The Hornets’ maiden victory at Goodison Park and Ranieri’s first in charge of the club, came stunningly, as Joshua King scored a hat-trick on his return to Everton, where he played 11 times without a goal last season, before leaving on a free transfer in the summer.
Watford understood they needed to add attacking reinforcements this summer if they were to have a realistic chance of staying in the Premier League. Even though Ismaila Sarr, the Hornets’ top scorer, was mainly responsible for their promotion, the Liverpool transfer target could not keep the Hornets afloat in the top-level on his own. Last season, Sarr scored 13 goals in the Championship, while no one else reached double figures. With Troy Deeney’s aging and eventual departure, the centre-forward position was in desperate need of assistance. Joshua King signed for Watford as a free agent, following his short time at Everton, and he has already proven to be capable of providing prolific goal-scoring power for the Hornets.
Following a poor half-season with Everton following his five-and-a-half-year stay with Bournemouth, questions were raised about how effective King would be at Watford, as he could only find 137 Premier League minutes with the Toffees, failing to find the back of the net. Ahead of Watford’s trip to Goodison Park, King was performing well but did not have a goal to show for his efforts. He assisted twice, once against Norwich City and once against Newcastle United.
Let’s take a look at his stats this season:
Josh King has featured in nine games so far for the Hornets, and on most occasions, has played the entire match. He failed to create an impact at the start of the season but he got his first goal contribution in the fourth game when he provided an assist. King has averaged around four touches in the penalty area per 90 minutes and is a threat to the opposition’s defense whenever he gets the ball in the final third. He has also been involved in several aerial duels in every match and has won most of the duels he has attempted.
Josh King has been starting as a lone striker for Watford in all the matches he has featured in. His heatmap indicates that he has been dropping deeper near the halfway line to receive the ball. King has the physique to play hold-up style of football where he can receive the ball and turn one player to play the ball to the wider areas, where his fellow teammates can progress into the final third. He has spent more time on the ball on the left side of the pitch, as this gives him the freedom to cut in and take a crack on the goal with his right foot.
The 29-year-old has a total of 12 shots on goal so far and has been highly effective whenever he has received a chance to take a shot on goal. As seen in the above visual, King has had most of his shots from inside the penalty area, where he has a high chance of scoring a goal. All three of his goals that came against Everton were from positions inside the penalty area.
While King is a high threat when he is in front of the goal, he can also be a threat to the opposition’s defense with the passes he attempts. His pass map indicates that he has been involved in most of the build-up play for the attacks that Watford construct on both flanks. King has played a higher number of passes in the midfield area towards the wider areas.
King has been playing as Watford’s number nine this season but was seen playing as a secondary striker in his days at Bournemouth, where he used to play behind main man Callum Wilson. He has the vision required to provide the right pass into the penalty area whenever possible. As seen in the visual, he has played many passes into the penalty area, which have a high xT, and has created a goal-scoring chance for his team.
Josh King is only the second Norwegian to ever reach 50+ Premier League goals. He surpassed 10 Premier League goals twice in his five top-flight seasons with the Cherries, with the most number of goals coming in the 2016-17 season. The 2016-17 season showed that if King is given a chance to shine and be the number one centre-forward, he has what it takes to be prolific. Under Claudio Ranieri, King will have the opportunity to play the game he wants to. The match against Everton further proved what can happen if King is given his due chances to shine.
Watford have not exactly had the dream start in their season back into the Premier League and are two points from the relegation zone. They still have a point to prove in the top tier but will have to work hard in the next few weeks as they have a tough list of fixtures coming up after the international break. They face Manchester United, Leicester City, Chelsea and Manchester City in back-to-back gameweeks.