Saintly Premier League pair can improve Watford’s ill-discipline

As the Championship’s runners-up, with the most wins in the division, nigh on 100 goals and one of the five best defensive records, Watford can be pretty happy with their work in sealing a return to the Premier League for the first time since 2007.

No matter how confidence-building their campaign was, especially considering a revolving door was fitted to the manager’s office in the early part of it, the club will start again from scratch when playing amongst the big boys next term.

Naturally, upgrades to the playing staff will be sought as the Hornets look to level the playing field as best they can. But are there alternative ways of finding improvements to the squad over the course of the summer?

Inspired by the increasingly popular Moneyball-method that has made Brentford the talk of the town in recent months, present the first of a summer-long series aiming to find transfer targets for each top-flight team based on stats.

As the first under the microscope, Watford provide quite the test when it comes to a statistical area of weakness. They scored goals aplenty, often efficiently. They were solid at the back and made good use of set-pieces. Where the Londoners weren’t so hot, however, was with their discipline.

No side received more red cards than the Vicarage Road outfit over the course of the Championship, with the seven they saw matching Fulham at the sharp end of that particular leaderboard.

As 8/11 favourites for relegation next term, it seems playing Premier League stalwarts with 11 men may be a hard enough task, without handing opponents a numerical advantage on a regular basis.

So, as Quique Flores settles into a manager’s chair only recently grooved to Slavisa Jokanovic’s posterior, he may want to explore the possibility of adding a couple of goody two shoes to his squad.

All seven of Watford’s red cards were shown to players in defensive positions so, by analysing data provided by Opta, a couple of disciplined new recruits crop up.

Steven Caulker will no doubt be seeking a new Premier League club after suffering relegation in the past two seasons with Cardiff and QPR respectively.

The most recent drop shouldn’t reflect too harshly on the former England international though, as he performed credibly at the back.

CaulkerCaulker won over half of both his headers and tackles during the season for the Hoops, while blocking the seventh-most number of shots in the division and making just one error.

Crucially for Watford, though, was his intelligence at the back, as evidenced by his impressive ability to stay out of trouble.

The 23-year-old was only booked once all season, despite making 35 appearances, and committed just 15 fouls, which is the kind of powder-dry approach that Watford desperately need following a season in which four separate centre-backs were sent for an early bath.

Along with the angelic features of Caulker, Flores may want to try and tempt John Obi Mikel off of Chelsea’s bench and into Watford’s midfield.

John-Obi-MikelWhile it could be argued that the Nigerian’s numbers (one yellow card and 14 fouls) are skewed by a lack of appearances (18), he has proven himself to be a reliable defensive midfielder in seasons past.

Last term, when making 24 Premier League outings, Mikel was booked just three times, was never sent off and committed 19 fouls, while he returned figures of 3, 0 and 35 in the same three categories in 2013/14 from 22 games.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.