to a scare for Watford’s defence came after eight minutes when Bachmann had to block with his legs to deny Tyrone Marsh at the back post.

Morris fired across the face of goal from a tight angle, Martins shot at the keeper after a one-two with Bayo, who should have done much better than skew a shot high and wide after being picked out by Sierralta on one of his midfield cameos.

Five minutes into the second half smart interplay between Ken Sema and Jeremy Ngakia created space in the box for Kone, but his shot on the turn came back off the inside of the post.

Soon after the same post denied Hungbo after he had cut in from the right and steered a low shot towards the bottom corner.

Watford Observer: Wes Hoedt captained Watford in the first half last night.Wes Hoedt captained Watford in the first half last night. (Image: Alan Cozzi/Watford FC)

Kone hit the pass of the night on the hour mark, splitting the centre backs and allowing Ngakia to run into the box on the right. The defender pulled the ball back but Tobi Adeyemo never got his body into a great position and ended up miskicking the ball against himself.

The final decent chance of the night came when a fine diagonal ball from Ferreira was flighted perfectly for Kone at the back post, but his header was miscued down into the ground.

Watford (1st half): Bachmann; Porteous, Sierralta, Hoedt; Andrews, Louza, Dele-Bashiru, Morris; Kalu, Bayo, Martins.

Watford (2nd half): Hamer; Ngakia, Kabasele, Pollock, Ferreira; Hungbo, Forde, Kone; Baah, Adeyemo, Sema.