9th September 2016. By Edward Stratmann.
Watford's exciting new signing from Juventus, Roberto Pereyra, didn't waste anytime in announcing himself to the Vicarage Road faithful.
Having come on at half time with Walter Mazzarri's men 3-0 down against Arsenal, the Argentine injected a great degree of energy and dynamism into his team's play. And the all-action midfielder rewarded his electric start fittingly by scoring an instinctive, well taken goal with his left foot in the 58th minute.
At the time, it looked as though this moment of magic might inspire Watford to generate a comeback, but it wasn't to be. Nonetheless, there was still plenty to like about the 25-year-old's 45 minute cameo on debut for the Hornets, in a match where he showcased so many of his qualities.
Aside from the aforementioned, his intelligent movement saw him identify openings throughout Arsenal's defensive setup to exploit. Once in possession, the technically proficient midfielder then used his sharp dribbling ability and incisive passing capabilities, especially in transition, to ensure he was a constant source of menace to the Arsenal backline.
Meanwhile, on the defensive end, Pereyra's aggressive pressing and snap in the tackle enabled him to contribute effectively in this phase of the game too.
Moreover, the way the former River Plate prodigy led by example throughout his high-octane cameo, on both sides of the ball, would've unquestionably endeared himself to his teammates, the fans and his manager.
Although it's only early days for him at Watford, his performance aptly underlined why Mazzarri was so desperate to bring in the talented, multifaceted Pereyra, whose versatility will crucially give the Italian manager plenty of tactical flexibility.
"Pereyra is an eclectic player, he can play in many different positions. He can play on the wing, a striker and is a more offensive player," Mazzarri explained.
"He can play in lots of different roles in the different modules, 3-5-2, 4-3-3. "He is a runner and got good dribbling abilities and in my opinion we needed him. He was the missing point in our squad.
"He has got different characteristics to other players."
After spending five successful years in Serie A with Udinese and Juventus, Pereyra joins the Hornets as a very complete player, who still has a huge scope for improvement.
Having joined Udinese from Argentinian giants River Plate back in 2011, Pereyra progressed rapidly with the Little Zebras, quickly adapting to life in Italy. As a result, it didn't take long for him to cement his place in Francesco Guidolin's starting eleven courtesy of his promising form. Some of Europe's finest clubs were inherently interested in the Tucuman born talent, but Juventus won the race for his signature, signing him on an initial loan in 2014 with an option to acquire him for €14 million.
Playing alongside the likes of Kwadwo Asamoah, Medhi Benatia (who are both now at Juventus), Samir Handanovic (now of Inter Milan) and club legend Antonio Di Natale during his 104 appearances for Udinese clearly taught him plenty and prepared him beautifully for the step up in class.
Upon learning the news of Pereyra's departure, Di Natale spoke of what a tremendous footballer he had developed into and what a bright future lies ahead for him. "Roberto is a great player. There are few midfielders around with his features. On the wing, as a midfielder or an attacking midfielder, he is flexible - he can play in multiple positions," gleamed his former captain.
"And above all he has great quality. He is another [Alexis] Sanchez. Alexis is a more prolific goalscorer, but Roberto has a nice mix of quality and quantity. He will not suffer in making the jump to a big club. He defends like [Juve midfielder Arturo] Vidal, but compared to the Chilean he has greater mobility."
Di Natale's words rang true, for Pereyra hit the ground running at Juventus, in what was an overwhelmingly positive first season with the Bianconeri for him. Notching up a whopping 52 appearances, the most of any Juve player that campaign, combined with the fact he came on as a substitute in Juventus' 3-1 loss to Barcelona in the Champions League final, suitably illustrated his immense worth to Massimiliano Allegri's side. Unsurprisingly, the Old Lady immediately took up their option to sign him permanently.
Unfortunately injuries derailed his 2015/16 crusade badly, however, with him only starting nine Serie A games all season. While he still produced moments of class, he really battled to reproduce his outstanding form from his first year. "It's not been easy following matches from the sidelines without being able to help my team-mates," he insisted to Juventus' official television channel.
Moving to Watford gives the Argentinian international the perfect opportunity to get himself back on track, though. Although he might take some time to adjust to life at his new home, his familiarity with moving clubs should see him settle in quickly. Furthermore, working day-in and day-out within the highly professional environment at Juventus will have certainly left him in good stead to cope with the rigours of the Premier League - physically, mentally and technically.
All in all, the signing of Pereyra, a player who's got all the tools necessary to succeed at the highest level, really is a splendid piece of business by Watford. And at a fee of just €10.4 million, there's every chance he could potentially be one of the signings of the season.
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Roberto Pereyra the Exciting New Signing for Watford
9th September 2016. By Edward Stratmann.