Champions League finalists do not combine Watford. However, Roberto Pereyra did and, ever since registering, the perception has become the Argentine feels he’s above this.
The 29-year-old was a part of Antonio Conte’s Juventus side beaten by Barcelona at the 2015 final in Berlin.
He wasn’t any bit-part, by the way. No-one made more appearances that year than Pereyra’s 52.
His stunning solo goal against Huddersfield Town in 2018 (below) only 1 example of his abilities.
Signing Pereyra was a statement of intent in the Hornets. But under Walter Mazzarri they moved backward and ended the season 17th. Knee ligament damage suffered by Pereyra only 13 games into his eponymous effort at Vicarage Road did not help things but the prior Internazionale boss was a terrible fit.
In actuality, long after Mazzarri was given his send-off, Pereyra fought. Marco Silva implemented a 4-3-3 system at the beginning of this 2016/17 effort which seemed tailor-made for the South American. The security provided by Nathaniel Chalobah and Abdoulaye Doucouré will allow the Hornets’ most creative player a freer function to roam.
However, the system did not last and did Silva. Unconvincing as a No.10 and reticent to fully commit in challenges after that knee injury, Pereyra was neither use nor ornament. Few could have mourned his death.
This was until Javi Gracia arrived in. Appointed in January 2018 after Silva’s alleged adultery, flirting with Everton while under contract in Watford, the Spaniard got more from Pereyra than either of his predecessors.
Changing to a narrow 4-2-2-2 system with Pereyra drifting in off the left, the prior River Plate kid enjoyed his best season at Watford as the Hornets finished 11th at the Premier League and reached the FA Cup final.
A return of six goals and three assists was his very best output but his work-rate clearly lept up several notches under Gracia who was able to instill a defensive duty in him — especially greater than in Gerard Deulofeu, the Hornets’ other maverick.
Yet he’s discovered moments hard to come by this year. Injury has not helped, but Pereyra hasn’t found favour under Nigel Pearson yet. The red was rescinded but it would only have served to dampen Pearson’s view of the operation of the senior players.
The feeling, it seems, is mutual. Talking to Fox Sports in Argentina recently Pereyra said: “I have three years left on my contract, but in June I’d love to modify the air.
However, it’s far from the first time Pereyra has alluded to the concept of moving away from Hertfordshire.
With Deulofeu and Ismaïla Sarr quickly establishing themselves as Pearson’s first-choice broad players in his favorite 4-2-3-1 system, and Ignacio Pussetto signing earlier this week, where does this leave Pereyra?
Asked for his response to the interview, he joked: “He may be going on vacation somewhere.
“He’s a really interesting character and I will just judge Roberto — because I will every player — about what I see when we are training and playing. It is more important for me that gamers reveal desire to play for us at any given time. It’s as straightforward as that really.”
Given all that you would be forgiven for expecting Pereyra’s inherent numbers to have fallen off. Nevertheless, the former Juventus star has actually seen an uplift in several of his key attacking metrics.
Although yet to record a Premier League assists, he is providing more shot aids this term (1.52 per 90) than last (1.02), and finishing more moves in the opposition’s half (21.71 vs. 20.45). Dribbles tried (3.66) and finished and finished (1.42) are up on last year (2.87 and 1.3 respectively) too.
His defensive work-rate has witnessed a spike. The amount of tackles Pereyra averages per 90 has increased from 0.73 to 1.2 while he’s pressing with increased intensity, winning possession in the attacking third 1.22 times per 90 against 0.7 final season.
Pereyra and Pearson couldn’t be juxtaposed. Take one look at the Argentine’s hair, tattoos or the enormous cat-shaped speakers that he brings to each home game and it is tough to imagine him being the new head trainer’s cup of tea.
But the pair may need to keep this marriage of convenience going until the end of the season if the Hornets would be to stay up.