Thursday 8 December 2016

Watford boss Quique Sanchez Flores vows to keep star striker Odion Ighalo

Published 21/12/2015 | 10:36

Watford are confident striker Odion Ighalo, pictured, will stay at Vicarage Road until at least the end of the season
Watford are confident striker Odion Ighalo, pictured, will stay at Vicarage Road until at least the end of the season

Quique Sanchez Flores believes Watford are ready to fend off any January offers for star striker Odion Ighalo.

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Watford boss Flores hailed Ighalo as "completely clever" for staying with the Hornets in the summer, after going on to fire 12 goals in 17 Barclays Premier League appearances.

The 26-year-old's brace sunk Liverpool in Sunday's 3-0 win at Vicarage Road, leaving Watford toasting four consecutive top-flight victories for the first time since 1987.

Watford's Spanish boss Flores remains confident Ighalo will stay at Vicarage Road until the end of the season, even though his top form will doubtless attract a string of suitors.

"I think Ighalo is completely clever, he chose five months ago the option to stay here with Watford," said Flores.

"He chose to stay here because he imagined something special for him.

"It's very clever, he knew perfectly it was the best option for him.

"I think he'll finish the season with Watford, after that anybody knows.

"We have amazing strikers, but we have the facility to score every single match because we create attempts.

"I admire these players because we create a plan, then they supersede the expectation I create before the match."

Captain Troy Deeney and strike partner Ighalo terrorised Liverpool's hapless defence in north London on Sunday, the Reds unable to contain Watford's in-form duo.

Both table-toppers Leicester and high-riding Watford have made a success in reviving the out-of-vogue 4-4-2 formation this term.

Watford manager Flores revealed the key to fielding two strikers revolves around challenging both front men to drop into a regimented cordon in defence.

"If you are playing with two strikers separate to the rest of the players it's very difficult to stop other teams," said Flores.

"If you're playing 30 to 35 matches with fewer players when defending then you can tire.

"So that's the key: when we are playing with two strikers and we have the ball we have a lot of possibilities, for good football, counter-attacking or playing long ball out of defence.

"But when we don't have the ball they come back with the rest of the players and form a compact block.

"For us it's necessary to be defending with all our players."

Watford's eighth win of the season lifts the Hornets to within just one point of the Premier League's coveted top four, but Flores is refusing to change his pre-season expectations.

The former Getafe manager continues to target 40 points to ensure top-flight survival.

"No, it would be a very big mistake to change our thinking," said Flores.

"It's not clever: no, no, no. We have to keep the continuity.

"The idea in the club is very clear.

"We're just thinking about the need to grow.

"We need to establish ourselves in the Premier League, this is what we need.

"We are evolving with this idea, so to lose perspective would be very bad for us."

While Ighalo has gained plenty of plaudits for the impact he is having this season, the Nigerian striker is similarly impressed with what his manager is achieving at Vicarage Road.

Ighalo said of Flores : "He is one of the best coaches I've worked with in terms of game plans and encouraging his players.

"He is a very intelligent guy and deserves big credit for everything we are going through now."

The forward's brace against Liverpool left him just three goals behind leader Jamie Vardy in the division's scoring charts.

It remains to be seen just how many goals he can finish his maiden Premier League campaign with, but the former Granada and Udinese is refusing to set himself any targets.

"I give God all the glory for my goals and the victory," he said.

"Last season I never set a target and this season I haven't either.

"I will never set myself a target as then I put pressure on myself. I want to keep going game by game.

"When the team wins a game that is the most important."

Next up for seventh-placed Watford is a trip to struggling champions Chelsea on Boxing Day, and Ighalo is well aware just how tough that clash could be as the Blues look to impress under new coach Guus Hiddink.

"It's going to be a massive game but we are going go out as we always do and push teams, give our best," he said.

"It's going to be difficult because those players will want to play for the new manager, prove their position.

"But in football it is not going to be easy for them and it is not going to be easy for us, so we are going to have to go there and give it everything."

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