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Transfer Rater: Kieran Gibbs to Watford

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 By Mike Parkin

Watford stumbled but survived thanks to a startling September

Watford ensured they will enjoy a third consecutive season in the Premier League, but it was a difficult and often frustrating campaign that resulted in yet another head coach leaving Vicarage Road. Following Walter Mazzarri's dismissal, the Hornets are after their ninth manager in five years.

Rating out of 10: 6

Highlight

A comprehensive and well-deserved home victory over Manchester United on Sept. 18 was a memorable moment for the Hornets' faithful. Mourinho's side featured Zlatan Ibrahimovic and world-record signing Paul Pogba, but they were no match for a determined and tenacious Watford, who triumphed against United for the first time in 30 years. A week earlier, Walter Mazzarri also guided his team to an away win at the Emirates and a fantastic win at the London Stadium, where they came behind from two goals to beat West Ham United 4-2.

Staying in the division was always the ultimate aim, so achieving safety with relative ease -- even if the weeks after hitting 40 points were tough to watch -- should be recognised as a huge plus and a major accomplishment.

Low point

Watford were dismantled by the likes of Tottenham and Liverpool, but it was the defeats against lesser lights that were more difficult to take. All too frequently the Hornets found themselves turning in an insipid display, seemingly incapable of stepping it up when faced with a deficit or challenging opposition tactics.

Watford's defeats were almost exclusively comprehensive. The home defeat to Stoke was a particular cause for concern, the one-goal difference belying the chasm between the two sides. This was a regular occurrence, with Watford looking completely nonplussed in a whole host of fixtures despite being only a goal away from parity. When Watford lost, they did so completely.

After reaching the semifinal last season, an early FA Cup exit at the hands of League One Millwall was one of the single most depressing moments of the campaign, the feeble showing providing a worrying precursor to the wretched form that became the hallmark of Watford's 2017.

Abdoulaye Doucoure emerged as a dominant midfielder in the second half of the season for Watford.

Star man

It's perhaps an indication as to the inconsistency of the team throughout 2016-17 that there was no standout candidate for this accolade. Troy Deeney was wholehearted and committed throughout, and Heurelho Gomes delivered another solid season between the sticks, but neither had what could be described as a stellar season.

Etienne Capoue started in fantastic form, but after his best month or two in a Watford shirt, his performances tailed off. Isaac Success, a summer arrival from Granada, promised much in cameo substitute performances but was used infrequently by Mazzarri and was never able to establish himself in the team. Initially, a similar fate befell another summer signing -- Abdoulaye Doucoure -- who was minutes away from leaving the club on loan in the January transfer window. He broke into the side during the second half of the season, however, and was an absolute revelation.

The midfielder rapidly grew in confidence and was comfortably Watford's best performer for the latter part of the season. Skillful, strong, dominant and able to perform both defensive and attacking roles, there will be high hopes for Doucoure next season.

Flop

After an extraordinary first season in the Premier League, Odion Ighalo found the second season altogether tougher -- so much so, in fact, that he was sold to Chinese Super League side Changchun Yatai for £20 million. After forging such an impressive partnership with Deeney in the previous two seasons, the Nigerian's slump in form and dismal goal-scoring return was a big disappointment.

Isaac Success arrived to much excitement, but despite the buzz, he was never able to force his way into the team for anything other than a handful of substitute appearances. Considering the high hopes many supporters had for Success, his season has to go down as a disappointing one.

Transfer talk

Along with a new head coach, Watford need at least three new signings. The Hornets have struggled defensively all season, and a centre-back partner for Sebastian Prodl must be high on the agenda. The Austrian was a top performer for the majority of the season, and a reliable teammate should help address one of Watford's biggest weaknesses.

While Doucoure and Tom Cleverley looked good in midfield, a consistent central midfielder is going to be vital if Watford are to carve more attacking opportunities. Questions must be asked over the future of Capoue after another season of largely unfulfilled promise, and if he were to leave, securing a solid replacement could be the key to the improvement owner Gino Pozzo desires

Finally -- and Watford can join a lengthy queue in this regard -- they need a Premier League standard striker. Both Deeney and Stefano Okaka have showed their value this year, but neither look likely to deliver 20 goals in a top-flight season. This is where the Pozzo's extensive scouting network will be relied upon; a successful transfer will necessitate finding a player who can deliver but isn't currently on the radar of richer or bigger clubs.

Mike is ESPN FC's Watford blogger.

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