Francisco Sierralta: From outcast to first name on the team sheet

Francisco Sierralta has gone from being an outcast under Vladimir Ivic, to perhaps Watford's first name on the team sheet.
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Francisco Sierralta for Watford

The writing was on the wall when Craig Dawson gave away a penalty just 34 seconds into the final game of last season. Watford would be relegated, largely as a result of below par defending.

Despite keeping a clean sheet against soon-to-be Premier League champions Liverpool prior to lockdown, Watford failed to keep a single clean sheet following the return of football.

The defence was a key priority for the club in the summer transfer window as a swift return to the Premier League was being eyed up, and still is thanks to a new look resolute Watford defence.

Craig Dawson, Adrian Mariappa, Jose Holebas and Daryl Janmaat all departed, as did highly rated Pervis Esupiñan, who spent the last season on loan at Osasuna instead of making an impact in Hertfordshire. Replacements were brought in. Jeremy Ngakia, William Troost-Ekong and Francisco Sierralta all signed, and Ben Wilmot returned from a loan stay at Swansea City.

Troost-Ekong started his first game less than a month after joining the club in late September, meanwhile, Jeremy Ngakia and Ben Wilmot both started on the opening day against Middlesbrough. Sierralta had to wait.

The Chilean international soon became the forgotten man under Vladimir Ivic, but a change in management and some injuries to key defenders gave the summer recruit his chance. He hasn’t looked back.

The Watford outcast was given his first league start in Xisco Muñoz’s first game as head coach against table-toppers Norwich City. Despite being thrown in at the deep end, Sierralta was impeccable and helped ensure the Hornets kept a clean sheet under the Vicarage Road lights.

The 23-year-old has managed to start every game since putting in a man of the match performance against Norwich City on boxing day.

Aerially dominant, mobile when needed, positionally sound – Sierralta possesses some excellent attributes for a centre-half and it comes as no surprise with his performances that Watford have managed to restrict the opposition to just four goals in ten games since his arrival into the starting XI.

Christian Kabasele, Craig Cathcart and Kiko Femenia may be the most recognisable names in the Watford defence, but it will take some doing to replace Francisco Sierralta in this Watford line up.

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