Watford's Senegalese winger is key to Hornets' season

          PLAYER PROFILE | Ismaila Sarr

          2021/02/22 09:46
          Stephen Gillett

          Although Watford were ultimately relegated from the Premier League in 2019/20, their Senegalese winger Ismaila Sarr produced some scintillating displays that underlined why the Hornets had splashed £40 million on him the previous summer. 

          Speculation has since abounded regarding Sarr's future, but he has stayed put at Vicarage Road and is currently leading third-placed Watford's bid to secure automatic promotion and bounce back to the top flight at the first time of asking. 

          To find out more about Sarr's undoubted talent, and his performances in the second tier during the current campaign, we checked in with James Batchelor from Watford fan account The Watford Way...

          PM: Sarr is very highly rated and was linked with both Manchester United and Liverpool in the January transfer window: is a Premier League player turning out in the Championship?

          TWW: Yes, it’s clear to see. In our relegation season last year, Sarr was our one bright spark, the outlet we looked for when it got tough. He is absolutely Premier League quality and should be playing at a much higher level than he is currently.

          How far can he go in the game? That is the ultimate question. I and many other Watford fans believe he still has a lot more development left in him but he can definitely reach Champions League level. I’m surprised an elite European club such as Manchester United or Liverpool has yet to make an offer for him.

          PM: Fellow Senegalese Sadio Mane reportedly warned Andy Robertson about Sarr when he joined Watford, saying that Sarr's dribbling ability and pace would 'kill' the Liverpool left- back. Are those his two major attributes? 

          ©Getty / 5021154

          TWW: Any left sided player who faces the prospect of coming up against him must have nightmares before a game! Pace and dribbling is definitely his main threat, albeit there is still some question marks about his decision making at times even at Championship level.

          His quality was evident throughout last season and his best performance ultimately did come against Liverpool where Watford ended an almost record breaking unbeaten run and sent shockwaves through the Premier League. Sarr was the stand out player that day out performing every single other player on the pitch which culminated with two goals and an assist.

          His runs in behind, the control on the ball, finishing ability. He showed it all and that was the day he really made a name for himself.

          We have mentioned Liverpool several times already and I think it’s right we touch on the link between Sarr and Mane. Off the pitch they are close friends but also play together for the Senegalese national team. Coming to Watford was tough at first and took him several months to settle in before he was consistently starting games, he very quickly became un-droppable.

          Don’t be surprised if Liverpool make an offer for Sarr in the near future, especially with his links to Sadio Mane…

          PM: Sarr was on fire in the Hornets' 6-0 win against Bristol City recently, scoring two and assisting two more; how important is he to Watford's promotion bid this term?

          ©Getty / Tess Derry - PA Images

          TWW: He is absolutely our most important player. Forget Troy Deeney, forget Ben Foster, if Sarr got injured today, our promotion chances would almost instantaneously disappear. Of course, there are players who could come into his position but no one on his level.

          As a comparison, I like to look at Bruno Fernandes and Manchester United. Sure, both clubs are different and have talented players but in both situations we rely on one player to create everything for us going forward. That can be a good thing but also a detriment as, if he was to get injured, there is no one who stands out in the squad who is at his level.

          PM: He joined English football with a reputation for scoring screamers: how well-deserved was it? What have been his highlights for Watford this season?

          TWW: It’s funny you say that because from memory, I wouldn’t actually say he has scored a “screamer” for us so far! Sure, some of his goals are top finishes but a lot of his goals come from making runs in behind and causing full-backs and defenders problems. 

          If he can add more variety to his game and become a much more clinical finisher, then I can’t see why he won’t make it to the very top.

          He is quite a one dimensional player, gets the ball, runs at you. If you want to stop him, you need to foul him otherwise he will beat you for pace. Goals and assists are great but he also contributed to goals just by getting fouled in dangerous positions where Watford would then go onto capitalise.

          PM: Has the club record 40 million fee ever hung heavy around Sarr's neck? Do Watford fans feel they're getting their money's worth from him? Do any areas in his game need work?

          TWW: I think at the beginning of his Watford career, it definitely had an effect. However, as time has passed, we HAVE seen the qualities of a £40m player. What he needs to improve on is consistency and being more clinical. As I mentioned earlier, once he improves that side of his game, he shouldn’t be a Watford player…

          PM: Sarr has himself spoken about the Championship being 'tough'; how has he handled the physicality of the second tier?

          TWW: To quote his most recent interview with the Watford website: “I feel well physically and mentally" said Sarr on Hive Live Extra. "But it is not about me. It is about the team. I know I can do better, but the important thing is to help the team.”

          Over the course of this season, his physicality has improved significantly.

          Sarr arrived at Watford from Ligue 1 in France, then came to England when we were in Premier League. The season after we find ourselves in the Championship. I think for any player, being in 3 different leagues over the space of two years will take some getting used to.

          PM: In terms of sheer talent and potential, how does Sarr compare with your other highly rated young winger, João Pedro?

          ©Getty / Marc Atkins

          TWW: It may not seem like it, but Sarr is three years older than Joao Pedro at 22. It’s clear for me to see that Pedro undoubtedly has the most potential to go on and be a world class talent.

          When Watford brought Pedro, he followed a similar path to Richarlison, coming from Brazil as a youngster and making his name in England. Pedro was an unknown.

          On the other hand, Sarr was already a well-known talent in France at Rennes with Arsenal interested in him before he ultimately moved to Watford.

          In conclusion, I believe they will both go onto to have careers at the very top level but for me, Joao Pedro is the one to keep a close eye on.

          PM: For how much longer do you expect Sarr to be a Watford player?

          TWW: There are two scenarios.

          Watford get promoted and he stays with us for one more season in the Premier League.

          The other possibility would be we don’t get promoted and he leaves at the end of this season for a cheap fee.

          I think you’ll be able to guess which one I’d prefer…


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