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Dennis menace bringing balance to Watford attack

Matt Furniss, The Analyst 27 Nov 2021
Emmanuel Dennis

Matt Furniss explains how the Nigerian is mirroring the threat of his team-mate Ismaila Sarr

When Watford announced the signing of Emmanuel Dennis from Club Brugge in June, it came with little fanfare.

But, while he arrived as a relative unknown, Dennis has announced himself in the Premier League in style.

With his goal and two assists against Manchester United last weekend, the 24-year-old has scored or set up nine strikes this season, second only to Mohamed Salah’s incredible total of 18.

Dennis' goal v Man Utd

During their relegation season in 2019/20, as well as a fair chunk of 2020/21 in the Championship, Watford had an issue with their attacking potency being lopsided.

The only major threat out wide came from Ismaila Sarr on the right, and opponents grew wise to this. The lack of variety in the Hornets’ attack proved their downfall at times.

The addition of Dennis on the left has complemented Sarr's already dangerous quality.

Only Sarr, with 20 shot involvements following a ball carry, has had more than Dennis's 10 for Watford in the Premier League this season, and Dennis has played 199 minutes fewer than his team-mate.

Increased effort

Last season was a disappointing one for Dennis, with no goals in 18 league appearances across his time at Club Brugge and on loan at Koln.

His spell in the Bundesliga led to comments from coach Markus Gisdol about his lack of workrate, but that has not been an issue at Watford.

With Dennis, Sarr and Joshua King, the Hornets have a pacy front three who are a handful for defenders not only on the ball but also because of their willingness to chase the hard yards.

The trio are all among the top 20 players to have averaged the furthest sprint distance per 90 this season, with Dennis (321 metres) coming in behind Sarr (344m) and King (357m).

Indeed, the only club with more players than Watford within that top 20 are Leeds United’s five.

Top players for sprint distance per 90*
Club Player Total (m) Club Player Total (m)
LEE Raphinha 529.2 SOU Livramento 355.6
LEE James 495.3 LEE Harrison 351.0
LEE Rodrigo 421.0 AVL Cash 344.5
LIV Robertson 380.8 WAT Sarr 344.3
WOL Trincao 375.7 LEE Klich 338.2
CHE Havertz 371.5 TOT Son 334.5
BRE Mbeumo 363.4 MCI Foden 330.4
MCI Walker 357.8 TOT Reguilon 327.6
WAT King 357.3 NOR Rashica 326.2
NEW Almiron 356.9 WAT Dennis 321.1

*Of players with 600+mins on the pitch this season

Dennis has played with such intensity that he has committed 28 fouls, more than any other Premier League player this season, while no player has been given as many yellow cards as his six. It should be noted, though, that two bookings have been for celebrations.

Facing the Foxes

Sunday's trip to Leicester City will be Claudio Ranieri’s first back at King Power Stadium in the Premier League since he left the then champions in February 2017.

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If the head coach is to enjoy a happy return to the ground where he made history, he will be looking for more of the same from his red-hot attacking trio.

And Dennis can join some illustrious company if he maintains his early impact.

Should he score against the Foxes, he would become only the sixth Premier League player to reach both five goals and five assists in 12 or fewer appearances, after Eric Cantona, Jurgen Klinsmann, Arjen Robben, Andrey Arshavin and Bruno Fernandes.

Matt Furniss is Senior Editor at

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