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Reinvented Capoue leading Watford from the midfield
If you pay any heed to Premier League fantasy football, chances are you’ve heard of Etienne Capoue. The £5.1M Watford midfielder has taken the league by storm this season, having netted four goals in his first five games, and is only behind Alexis Sanchez and Kevin de Bruyne (whose values double his) in terms of points. Over a million people have transferred the Frenchman into their squads in the quick space of six weeks, and he is now selected in over 40% of three-million odd teams.
And yet, Capoue’s bright start has still flown under the radar outside of the fantasy world. It is, after all, somewhat unusual for a defensively oriented midfielder to dominate the headlines, but that only makes his transformation into a goal-scoring marvel even more remarkable.
The French midfielder has rebuilt his career from the ground up at Watford, having endured a disappointing introduction to the Premier League at Tottenham Hotspur. Capoue scored just one goal in his first three seasons in England, but new Watford boss Walter Mazzarri has reinvented the midfielder into a versatile, attacking threat.
Capoue has scored crucial goals against Southampton, Chelsea, West Ham United and Manchester United, his sharp shooting taking Watford joint fourth in the league in terms of goals scored.
The twenty-eight-year-old pins his sharp uptake in form down to his new role for Watford which allows him to venture forward towards the penalty area.
“I have more freedom to attack because the coach believes in me and gives me confidence,” Capoue said in an interview with the Independent. “I am playing more offensively this season. I am not a holding midfielder. I support the strikers, a lot of balls are passed to me, I often play the ball forward. It’s good, I can touch the ball a lot of times, and find space as well. I just try to enjoy it, and to do what the coach wants.”
“The coach” refers to Mazzarri, whose most influential decision since taking the helm at Vicarage Road over the summer has been unlocking Capoue’s goalscoring talents. For all the successes of former Watford boss Quique Sanchez Flores, he had constrained Capoue to a purely defensive role, limiting the midfielder’s potential attacking output to, well, nothing.
Capoue had befallen the same fate in his two years at Tottenham Hotspur, which he joined from Toulouse in 2013. He felt that he was reduced to “zero” in his two years at White Hart Lane, departing for Watford for £6.3 million, a club record fee for the Hornets, but still only half of what Tottenham had paid for him.
“I didn’t play enough to show my quality at Spurs, so that’s why I came here and started at zero, and got a chance to enjoy and show what I can do on the pitch with Watford,” said Capoue, per the Telegraph.
“Even if I didn’t play I knew it was a good decision for me because I wanted to come to England. Even after two difficult years, I said to myself ‘I want to show what I can do in England’. Watford gave me the possibility to do it and I can enjoy it.”
The next step up, it seems, is a reintroduction to international football. Capoue made his international debut in 2012 and was a regular for the briefest of times, but fell out of favor and hasn’t been called up at all in his time in England.
Capoue might be in the fantasy dream team right now but knows that he still has a long season ahead of him to prove that he is the dream box-to-box midfielder. “The complete midfielder,” he mused, “doesn’t play for Watford.”