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Matt Holland's Blog 23

23 January 2013

I think it is high time Gianfranco Zola got the credit he deserves for transforming Watford into the npower Championship's great entertainers this season. The Hornets have been sensational to watch.

Last weekend they swept Huddersfield Town aside 4-0 with some eye-catching football and fabulous goals, the fourth of which from Cristian Battocchio has to be one of the team goals of the season. If Barcelona had scored it, we'd have seen the flowing move replayed a thousand times already and nobody would be complaining. It was that good.

Leading the way in terms of goals, and skill, is Czech Republic international Matej Vydra, who at 20 years of age has to be one of the brightest prospects around. He's bagged 16 goals already and created plenty of others too, so with a bit of luck the Watford board will be able to sign him up permanently soon. He's currently only on loan from Udinese.

What I like most about Zola's team is their variety. He's signed skilful players in his own mould, but the Italian's still utilising the strength of British defenders at the back, and big man Troy Deeney up front, who is revelling in the new-look side. When they need to, Watford can go long but they also have the players to pop the ball around in tight situations, too.

Watford also use a 3-5-2 formation, and when it's done properly that's an extremely hard system to play against. The centre-backs split, the wing-backs push on, the midfield is packed, and most importantly of all you're able to field two strikers. 3-5-2 is fast becoming the most fashionable system around.

This week's big transfer saw Fraizer Campbell join Cardiff City, and what a powerful message that sends out the rest of the division. The Welshmen are 10 points clear but this signature tells everyone else that they mean business and won't be resting on their laurels. They want to go up, but they want to do it in style, not by hanging on in the final few weeks.

It also transmits the right signals to the players, too. When the Cardiff players look around the dressing room they see top talents everywhere, and now they have another on board. It just sends out a positive message that as a club they have the appetite to strive for even better results and performances in the last few months.

At 25, Fraizer Campbell isn't a has-been from the Premier League. He's still approaching his peak, so I believe Malky Mackay has pulled off a critical signing at just the right time.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are Birmingham City, who this week admitted that every member of their first team squad is available for transfer in a bid to recoup much-needed funds.

This news couldn't have come at a worse period, with Lee Clark's men needing wins, but as far as the Blues are concerned, needs must.

If I were in the Birmingham City changing room I'd feel vulnerable. I think every Blues player will, and that's not ideal. The senior players on a lot of money will be looking over their shoulder wondering if a club will come in for them, and the talented kids who can command decent transfer fees will also be subject to interest. They too will feel unsettled at all this uncertainty surrounding the club.

Players will be winding each other up saying things like 'what are you still doing here?' and while it's all just banter it can't be doing Birmingham's chances of survival any good at all.

Congratulations are also in order this week for Derby County trio Jeff Hendrick, Conor Sammon and Richard Keogh who all earned their first call-ups to the Republic of Ireland squad, ahead of a friendly against Poland.

Having been there myself I know how much they'll enjoy the experience of international football with Ireland, and for all three the recognition has come at the perfect time.

I know it won't be easy to qualify for the World Cup but the tournament is only 16 or 17 months away, and there's no better time to be in and around the squad than now. What a carrot Brazil 2014 is for any player to impress.

Giovanni Trapattoni has come in for some stick recently for not watching enough games but his scouting network have obviously been impressed by the form of these three Derby players, and they have a brilliant chance to stake a claim for a regular place in the team.

The Republic of Ireland side is in need of refreshing and Keogh, Sammon and Hendrick all have an excellent opportunity to make a name for themselves against Poland. I wish them all the best.

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