It’s a battle of the Z-Cars, as Watford travel up the M1 to face their nemesis, Marco Silva as they visit Goodison Park and an Everton team that hasn’t impressed on the pitch. While their record last year was excellent, closing out the season in fine fetter with 8 clean sheets in 11 games, their attack over the summer preseason games and last week at Selhurst Park has been abysmal.
Coming off a 3-0 loss to Graham Potter’s, new look Brighton squad, this could be the type of game the Golden Boys need right a listing ship. There are still feeling of how Marco Silva let down the club, players and supports when he finally got his move away from Vicarage Road for supposed “greener pastures.” Neither the Toffees or Hornets came away in game week one with a goal and each mustered just three shots on target.
Over the summer both squads were active in the transfer market, as Everton brought in Moises Kean, from Juventus as a future starter up front. They also secured a loan for Frenchman, Djibril Sidibé from Monaco. Watford filled existing problems, adding Craig Dawson to a back line that struggled much of last year. In a late move, Watford also added England international, Danny Welbeck on a free transfer, as well as finalizing a £30 million deal for Ismaila Sarr from Rennes in Ligue 1.
The last three times these clubs have met, the Hornets have walked away with points. Last December it was a late, Luca Digne free kick that curled inside the left post that drew the Toffees level, as they escaped with a 2-2 drawn. However, Watford playing at Goodison has resulted in just two points in their last four visits going back to 2015.
Watford need to show improvement, as it’s been 13 games since the Hornets have kept a clean sheet, going back to their 1-0 victory over Everton last Feburary at the Vic. There is some concern, but outward appearance indicate we have the necessary personnel in place to repeat our 50-point performance and battle for a top 10 finish. That was far from the case last weekend.
“We have to improve because we can go in the top ten and compete in every game with your best. We have a lot of good players, a lot of quality but right now in football, you need more than that,” said Gerard Deulofeu. That improvement starts up top, where the Hornets have struggled without Deulofeu in a starting forward role. The Spaniard is struggling with fitness, having returned from a muscle injury that kept him from participate in the final few preseason games.
Last week, Deulofeu started on the left wing in place of Maxi Pereyra, who participated in the Copa America for Argentina. Javi Gracia rewarded the preseason success of Andre Gray partnering with captain, Troy Deeney up front, an attack that didn’t much creativity in the final third. We’ve seen this partnership before (with Silva) and it lacked in front of the net as well. “Last season was really good for us, we can improve, of course and I can also improve my statistics. But I’m happy and I want to continue in that position,” said the Watford forward.
This week Watford need to find inspiration behind their captain, supporters and the fact, it’s Everton, in order to perform up to expectations. One problem we continue to see is, Watford playing very narrow. Will Hughes, out of position on the right flank is a central type of player, as Kiko Femenia provides that width down the flank. Last week it was Deulofeu also coming inside, where he was all last season with very little support on the left, with Jose Holebas having to play box to box.
Change could be necessary to widen the pitch and allow balls to come in from players like Holebas and Femenia, as the Hornets wait for Pererya and Sarr to be fit and ready to play 90 minutes.
Defensively, we know it will take time for Craig Dawson and Craig Cathcart to gel as a cohesive unit. Ben Foster has played with both for years individually but must now count on both to lessen the mistakes and opportunities in front of goal. It’s quite possible that Femenia could be pushed forward in a wing role, putting Daryl Janmaat back at right back, which would improve the defensive unit.
Everton have their own struggles but did face a stingy defense in Crystal Palace, at home they look to turn the tide and continue their dominating play over Watford. The Toffees will be led by the former Watford man, Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson in the middle to create and score. Silva did use Kean in a 21-minute cameo up front, but expectations are Dominic Calvert-Lewin will get the start. A relentless player up top, he too is key to running the channels and opening space for both Richarlison and Sigurdsson to get into.
Defensively, Everton looked like they did to end last season, we must remember there was no Wilfried Zaha running that Michael Keane or Yerry Mina last weekend, so the attacking threat was diminished. Take nothing away, this is a quality defense combined with Seamus Coleman and Luca Digne. Both defenders are always an attacking threat as well.
Both teams need victory to get their season rolling in the right direction. Watford need to show more composure and control possession in the middle of the pitch, while creating better chances in the final third, something we didn’t see last weekend, as there was too much creativity and too many passes that didn’t find their way.
Everton, I feel is in a better position, coming off their 0-0 draw, a defense that is sorted and playing well, while the Hornets have historically struggled at Goodison Park. While the supporter in me yearns for a 2-1 Watford victory, I feel Everton will get over on the Hornets 2-0, as we continue to struggle to find our feet to start this new campaign.