Koné: “It Was Good To Get Some Minutes In”

By: Watford FC Staff

Midfielder Ismaël Koné insisted there were plenty of positives to take out of Wednesday evening’s friendly at Boreham Wood (July 5), as the Hornets got their 2023/24 pre-season campaign underway with an entertaining 0-0 draw.

The 21-year-old played out the second half of the contest at Meadow Park, as one of 11 changes made by Head Coach Valérien Ismaël at the break, and he almost made an instant impact when he hit the post around the 50-minute mark.

Though Watford dominated possession throughout, and enjoyed several chances in front of goal, the hosts held firm to deny them the winner, but Koné said the game provided him and his teammates with an ideal platform to put their behind-the-scenes work into play.

“It was good to get some minutes in,” he said. “We’ve obviously been doing a lot of work on our tactics - how we want to press and attack - so it was good to come out and try different things out.

“We’d practiced how we wanted to break down their block and high press, they maybe didn’t press us as much as we thought but we respected our plan and we created chances, unfortunately we just couldn’t get the goal.

“I hit the post, I tried to hit it right but I just missed. There’s stuff I need to work on, and I need to be more clinical in those areas because that chance could have won us the game, but I’ll keep working on those bits going forward.”

International commitments at the start of summer meant Koné joined pre-season training slightly later than the bulk of the Watford squad, but he feels the experience of helping Canada finish as runners-up at the CONCACAF Nations League Finals has aided his personal development.

Having joined the club from CF Montréal in the January transfer window, he also believes he is now ideally equipped going into the new campaign, with 16 Sky Bet Championship appearances already to his name and the rest of pre-season still to come.

He said: “It was great going home and playing with my brothers for Canada. Unfortunately we couldn’t beat the USA in the final, but we’ll all learn a lot from it and be better next time.

“I obviously came back to England a bit tired because I’d played a lot of games and trained a lot, but it’s all part of the job. I feel I’m finding my groove and I’m looking forward to building more over the next few weeks.

“I definitely feel in a good position now. I know the surroundings, I know the people and the other players, so it’s easier than it was when I first came in. I still consider myself to be one of the new players, so it’s good to be here before the season and keep building that familiarity.”

With three signings through the door so far in this window, together with a string of outgoings, Koné is excited to keep developing relationships with his colleagues ahead of the Championship curtain-raiser at home to Queens Park Rangers on Saturday August 5 (3pm KO).

The Boreham Wood draw also marked boss Ismaël’s first match in the Hornets’ hotseat, and Koné is enjoying working with the former France youth international on a personal and professional basis.

He added: “These friendlies are really important when players are coming in and going out. I think we’re gelling well, we’re finding out a lot about each other and building up chemistry, and the games give us a chance to put that into practice.

“I think he [Ismaël] has a clear idea of what he wants from the team, both in and out of possession, which is always good as a player. He’s a good human being as well, he’s fun to work with so everything is looking good at the moment.”

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