Marco Silva’s return to Vicarage Road ended in defeat as Watford’s 1-0 victory ensured Javi Gracia’s side remain in contention for Europa League qualification.
The first-half ended goalless despite both sides having chances. Watford came the closest in the half after a scramble in the Everton box saw the ball drop in front of Troy Deeney five yards out from goal, but the Watford captain spurned his chance after firing the ball over the crossbar.
Everton’s best chance in the half came from Cenk Tosun who was put back in the starting lineup after their loss to City. The Turkish striker hit a quick and powerful shot, but Watford’s man of the moment, Ben Foster, was equal to the strike with a sharp save.
The first 20 minutes of the second half had a lack of opportunities but it was Watford who took advantage of their first real chance taking the lead. Andre Gray had an easy finish in front of goal after a well worked Watford move to put the Hornets ahead, much to the delight of the home crowd inside Vicarage Road.
A deflected cross was met by Craig Cathcart whose one-touch flick sent Will Hughes through, putting the ball on a plate for Gray.
The goal sparked some life into Everton’s performance as they looked to equalise but Watford’s defence held firm. Everton’s Lucas Digne came close. His free-kick from the right side of Watford’s box glanced the top of the crossbar as he tried to whip it in.
It was Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s chance next as he headed wide with an effort that really should have nestled the back of the net. He then headed straight into the hands of Foster moments later, as Everton’s luck continued to remain non-existent inside Vicarage Road.
However, Silva’s side failed to create any real clear-cut chances to get back into the game and Watford sailed through to secure a 1-0 win and handed Everton their fifth loss in six games across all competitions.
The lack of results has clearly created pressure amongst players. Kurt Zouma had clashes with Troy Deeney in the game and only added to Everton’s defensive woes after he was shown two yellow cards for dissent after the full-time whistle.
The win pushed Javi Gracia’s side a point behind Wolves before their game against Newcastle on Monday as they become the two teams contesting seventh place.
Have Everton lost their chance at finishing seventh?
Everton’s loss to Watford today puts the Toffees four points behind Watford and Wolves who remain in the battle to finish seventh and get a chance to qualify for the Europa League. The question is, are Everton now too far out of reach to play in Europe next season?
Silva’s last two losses have been against Wolves and Watford, and the fixtures have shown the differences between the sides. Everton did not compete with Wolves and while the game against Watford was a much tighter affair, the loss highlighted things that are lacking in Everton’s games which are not absent in their rivals.
Now four points behind the two teams they have lost to most recently, they have an uphill struggle to reach seventh. They will have to beat tough opposition whilst lifting morale around the squad.
Watford or Wolves?
Whilst Wolves have been one of the surprise packages this season, it can be argued that Watford deserve the same credit.
Gracia is the fourth manager to take the reigns at Watford since they returned to the Premier League, but his 45% win rate is the highest out of any of those. Whilst many will have expected Watford to finish mid-table, they will not have been expecting them to be chasing for Europe.
He has to be credited after taking over from Marco Silva, and steadying the ship and now after having a summer to work with the squad has made a team who are a tough game for anyone.
When looking at Watford and Wolves, the Midlands side have spent more money and over the rest of the season may have more depth to work with, but Gracia’s side will make it competitive till the end of the season.
Sore loss for Silva to take
After Silva’s tenure at Watford last season was ended with a sour taste left for everybody, today’s loss will be one that the Portuguese manager will be upset to be on the receiving end of. After Watford accused Everton of not approaching Silva fairly, and blaming the dip in their performances this, the Toffees boss will have not wanted to lose today.
However, Watford fans were the ones celebrating as the ‘you’re getting sacked in the morning!’ chants echoed around Vicarage Road. This may be the case after this poor spell of results, and it is not the first time it has happened this season. A poor run since the Liverpool loss has only seen the odd win scattered around and the lack of consistency is a major problem.
The win shows how Watford have moved forward after Silva and that will make the loss all the more difficult to take.
Attacking assets in focus
Today’s game was a case of two very different attacks. Troy Deeney was his usual self as he pushed and shoved his way around Everton’s back four making life difficult for a shaky defence, whilst Andre Gray looked sharp. Watford’s midfield also looked much more creative and capable of creating chances than Everton did.
This was shown by Marco Silva’s substitutes. Gylfi Sigurdsson, Richarlison and Andre Gomes, who have been some of the Toffees best players this season, were all taken off due to poor performances.
Watford’s attack never looked poor throughout the entirety of the game, and while there were not plenty of chances in the fixture, Watford always looked the more likely to edge a win.
Man of the Match – Abdoulaye Doucoure
His work in the middle of the park saw him act as the main point of call in Watford’s midfield both offensively and defensively in a game that needed a grit-filled performance from individuals. The Frenchman shone at Vicarage Road, and it’s far from surprising to see him linked with blockbuster moves to the likes of PSG.