Watford head to Sheffield Wednesday for tomorrow’s night game with only two first-team players ruled out of the squad – whether that squad will be added to before the transfer window shuts on Thursday night is very much open to debate though.

With Tom Dele-Bashiru fit after being rested because of a slight hamstring issue on Sunday, only midfielder Edo Kayembe and defender Jeremy Ngakia are sidelined.

With those two seemingly just a couple of weeks away from being able to be considered for selection, the Hornets are on the cusp of a fully-fit squad.

Nonetheless, Imran Louza has left on loan and Rhys Healey has moved to Huddersfield. Emmanuel Dennis has returned to the club, but with the head coach pointing to a ‘one in, one out’ approach to January a couple of weeks ago, currently Watford appear to be a player lighter than they were at the start of the month.

“Anything can happen but I am very pleased with our squad,” said Valerien Ismael.

“We have got players back and others like Kayembe and Ngakia are very close.

“At the minute we have almost everybody available and I am very pleased with the squad, but we also know where we want to improve it.

“It has to be the right player though.

“If it is the right player then we will do it, if it isn’t the right player then we don’t need to do anything as I am very happy with the squad.

“We have seen that every time we have put players on the pitch it hasn’t affected the performance of the team.

“We played our last two league games without five regular starters and still the performance was really good.

“Everyone understands we count on them, and that everyone is part of the process.”

Ismael had stressed, many times, that he will only bring in players in positions he feels he needs them, if they will improve the strength of the squad overall, and if the individual is a good fit with the squad and the mindset within the group.

“The mentality within the group is great and you can see them all growing up together,” he said.

“It is my job, as manager, to protect the environment we have created as well.

“In some positions, if we can do something and the player is the right player, then we do it. If it is a player that will improve us, yes we will do it.

“If not, then I am very pleased to stay like we are.”

With tomorrow’s game being the start of a run of six games in 18 days – including three midweek trips and four away fixtures – then the squad could be stretched.

“It’s a tough schedule in front of us, not for one or two weeks but for three weeks. It’s the Christmas period reloaded,” said the Watford boss.

“We’ll face the challenge though and are focussed on the next game, where we want to take the good energy from the Southampton game on Sunday.

“It will be another different type of game and we will need to have adaptability in all circumstances, so that we stick together and stick to our game plan.

“Different pitch, different atmosphere, away from home. We will need to adapt but with the same purpose and mentality.

“We want to show the same desire we have shown this season and give another strong performance.

“We will need everyone, that is clear. Everyone will have a part to play.

“We have to take these games one by one, focus on the next one and assess the squad each time.”

How much of a part Dennis can play will depend on how soon he can regain match fitness: anyone at Vicarage Road on Sunday will have seen for themselves he is some way off being sharp.

“I am not worried about his quality,” said Ismael.

“We know what quality he has: our job is to get him back to his levels.

“We are here to help him, and we want to help him. We will do everything we can to improve him so we can have success with him.

“We said before the cup game we would use it to give some players some minutes and to assess them.

“It was a calculated risk but it has now given us some more information about Dennis, his level and how we have to work with him.

“Right now it is a matter of finding the right balance between load and games.

“Throughout the next week we will see how we can manage him better to put him in a good position on the training pitch so that he can recover between games.”