Watford: Is Roberto Pereyra the key to a top ten finish?

The Argentine has made a blistering start, but can he sustain it?

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Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

The statement was as short as it was inevitable. “Juventus Football Club can announce that Roberto Maximiliano Pereyra has joined the club on a permanent basis from Udinese,” said the press release in 2014.

12 months had been enough, and 35 appearances had been sufficient. For the man that had dazzled at both River and Udinese, life alongside Paul Pogba and Andrea Pirlo felt easy. The Bianconeri, it seemed, had landed themselves a top-level talent.

There were more than a few eyebrows raised, then, when the Pozzos snared Pereyra for Watford just twelve months later. Back-to-back Serie A titles, a Champions League final, then Vicarage Road. It was a statement, and a real boon to then-manager Walter Mazzarri’s hopes for Premier League survival.

A comfortable start

The Argentine made a comfortable start to life in England. According to WhoScored, only Abdoulaye Doucoure made more passes in 2016/17, as the Hornets scampered to safety in 17th.

Last season, though, saw Pereyra morph into a more of an attacking threat. He scored the same number of goals as new Everton bauble Richarlison, and is already keeping pace with the Brazilian this term, too, having scored a brace in the 2-0 rinsing of Brighton last weekend.

Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

“Today speaks volumes of him,” guffawed his teammate Will Hughes after the game.

“He produces that week in, week out. He is a top quality player. I have learnt so much from him, so when he produces that in the game it is only benefiting the team.”

Roberto Pereyra vs Brighton:

  • 83% passing accuracy
  • 3 dribbles
  • 1 key pass
  • 4 shots
  • 2 goals

Pereyra was everywhere at the weekend, stitching Javi Gracia’s side together in a cushioned and accomplished display. The 27-year-old, however, is by no means the only talented player in this Watford squad. 

Upwardly mobile

Not only have the Hornets managed to hold on to the likes of Doucoure and Gerard Deulofeu, but they’ve made several quality additions too. Ken Sema impressed in the Europa League for FK Ostersunds last season, whilst Marc Navarro accrued a wealth of experience with Espanyol in La Liga. 

This is a team blessed with quality in several positions. Far from being relegation fodder, the Europa League is a more realistic ambition for a squad that looks upwardly mobile.

Pereyra, however, is the undoubted star.  His performance at the weekend proved it, with a perfect volley book-ended by a curling finish. They were moments that — despite his quiet assuredness — have arrived all too infrequently during his time in Hertfordshire.

Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

Embarking on his third full season in England, it feels like a crucial campaign not just for Watford, but for his entire career. Will he fulfil his undoubted potential, or will he be remembered as a nearly-man? If he can maintain his current form, it’s undoubtedly the latter.

“It didn’t surprise me, I know he is capable of these things,” said Javi Gracia of his midfielder’s performance at the weekend.

Therein lies the problem. We all know what Pereyra is capable of, but we all know he’s capable of not delivering, too. If he can add consistency to his game, then he and Watford could be in for a tremendous season indeed.

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