OPINION - Five thoughts following Watford's 1-1 draw with Everton.
Watford and Everton shared the spoils on Saturday at Vicarage Road, in what was an entertaining and even match.
The Hornets were much improved compared to recent weeks and looked more like their old selves as they pressed the Toffees right from the start and on reflection a point was probably a fair result.
After an even first 45 minutes, the match burst into life in first half stoppage time.
An uncharacteristic mistake from centre back Miguel Britos allowed James McCarthy through on goal and the Irish midfielder calmly slotted the ball past Heurelho Gomes to put Roberto Martinez's men in front.
But just thirty seconds later, the Hornets were back on level terms. After Everton keeper Joel Robles had conceded an unnecessary corner, Ben Watson's delivery was met by Jose Holebas at the far post, whose header went in via a deflection from Seamus Coleman.
In the second half, Gomes was more the busier keeper with the Brazillian denying Aaron Lennon on two occasions.
The Watford keeper then pushed away Kevin Mirallas' free kick with three minutes to play, before Romelu Lukaku then hit the bar.
Ben Watson nearly won the match for the Hornets in injury time, as his deflected 25-yard strike looked destined to nestle in the top corner, but it was superbly kept out by Robles.
All in all, a point was probably a fair result and after attending Saturday's game, here are five of my main thoughts:
1 - Much improved display from the Hornets
Saturday's performance was much more like it from Quique Sanchez Flores' men. Whilst it wasn't the Hornets' best performance of the season by any stretch of the imagination, it was a huge improvement compared to performances in recent weeks where Watford have been lacklustre against Stoke and Arsenal. What was different about Saturday's performance compared to recent week was that it looked like Watford had found their mojo again. That energy and desire which we had seen prominently during the first half of the season had returned to this side, with the Golden Boys constantly hassling and harrying the Toffees when in possession. Right from the first minute we pressed Everton, and we never stopped running all afternoon. It was a much better performance from Watford compared to recent weeks and a point was probably a fair result. Yes, some might say Everton did dominate for a 20-minute spell during the second half, but aside from that, it was an even and entertaining fixture between two sides who had struggled in the Premier League recently. Saturday's performance will undoubtedly restore some confidence to this side ahead of a winnable fixture against West Bromwich Albion this weekend. If we can beat the Baggies at the Hawthorns, it would mean that the Hornets will have recorded 4 points from fixtures against Everton and West Brom and that would constitute a successful week for the Golden Boys in my opinion. It would also mean that we no longer have to look over our shoulders, with a win this weekend virtually guaranteeing us safety, therefore meaning that we can enjoy the final few fixtures, as well as our FA Cup adventure.
2 - Etienne Capoue has to play in centre midfield.
Ahead of Saturday's match, I was praying that Quique Sanchez Flores would not continue to persist with playing Etienne Capoue out wide. Low and behold, I and many other Watford fans got their wish, with the Spaniard
moving the Frenchman back into his favoured position of centre midfield. It was no coincidence that Capoue looked more like his old self, as he resumed his effective partnership with Ben Watson in the engine room, in what was a good performance from the midfielder. The former Tottenham Hotspur man never stopped running all game, as he hassled Everton constantly when they were in possession and always looked to break forward and join Watford's attacks at every opportunity. The energy and tenacity that we saw from the Frenchman earlier in the season had seemingly returned as well and he came ever so close to scoring his first Watford goal just before half time, as his powerful strike from the edge of the box went inches wide courtesy of a deflection. I'm hopeful now that Flores will continue to deploy Capoue in his favoured position because we've seen that it
is where you're going to get the best from him. We've seen that he's most certainly not a winger, as he doesn't get back to protect our full-backs and always looks to come into the centre of the park when he has possession. In my opinion, there is no point in playing him if you're going to stick him out wide because it is a waste. Capoue is undoubtedly a very good player as we have seen on many occasions this season, but one thing he is not is a winger. Hopefully Flores will have now learned from his experiment in recent games and will continue to deploy the Frenchman in his favoured position.
3 - Holebas should play more.
I know a lot has been made about Jose Holebas' attitude on several occasions this season, but you cannot certainly fault the performances he has put in for the Golden Boys when he has played. Against Everton on Saturday it was no different. The Greek international impressed once again as he kept Gerard Deulofeu quiet all game and defended superbly for the entire 90 minutes. He put in a number of good well-timed tackles and also got forward whenever he could. Holebas scored his first goal in Watford colours on the stroke of half-time, nodding Ben Watson's corner home via a deflection from Seamus Colman and I for one think that the left-back should feature more for the Golden Boys. He has always impressed me whenever he has played, as he combines his defensive and offensive duties well and is certainly a threat going forward. Whilst Nathan Ake has been excellent for us and I am a big fan of his, the on-loan Chelsea man seems set to return to the Blues at the end of the season, so we should almost certainly be doing our bit to persuade Holebas to stay at the club. The Greek international is our player, not anybody else's and he has showcased time and time again that he is more than capable of playing at this level. After his performance against Everton, he must start against West Bromwich Albion this weekend.
4 - Jurado shines for 60 minutes.
I know Jose Manuel Jurado has divided opinion among Watford fans since his arrival last summer. Some think he is a class player, whilst others can't see what he brings to the team, bringing up his goals and assists stats this season. On Saturday however, I thought he was superb. Jurado was at the heart of everything Watford did well in the first half and Everton struggled to contain him at times. He showed a great piece of skill to turn away from McCarthy before unleashing a superb strike which was excellently saved by Joel Robles. He was always available in space and kept possession well. I was surprised to see the Spaniard substituted after 60 minutes considering how effective he was and it was no coincidence that Watford struggled to create much after he was replaced by Nordin Amrabat. Aside from Ben Watson and Odion Ighalo's late efforts, the Hornets struggled to create much after Jurado's departure and I feel we missed the Spaniard's creativity during the second half. It was a really impressive performance from the former Atletico Madrid man and hopefully he can replicate this display more often.
5 - Gomes gets my vote for player of the season.
Whilst the likes of Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo have captured most of the headlines this season, Heurelho Gomes has been superb for the Golden Boys all season and he gets my vote for player of the season. The Brazilian has been superb for us ever since he joined the club in May 2014 and has proven the many doubters he had wrong. Against Everton it was another superb performance from the big man as he pulled off a series of good saves to thwart the likes of Lennon, Deulofeu and Mirallas. But this kind of performance is something Watford fans have become accustomed to since the former Tottenham Hotspur man moved to Vicarage Road and he has single handily kept Watford in games at times this season. Aside from two mistakes against Leicester City earlier this season, Gomes hasn't put a foot wrong and has been one of our most consistent performers this year alongside Deeney and Cathcart. For his consistent performances and superb saves he has made throughout the season, Gomes deserves to be crowned player of the season.
Gomes (GK) 9, Paredes 6.5, Britos 7, Cathcart 8, Holebas 8, Behrami 6.5 (Guedioura 7) Watson 7, Capoue 7 (Suarez NA), Jurado 8 (Amrabat 5), Deeney 7, Ighalo 6.
Subs not used - Pantilimon, Nyom, Prodl, Abdi.
Man of the Match - Heurelho Gomes.