Wednesday 22 January 2020

Survival is the top target for new Watford boss Walter Mazzarri

Walter Mazzarri says his focus is on keeping Watford in the Premier League
Walter Mazzarri says his focus is on keeping Watford in the Premier League

New Watford manager Walter Mazzarri insists his main objective is to keep the club in the Premier League.

Mazzarri, the 54-year-old Italian, was appointed as the successor to Quique Sanchez Flores in May after the Spaniard was sacked despite guiding the newly promoted Hornets to an impressive 13th-placed finish in the league and to an FA Cup semi-final.

But Mazzarri, who has previously managed Sampdoria, Napoli and Inter Milan, believes retaining Watford's top-flight status should be his number-one goal on the eve of the new campaign.

"The first objective is to stay in the Premier League," said Mazzarri, whose side travel to Southampton for their opening fixture of the season on Saturday.

"Those who know me, know that we will work hard and prepare to see how far we can get. But this for me is a new experience and I can't wait to start.

"I am also very curious as I have always been for the first games.

"There is also a bit of tension, but also a lot of attention to prepare for the games in the right way.

"I think I know the squad quite well, but there is still a lot to get to know. If I had to give a percentage it is 70 to 80 per cent, but there are still things to verify and tomorrow will be the first real test to know what level I am at."

Watford will head into Saturday's game at St Mary's bolstered by Odion Ighalo's decision to commit his future to the club by signing a new five-year deal.

The Nigeria international, who scored 17 goals in 42 appearances last season, had been linked with a move away this summer with West Brom reportedly keen on signing him.

But the Hornets announced on Thursday evening that Ighalo, 27, has followed captain and strike partner Troy Deeney in committing his future to the club until 2021.

Striker Isaac Success and defender Christian Kabasele have been Watford's only big-money signings this summer, but Lille midfielder Sofiane Boufal and Roberto Pereyra of Juventus have been linked with moves to Vicarage Road.

And Mazzarri is confident three new players could be added to his squad before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.

"I am very happy, and the same goes for Deeney," said Mazzarri when quizzed on Ighalo's new contract.

"It shows that they are players who did very well, and also shows that the club wants the players to stay. This is a good concept that the club is giving.

"Hopefully other players will also arrive to improve the team. On the transfer market I prefer if the club speaks, but there will be two or three players arriving soon."

PA Media

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