Abdoulaye Doucoure didn’t hang around at Watford following their relegation from the Premier League two seasons ago. He was, after all, more than good enough for the top flight of the English game and so the Vicarage Road outfit didn’t have to look too hard to find a buyer for one of their prize assets, with the midfielder sold to Everton for £20m. Ismaila Sarr was widely expected to join Doucoure on his way out of the club having impressive at Premier League level.
The winger was linked with Liverpool and Manchester United, who reportedly saw him as an alternative to Jadon Sancho, but no deal was ever struck and Sarr stayed in the Championship. Now back in the Premier League with Watford, who bounced back at the first time of asking, Sarr is a better player for his season in the second tier. He is more polished in his decision-making, a more complete player in his attacking output, as he has demonstrated by scoring four goals in his first six league appearances.
Ismaila Sarr is the perfect winger for the modern game. Not only does the 23-year-old possess a rapid turn of pace and a skill set that allows him to dribble past opponents, traditional hallmarks for a winger, he has a final product that means Watford can rely on him to provide the goals that could keep them up this season.
In the Premier League this season, only Adama Traore and Allan Saint-Maximin are averaging more dribbles per game than Sarr (3.2). The 23-year-old has proven himself as the ideal outlet for Watford who don’t tend to control matches through their use of possession. This gives Sarr plenty opportunities to drive at opposition sides on the counter attack. There aren’t many better than the Senegalese international in one-on-one situations
At times, Ismaila Sarr was guilty of over-elaboration during his first season in the Premier League. Now, though, the 23-year-old is much more focused on getting into positions where he can create or finishing off goalscoring opportunities. That has been evident in the way he has started this season.
What’s more, Sarr looks better equipped in a physical sense to handle all that the Premier League will throw at him. His intelligent movement and technical skill set mark him out from the rest, but the Watford winger has recognised the physical improvement he needed to make to compete against the very best.
In this form, it won’t be long until the Premier League and European elite are once again taking a close look at Ismaila Sarr. Liverpool reportedly retain an interest in the Senegalese international even if Manchester United have dropped out of the market for a new right winger after finally sealing a deal for Sancho this summer.
However, Sarr is in a good place to grow and develop even further. Xisco’s team depend on the 23-year-old to give them an out-ball and to prove them with goal threat in the final third. Barring injury, Sarr will play every Premier League game for Watford this season. Would he get that same level of game time at Liverpool or at another elite level club?
The predominant narrative around Ismaila Sarr at the time of Watford’s relegation to the Championship at the end of the 2019/20 season was that he needed to flee to look after his own career, but a season in the second tier has allowed the Senegalese winger to refine his game. The product of this has been clear in the way Sarr has started this season.
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