After teetering on the cusp of the Premier League only to fall desperately short, Watford could prove an exceptionally good long-odds punt for relegation from the Championship this season.
The Hornets were one of last term’s surprise packages where they reached the play-off final only to lose out to Crystal Palace in the cagiest of cagey affairs that finished 1-0 and, as a result, will begin this season as 20/1 shots to suffer relegation.
The Championship is an extremely volatile division, hence their price seemingly relatively mid-range, when in fact Gianfranco Zola’s men are amongst the leading contenders for promotion.
However, after suffering such a huge setback the last time they took to the field, it will take something heroic for the Hertfordshire club to reciprocate that effort when they begin again, let alone better it. A few defeats early on in the season can set the tone for a truly miserable campaign, as League One-bound Wolves will attest.
What will be the most crucial factor in the Hornet’s mooted demise will be how they adapt to the Championship’s new loan regulations.
Last season they prospered in controversial circumstances, with their owner drafting in a host of talent from Udinese – another club he owns – that propelled the club from lower region fodder onto the brink of greatness.
No less than 10 players temporarily traded the Stadio Friuli for Vicarage Road, one being Championship Player of the Year, Matej Vydra. Following that influx, the Football League have moved to rule that no more than five loanees can be named in one match-day squad and no more than four from any one team.
The closure of the foreign loan loophole will prevent Watford from populating their squad with superior talent from their sister clubs and the quality in their ranks will be massively diminished.
Zola’s revered managerial acumen is likely to prove more than enough to keep them in the division, but should they get off to a bad start, some boardroom rashness could easily see him axed. Should this occur, their current price for the drop will look all the tastier.
However, if none of this has convinced you that Watford are going down this season, definitely steer clear of their 4/1 for promotion.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date