Ismaël Koné knows he still has things to work on in his game.
The 21-year-old midfielder has been a breakout Canadian star in the last 18 months or so, and marked another milestone on Tuesday as he scored his first Watford goal. And it was a hell of a goal too, a 25-yard arrow into the bottom corner that sparked a 3-2 come-from-behind win over Norwich City.
Related read: WATCH: Ismaël Koné has best game of Watford career, scores stunning goal en route to victory
It was a landmark moment for the former CF Montréal rising star, one which he is keen to make more of a regular occurrence. Koné now has six goals in his senior career, and one-third of those have come in the last eight days, after he netted for Canada in the eventual 3-2 defeat to Jamaica at BMO Field.
Koné has many talents; he’s a composed midfielder with a wide passing range, great attacking vision, and ability to drift between the lines into pockets of space, and many more attributes. But he wants to add more goals to his game.
“It’s not bad,” Koné smiled as he watched his goal back post-game. “What can I say? You just work on those. I think this is a part of my game where I have to get better, just shooting at the goal. I’ve been working on it with the coach. Stuff like this makes me happy because it shows that hard work pays off and I’m trying to get more and more.
“It took me 10 months to score my first goal, so I am happy. I have to get more now as the season goes on, but it is a good feeling for me… I have to get better, get consistent and help the team with goals from my position. It’s something I have the ability to do. I scored for Canada and came back here and scored again, so I am happy.”
The stunning strike was the stand-out moment of a stellar performance from Koné, one which saw him named Man of the Match subjectively by Watford fans and objectively by stats website Fotmob. He ended with a game-best 8.7 rating, sprayed 59 passes around with 85 percent accuracy, made three successful dribbles and four ball recoveries, won five duels, and wasn’t dispossessed even once all game long.
His manager and namesake, Valérien Ismaël, hailed the display as “his most complete performance for us so far.”
“When he came back to us from his national team, he was really tired, but after the Leicester match he was well recovered and we got the feeling he was ready,” added the head coach.
Certainly, it was Koné’s biggest statement so far that he deserves to be a regular fixture in Watford’s starting XI. So far in 2023-24, the Ivorian-born Canadian has started seven out of the Hornets’ 18 Championship games, although four of those starts have come in the last six games.
Koné, as he was by Canada veteran Atiba Hutchinson last season, was also praised by his experienced midfield partner on Tuesday, 34-year-old former Tottenham man Jake Livermore.
“Koné was brilliant today,” said Livermore. “It’s been difficult for him, coming in and out of the team. It’s a long season and our squad rotates every game. He’s been brilliant. He came off the bench the other week and was excellent again. That’s the attitude we need going forward.”