WATFORD ARE A STRANGE CLUB in that they seem to be excellent at planning for the long term, while at the same time seemingly making wild short-term decisions. The sacking of Marco Silva is a case in point. The Portuguese seemed set to be at the club for a while – despite his desire to leave – but the club sacked him and ripped up their project. They did, though, have a new manager ready and waiting to step in in former Málaga boss Javi Gracia.
In all the commotion it is easy to forget that Watford made some interesting signings in January. So often they seem like a club stumbling into a casino with a sign up offer from genting – ready to gamble the vast sums that being a Premier League side has given them on players that no one else is sure about. Stefano Okaka, Isaac Success and Brice Dja Djédjé are all players they brought in only to realise they were poor bets and have all gone out on loan.
However, they have also made some shrewd signings, like Gerard Deulofeu from Barcelona, Richardson from Fluminense and Abdoulaye Doucouré from Rennes. This has left many wondering which camp new singing Pontus Dahlberg will fall into, with the Swedish goalkeeper a bit of an unknown quantity outside of his homeland.
He is someone Watford fans should be excited about seeing their club pick up and, at only 19, is a player who will become even better than he already is. He has already been capped by Sweden and was one of the few standout players in a ghastly season for his hometown club IFK Gothenburg, who plummeted to 10th in Allsvenskan, a disaster for a side with 18 national titles.
Dahlberg was voted the league’s best young player, and had to work hard for the honour with his side’s defence proving to be one of the league’s most disorganised. Without Dahlberg, it could have been a lot worse. He is agile, confident in the box and has the footballing brain of Guardiola-style goalkeeper. He is very much a modern ‘keeper and is not uncomfortable with the ball at his feet, though he isn’t quite at Ederson’s level yet.
He has long been earmarked as a talent having played for Sweden’s youth teams from under-17 up, before winning his first senior cap not long ago. He will go back out on loan to Blåvitt and if he continues his great form from last season, might just sneak into Sweden’s World Cup squad. Despite his side being regularly cut open last year, only five teams conceded fewer goals and that was down to Dahlberg’s calming presence.
It was clear from halfway through the season that he was a cut above the rest and was destined for bigger things. Sweden has not had a real candidate to replace stalwart Andreas Isaksson as their premier goalkeeper for a long time. Dahlberg, however, may well match him. Watford fans just need to be patient and they will get to watch this super talent bloom.