Everton have won two in a row this season for the first time since late August and early September. Beating Brighton and Burnley at that time seemed like it was setting a foundation for a good campaign, but the last two victories are arguably more important and impressive. Beating Chelsea and Leicester City has lifted the Blues out of relegation territory - for now - and three points against Watford could further safeguard Everton from an appearance in the Championship next season.
Watford have been struggling this season and are already assured of a Championship appearance next season. No matter who has been coaching the side - and there have been three bosses for that outfit this year - the results have been largely unfortunate despite the wonderful young talent that the team possesses.
This is a disappointment for the Hornets and their fans to be sure, but Everton cannot afford to take this game lightly at all. They need three points and against an already-relegated Watford who have nothing to lose, the risk remains high.
Ahead of Wednesday’s match, we spoke to sportswriter for Betway and Hornets fan, Adam Drury:
RBM: First off, with Watford bound for the Championship once again, what is the feeling like around the club and its supporters as this season winds down?
The mood at the club is the lowest it’s been in the decade since the Pozzo takeover. Gino Pozzo is a very private, but hands-on owner. He makes big calls without ever explaining them publicly. When those decisions were proactive and taken with a clear vision for the club in mind, Watford supporters were happy to hop on for the ride.
Now that the big, bold calls are so reactive and not in line with any obvious strategy or common goal, the privacy of the owner is a huge source of discontent.
Nobody can understand the direction Pozzo and chairman Scott Duxbury are taking the club and the disparate selection of head coaches and players are all increasingly unpopular, not least Roy Hodgson, who is becoming probably the most disliked manager of the generation.
RBM: The club changed coaches numerous times this season, and yet the team was still unable to get the best from these players; what went wrong for Watford this season?
Primarily, the failure to recruit a head coach or a squad of players with any common goal or purpose. When one head coach has failed, the club have lurched to the polar opposite profile to replace him in a panicked haze.
Seven years ago, Watford were promoted to the Premier League and immediately replaced Slavisa Jokanovic with Quique Sanchez Flores, who fit the bill to keep the team in the division and was backed with his type of player.
This time, Pozzo failed to show the same degree of ruthlessness, sticking with Xisco Munoz - who was never equipped for the job - before replacing him with Claudio Ranieri just seven games into the season. When that didn’t work, Hodgson came in. He’s also failed.
Three defensive reinforcements arrived in January, an acknowledgment that they failed to recruit properly last summer, and then a managerial change was made two games later. When every key recruit is so misaligned from the next, it’s a recipe for trouble.
RBM: Who from this side will likely find themselves back with the club next season and who is more likely to find themselves sought after in the Premier League and elsewhere with Watford’s relegation?
Ismaila Sarr and Emmanuel Dennis are almost certain to leave. If Watford can get £50m combined for the pair, that would be a positive result. Moussa Sissoko will probably leave, too, after a poor second half to the season.
Hassane Kamara, Imran Louza, Joao Pedro, and Cucho Hernandez are the players I most hope we keep hold of this summer. Watford should be competitive if they build their Championship side around them.
RBM: With Roy Hodgson always only a short-term fix, who should this team be looking for to coach the remaining players and youth lads up in the coming season or seasons?
We’re into root-and-branch review territory. The club needs a major cultural reset. There is some suggestion that that’s been acknowledged within the club, and that they plan to kickstart it by hiring a young, homegrown manager. A progressive coach to develop a consistent style of play, turn the young players into highly valuable assets, and get supporters excited again. That might be John Eustace, who is a Watford hero from his playing days and is earning impressive reviews in his early years as a coach.
Most important for me is that the club shows a little more humility and transparency, and settles on a style of coach and player they want to recruit for the long-term. That way, any future hires can be made to fit that brief. Actions speak louder than words, and we’ll see how the club reacts if the team isn’t competing for promotion under a coach they’d planned to build a project around next season.
RBM: Who do you think could really cause Everton some problems on Wednesday, and how do you think Watford will line up?
Honestly, I don’t think Everton will have any problems on Wednesday. Watford have lost 11 consecutive home matches, after all. Ismaila Sarr is totally bereft of form and confidence, the midfield lacks any creativity or control, and the back four isn’t good enough to compensate.
Emmanuel Dennis is the only player to have consistently played with personality and belief, so if Watford are to achieve anything here he will probably be key. More likely, a hostile atmosphere creates the perfect conditions for Everton to win easily.
Likely XI: Foster, Femenia, Cathcart, Kabasele, Masina, Kayembe, Sissoko, Sema, Sarr, King, Dennis.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Wednesday’s match?
Watford 0-3 Everton
Our thanks to Adam for his time.