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Watford 3 Everton 2: Everton fall apart at Vicarage Road

Three thoughts from Everton’s lackluster performance at Watford

Watford v Everton - Premier League Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

Romelu Lukaku’s brace isn’t good enough

One of the countless issues with Everton over their seemingly never-ending slide was Romelu Lukaku’s inability to score. The young Belgian striker has always been a streaky scorer and has fallen into a rut at the wrong time. Whether you blame the service he has been receiving or his work rate, Lukaku has not been scoring at the clip Everton need.

Things were looking up when Gareth Barry found Lukaku streaking towards the net and the striker calmly directed the ball into the net. Everton were able to take advantage of some very sloppy play from Watford and surprisingly took the lead early in the match. However, things fell apart for the Toffees after that and they were unable to find the back of the net again until late in the match.

This is a team issue as much as it is a Lukaku issue. Lukaku’s hold up play has been markedly better recently, but there seems to be a serious lack of secondary runs from the midfielder and wingers to collect the balls he knocks down. Far too often Lukaku is left on an island to make a play by himself. Certainly Lukaku’s tendency to disappear for large chunks of the game doesn’t help, but the rest of the team cannot go without blame.

More issues with set-piece defending

I could have sworn that this was an issue that Ronald Koeman was going to fix upon his arrival. Alas, this defense is looking frighteningly like last year’s attempt at a back four. The strange thing is, there is enough talent in the back four that issues like this shouldn’t be costing Everton much needed points. Ashley Williams and Ramiro Funes Mori are very capable defenders, but there seems to be a serious disconnect during set-pieces.

Sure, Watford are certainly a tough team to defend against in this regard, given their height advantage over Everton. But this is supposed to be something that this team is working on in training given their issues with it last season. This was a very beatable Watford team playing in a nearly silent Vicarage Road, there should be no excuses why Everton are giving up big set-piece goals road match or not.

Some bizarre line up decisions

Starting James McCarthy in central attacking midfield was one of the more curious line-up decisions I’ve seen in recent memory. The midfielder has been on the outs with Koeman for most of the season and has been in and out of fitness to boot. With Ross Barkley’s continued stay in Koeman’s dog house this meant McCarthy got the start at the number ten position. McCarthy is not a particularly offensively minded player, tending to perform better when making short passes in defensive midfield. He also has very little in the way of pace and creativity, two very important aspects to the position he was playing. Naturally this experiment did not yield positive results and Barkley was brought on in the second half.

It’s understandable that Koeman wants to send a message to Barkley while also trying to kick start his team into better performances, but this was not the best way to do it. Kevin Mirallas or Tom Cleverley would have been much better choices, having had more experience and the skill necessary to play the position. This may not be Koeman’s preferred team, but his constant tinkering with line-ups is squashing any chance for this team to develop some chemistry and consistency.