A name that has been bandied around for quite a while, Cassetti has finally signed after attending both of Watford’s games so far this season. At 35, he is no spring chicken, but should bring a wealth experience to Gianfranco Zola’s preferred style of play, and also a versatility that will be extremely handy given the small size of the squad.
Although Martin Taylor and Nyron Nosworthy have been nigh on infallible in their time at Watford, the defeat to Ipswich did suggest that their partnership may not be cut out for the rigours of a short, quick passing game. Indeed, they did not often play together last season, with Nosworthy being brought in as cover for the injured Taylor and forming a good pairing with Adrian Mariappa. As very similar players, they may not have flourished next to each other as much they both did when playing alongside the quicker and more energetic Mariappa. Now that an extra burden has been placed on both, cracks are beginning to show: on Tuesday, when presented with the ball by Almunia, both often needed a bit too long in possession before dispatching it once more and did not look comfortable with the frequency with which the ball returned to their feet shortly after. This is not a criticism of the two – they are both extremely good Championship centre backs, but both are getting towards the end of their career, and having never played such an insistently precise game before, will find it hard to adapt. Which is where Marco Cassetti comes in…
Cassetti has played the bulk of his career as a right wing-back. Born in Brescia in 1977, he played for four years at local Lombardy clubs Montichiari and Lumezzane, both in the purgatory of Italian football – Serie C, before, in the year 2000, at the age of 23 he got his big move to Hellas Verona, Scudetto winners in 1985, in Serie A. His first season at the club has been made famous by Tim Park’s fantastic book ‘A Season with Verona’, in which the author, a professor living in the Veneto, travels to every game with the Verona fans, famed for their supposed hooliganism and racism. It is a great read that covers many aspects of the Italian game, not least the disillusion of the fans when [SPOILER] things aren’t going well. That season Verona were a successful relegation playoff with away from relegation, with Cassetti featuring mainly from the bench. He also held a bit part the year after, though this time there was no salvation as Hellas dropped to Serie B. Given a chance to shine in the team the following year, Cassetti made 35 appearances on the right of midfield, scoring seven goals, as Verona finished comfortably midtable.
That was to be the last time that he plied his trade outside of the top flight as that summer the terroni at Lecce signed him for an undisclosed fee. There he played for three seasons and 95 games – and sufficiently well to impress Serie A big boys AS Roma. When Lecce were relegated in 2006, he joined in a typically Italian co-ownership deal, before becoming a fully fledged member of the Suckling Twins family the following summer. In total the move cost Roma around €4,000,000.
In his first season in the capital, Cassetti made 28 appearances as Roma finished second in Serie A (though a sizable 22 points behind winners Inter). The following year they pushed the Nerazzuri even closer, accruing 82 points to the reigning champions’ 85. By this point, our man had converted to right back and started in 21 games. Inter went on to win five championships in a row, with Roma runners up again in the 2009/10 season. Though he has never won the big prize in Italian football, he has two Coppa Italia medals on his dresser, along with five international caps.
Last season, after eight years of being a Serie A first team regular, Cassetti was second choice right back at Roma, spending only 400 minutes on the pitch for the first team. This was not helped by a torn Achilles tendon that ruled him out for two months. His contract was not renewed at the end of last season. Though never a foremost full back in Italy, it is hard to argue with six seasons at one of the top teams in Italy, twenty six Champions League appearances and three runners up spots in one of the most competitive leagues in the world. In addition to his long service, he will always be remembered by Roma fans for his winner against fierce rivals Lazio in 2009 – che gol, indeed.
Coming to Watford via Udinese – in order to keep the wage bill down more than anything – I would expect him to play in the centre of defence. Towards the end of his time at Roma, this is where he was deployed, and his experience could be vital as Zola puts together a team that is comfortable with the ball in all areas. When Fitz Hall arrived at the club (and where does this leave him?) I was rather put out, but in Cassetti we have a player most resembling Fillipo Galli – the one redeeming feature of Luca Vialli’s all-too-brief stay at Vicarage Road – and although the numerous new arrivals come at the cost of some of our old favourites, it is essential to remember that the Pozzos have big ambitions, and in order to improve we must not only strengthen weak points, but the whole team. The conveyor-belt nature is a bit upsetting when Watford have for so long had to cut their cloth in accordance with their miniscule resources, and so have tended to persist with players, rather than dump them on the compost heap when someone better comes along, but this is how it is now, so I guess we’re going to have to deal with it. And if it gets us promoted, nobody is really going to care are they?