Can Emmanuel Dennis's goals keep Watford afloat?

Can Emmanuel Dennis's goals keep Watford afloat?

The opening months of the season have proved difficult for Watford. Battling with injuries and inconsistency, whilst juggling their usual manager merry-go-round, the Hornets look to be sticking with Claudio Ranieri between now and the end of the season, and it is that stability that will be needed to ensure they don’t face another Premier League relegation.

Watford looked to become something of a stalwart in the top flight before they fell into the Championship, largely inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, and while they bounced back first time of asking, they need to avoid becoming a yo-yo team and to do so, must start winning more frequently. In some parts, the Hornets have certainly been successful, largely down to the goalscoring accolades of new talisman Emmanuel Dennis.

Arriving from Club Brugge, Dennis spent the second half of last season on loan at German outfit FC Köln, and while he only scored the two goals, his performances clearly warranted the Hornets to spend £4.5 million on the Nigerian — a bargain of a fee in this inflated transfer market.

Although deemed as a squad player initially, the 24-year-old is currently fourth in the Golden Boot rankings with eight strikes, the best return from any player in the bottom half of the table. The range in his goals are what is most impressive — headers, close range finishes, tidy dribbling, he really seems like the full package in the brief stints we’ve seen of him so far this season. The Nigerian also possesses a creative spark most conventional number nines can’t offer, contributing five assists in his seventeen games so far, totalling 13 goal contributions.

While the festive period has certainly impacted the bet exchange UK, Dennis will have the opportunity to further increase his goals tally after being remitted from Nigeria’s Africa Cup of Nations squad — being replaced in the Super Eagles’ 28-man squad by Olympiacos’ Henry Onyekuru after Watford denied his release.

Allegedly Nigeria didn’t give Watford enough notice when the provisional squads came out, something Ranieri commented on, saying: “They have a lot of players and then they changed the managers and everything. We were ready to give over the players, they didn't do it. The two boards spoke and for me it is Ok. Of course he wanted to go to play but he also wanted to help Watford."

Losing Dennis would have been a big miss for Watford, who still have plenty of work to do to ensure they avoid the drop. With crucial matches on the horizon against fellow strugglers Newcastle United and Burnley, maximum points could well prove to be a turning point in the Hornets’ season, but the Herefordshire side will need Dennis’ goalscoring touch if they are to break down two other relegation candidates.

We’ve already seen how his physical attributes suit the league and against teams lower down the table he has proven he can cause damage, but it’s goals when the chips are down that could really ascend the Nigerian into Vicarage Road folklore.

Too many times this season Watford have gone a goal down and wilted. The crowd becomes listless and the game is often over within the first half an hour. But looking at the wins over Aston Villa and Manchester United, the stadium can certainly play its part — it’s down to Dennis and co. to get them off their feet.