Amidst the many subplots to have accompanied Watford’s fine start to the season, the comeback of Isaac Success has gone largely under the radar.
Jose Holebas’s contributions in the final third, Roberto Pereyra’s fine performances and the parallels with Leicester City’s title-winning campaign of 2015-16 have been the main talking points during an excellent few months for the Hornets.
Yet 22-year-old Success served a reminder that he could still play a big role in Watford’s season with an eye-catching contribution in Wednesday’s Carabao Cup clash.
The Hertfordshire-based side may have been eliminated from the tournament on penalties by Tottenham Hotspur—with Etienne Capoue and Domingos Quina missing the decisive spot kicks—but once again they caused Spurs problems, having beaten the domestic heavyweights 2-1 in early September.
While Javi Gracia shuffled his pack for the midweek tie, making 10 changes, his weakened team gave Success another opportunity to prove that he can yet have a role to play at Vicarage Road.
He also shone in the previous round—netting against Reading—and followed up that contribution with another eye-catching showing on Wednesday.
The former wonderkid gave Watford the lead in the 46th minute when he picked up a through-ball from Kiko Fermenia, shrugged off the defender and slammed a right-footed effort past Paulo Gazzaniga.
The goal is yet another step on the road back to prominence for Success, who’s endured a miserable time since becoming Watford’s record signing in July 2016.
He netted just once in 19 league outings during his maiden campaign—with only two appearances coming from the start—as he struggled to adapt to the demands of life in England.
Last term, with Marco Silva now at the helm, injuries and off-field controversies appeared to get the better of the youngster, and he didn’t feature during the first half of the campaign, before being shipped out to Malaga on loan in early 2018.
Success got back on the pitch, at least, during a troubled campaign for Malaga—who ended up being relegated—although he failed to net in 496 minutes in the Spanish top flight.
Heading into this season, the forward had managed just four league starts across the previous two campaigns. At such a critical juncture in his development and his career, it was a devastating setback for a youngster who once appeared primed to play a key role for the Super Eagles.
So far this term, however, Success has been handed semi-regular appearances by Gracia.
Admittedly, he’s yet to start for the Hornets, but he’s come off the bench in every one of their league games so far, and both his fitness and his confidence appear to be returning.
Against Spurs, he was arguably Watford’s standout performer, and while he may not have done enough to earn a starting spot against Arsenal this weekend, he’ll likely get some more minutes on the board.
Notable about Success’s performance was his upper-body strength and his ability to hold-off defenders as Watford launched attacks.
While pundits were raving about the power shown by Eden Hazard as he slalomed past Liverpool’s defenders to fire Chelsea into the next round, Success was causing similar—if less marked—problems for Spurs’ defenders.
He appeared confident, sought possession and constantly out-muscled the opposition centre-backs in order to forge space for himself and his teammates.
His pace should make him an excellent asset for Watford—from the start or off the bench—over the coming months, while his aggression and superb technique also shone through at times.
Success’s showing last night offered a glimpse at the kind of player Watford fans must have thought they were signing before his career went off the rails.
What’s more impressive is that the Super Eagle has bounced back to demonstrate this kind of form despite the on-field failings, the injuries and the controversies of the last two seasons.
If Wednesday’s game was a sign of things to come, then Success could yet play his part in what’s shaping up to be a memorable campaign for the Hornets.