Watford have sacked their manager – again. Quique Sanches Flores lasted just ten games in the job before being dismissed on Saturday evening following a 2-1 defeat at Southampton that saw the club cut six points adrift at the foot of the Premier League table. Flores can hardly be blamed.
The owners should never have sacked Javi Gracia, who was not only popular with the players but playing decent football; the underlying metrics had suggested Watford were unlucky to have won just one point from their first four games of the season.
Replacing him with a defensive manager created the sense Watford were in a relegation fight when a little patience could have found them comfortably mid-table. Ten games later and Flores, who won just once and oversaw an 8-0 defeat to Man City, now needs replacing.
Here are the five main candidates:
The strong favourite is former Brighton manager Hughton, out of a job since being fired in May last year despite keeping Brighton in the Premier League for the second successive season. He is certainly well respected in the game and a strong defensive organiser, even if his football is functional and dull.
Brighton weren't good to watch; this would be a fire-fighter appointment, and like the Seagulls – who sat deep and countered with long balls punted up to Glenn Murray – Watford would continue the Flores groundwork rather than revive Gracia.
Though pessimistic, the board may already have half an eye on the Championship next season. Hughton has been promoted from England's second tier with Newcastle and Brighton, as well as finishing fourth in his sole season at Birmingham City.
Watford could really do with a more inventive appointment than this, and surely given their proximity to London and four-year stay in the Premier League can attract the same calibre as Southampton when they appointed Ralph Hasenhuttl. However, with Sky Sports and the Guardian reporting Hughton is the target, Watford fans will have to make do with an uninspiring, conservative appointment.
Out of the game for a full year, Sam Allardyce was last in the news turning down an approach from Newcastle in July – but that does not mean he is retired. Watford are a far more stable club than the Magpies, and indeed there is little doubt Allardyce would finally sort out the Hornets' defence. The main stumbling block is how the fans would react to the appointment of a man whose stock continues to fall.
Allardyce's boring football at Everton has confirmed he is only able to play one way, but the Watford board appear to be at the stage of survival by any means necessary. If that's the case, then Allardyce ought to be their number one target; he has rescued Everton, Crystal Palace, and Sunderland in recent years.
There was a time when Clement, a trusted coach of Carlo Ancelotti, was tipped to be the next big thing – but disappointing spells at Derby County, Swansea City, and Reading have dramatically altered our perceptions of a man who has worked for Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and Paris Saint-Germain. Clearly there is a big difference between coach and head coach.
Clement has been universally accused of playing negative football at his three previous clubs, which surely makes him a less attractive option than Hughton or Allardyce. He will similarly look to play percentage football, focusing on a solid defence and little else, and yet Clement's disappointing tenures make him frankly unqualified for such a tough job.
Then again, Sky Sports report that he is ‘in the frame' for the role, reflecting the pretty dreadful decision-making at boardroom level in Watford this season. Surely they won't go for Clement over Hughton?
Flores's departure at the weekend was a cold reminder that, prior to Gracia's 20-month stint, the Pozzo family had been ruthless with Watford managers. Jokanovic knows that better than anyone, having been let go in the summer of 2015 despite winning promotion with the Hornets. If Watford have learnt absolutely nothing from Flores's second coming, they might return to Jokanovic.
But doing so would mean pulling the Serbian out of semi-retirement in Qatar, where he currently coaches Al-Gharafa. It's his third job since leaving Watford after a short spell at Maccabi Tel Aviv and a successful stint at Fulham, where Jokanovic sealed promotion to the Premier League via the playoffs.
Assuming Watford want either fresh ideas or a fire-fighter Jokanovic doesn't really fit. He only managed three unhappy months in the Premier League before Fulham fired him. Watford can certainly do better.
This is more like it. Setien is the only interesting name on this list, and a coach who would probably jump at the chance of managing a Premier League team; if Watford are ambitious enough, they should be able to convince Setien to take the reins – and take them back to being a safe mid-table club.
The 61-year-old has had successful spells at Lugo, Las Palmas, and most recently Real Betis, where Setien took the Spanish club into the Europa League. In January this year Setien's stock was at its highest, with Betis in the top six and their manager being linked as an outsider for the Barcelona job.
That rumour was largely because Setien plays high-tempo short passing football, making Betis into a cultured and enjoyable side to watch. If Watford are proactive, they will appoint someone looking to play attractive football – and yet the prominence of negative coaches on this list suggests Watford are in panic mode. Setien, then, will be deemed too big a gamble.
This post first appeared here