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Everton vs Watford: The Opposition View

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We spoke to writer and Hornets fan Adam Drury ahead of Tuesday’s Carabao Cup clash at Goodison

Everton FC v Watford FC - Premier League
Bernard scored the only goal when Everton beat Watford in the Premier League in August
Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

Watford FC could write the final chapter in former manager Marco Silva’s time at Everton when they visit the Blues in the Carabao Cup fourth round on Tuesday.

Silva was sacked by the Hornets in January 2018 after supposedly batting eyelids at Everton, and with the Toffees 16th in the Premier League ten games in, could suffer the same fate if he does not see them past his former club.

Watford are bottom of the table with a return of five points and no wins, and remain the only Premier League club to change manager this season when they sacked Javi Gracia and appointed former boss Quique Sanchez Flores.

They have not won at Goodison Park in four attempts since their promotion in 2015, and were beaten 1-0 there in August, with Bernard scoring the game’s only goal early on.

Ahead of Tuesday’s match, we spoke to sports writer for Betway and Hornets fan, Adam Drury:

RBM: Firstly, defeat to his former club on Tuesday may make Marco Silva’s position at Everton untenable. Given his acrimonious departure from Vicarage Road, do you think this could provide extra motivation for Watford’s players?

Adam: The suggestion has always been that Silva was popular with the Watford players until the end, so I doubt that’s much of a source of motivation.

Even if they were thinking about it when we first met Silva’s Everton, that feels like it’s done now. Watford have got their own problems.

Watford FC v Everton FC - Premier League
Both Richarlison and Marco Silva were previously at Watford
Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

RBM: Especially since Watford likely face a battle just to survive in the Premier League this year, how much importance do you place on Tuesday’s game?

Adam: It’s an odd one. You spend so long thinking of the League Cup as a second-rate competition that progression goes under the radar. Actually, Tuesday’s winners will be one win away from a two-legged semi-final and a shot at Wembley.

It does feel like it’s bigger for Everton, though, who surely won’t be relegated and need success in this competition to make something of their season.

Watford’s immediate priority has to be the Premier League. News that several first-team players will be rested and that a couple of under-23s are in the matchday squad reflects that. It would be great to win, but I think most people associated with Watford would trade it for three points against Chelsea on Saturday.

RBM: Did you agree with both the decision to part with Gracia and then to replace him with Flores last month?

Adam: Not totally. I liked Gracia and didn’t think our performances in the first month of the season were reflected in the results. Certainly, we could have taken a point in the 1-0 defeat at Everton, and we looked really dangerous going forward at home to West Ham before losing 3-1.

A different roll of the ball in those games might have changed the trajectory of our season, and those margins shouldn’t be the basis for changing manager, or radically changing the style of play, which is what’s happened.

We were shaky defensively, but that can just as easily be put down to poor recruitment across several transfer windows as bad coaching. In that regard, it felt like sacking Gracia was an admission of the club’s own errors, and that doesn’t sit well.

Newcastle United v Watford FC - Premier League
Gracia was sacked just four games into the season
Photo by Steven Hadlow/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

RBM: Watford have still yet to register their first league win, but have at least drawn their last three matches. Are you seeing signs of progress under Flores?

Adam: A new style is certainly being implemented. Flores talks a lot about his teams being compact, reducing the space between the lines and defending as a team. Defence is the basis for everything he does, and that is showing. The only goal we’ve conceded in three matches was Dele Alli’s questionable equaliser at Tottenham.

The problem is that only one goal has gone in at the other end in that period; in fact, only three goals in his six league matches in charge. It looks like confidence has been restored at the back, so we really need to see more going forward to win games and get out of trouble.

RBM: What do you think is the main reason why Watford have struggled so badly so far this season?

Adam: Emphasis was placed on keeping last season’s squad intact rather than refreshing it over the summer, which might have been an error. The club pride themselves on knocking rough diamonds into shape (see the sale of Richarlison to Everton as the perfect example in 2018), and I think they should have stuck to those principles.

In hindsight, one or two of Abdoulaye Doucouré, Roberto Pereyra and Gerard Deulofeu should have been sold and the money reinvested. Too much faith was placed in a squad that covered for its weaknesses in unsustainable fashion last season, particularly in defence.

That said, there was enough against Everton and West Ham in August to suggest that things might have been OK had Gracia been persevered with. Certainly the plan wasn’t to hit the restart button with Flores so soon - it’s unusual that Gino Pozzo and Scott Duxbury would deviate from their longer-term vision like that.

Watford FC v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League
Flores has yet to win a league game since returning to Watford
Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

RBM: Which areas of the pitch should Everton look to exploit against Watford?

Adam: I have little idea what the team is going to look like on Tuesday so it’s difficult to say.

Sebastian Prödl and Adrian Mariappa, neither of whom are quick, will probably start at centre-back. If they do, Moise Kean’s pace will cause them problems. Andre Gray is really suffering at the moment, so it’s difficult to have too much confidence in him leading the line, either.

To be honest, I’d be surprised if we see anything other than quite a disjointed Watford performance, simply because it will be a random combination of first-team regulars and reserves who rarely play together.

RBM: How do you expect Watford to set up on Tuesday?

Adam: Flores has been building confidence in defence by playing five at the back, but I think he does prefer playing with a four so it’ll be interesting to see whether he reverts to that with the pressure off.

I suspect Gray will start upfront, with Will Hughes and Domingos Quina in midfield. We have loads of injuries in attack, and several first-team regulars will probably be rested, so predicting the other personnel is basically impossible.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Watford - Premier League - Molineux
Quina is highly-rated at Vicarage Road
Photo by Dave Howarth/PA Images via Getty Images

RBM: Who do you think could cause Everton the most problems?

Adam: Quina has frustratingly been limited to minutes in the League Cup this season, despite him seemingly being one of our most creative and exciting players. He’s skilful, uses the ball well, tenacious and has an eye for a long shot.

One of his best Watford performances was in the Monday night game at Goodison last season - hopefully he can recreate that here and make himself undroppable for Saturday.

RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Tuesday’s game?

Adam: As I said, I can’t see this being a fluent Watford performance, nor do I believe that this match will be treated with the importance of a Premier League game by the staff and players.

The opposite should be true for Everton, so they should win comfortably.

Our thanks to Adam for his time.