Opinion - Five thoughts following Watford's 3-2 win over Everton
Watford return to winning ways on Saturday as they ended their hoodoo over Everton with a 3-2 win over the Toffees at Vicarage Road.
A double from Stefano Okaka and a goal from Sebastian Prodl secured a deserved win for the Hornets and moves the Golden Boys back into the top-half of the table.
Romelu Lukaku had put Everton ahead just after the quarter-of-an-hour mark, before Stefano Okaka equalised for the Hornets ten minutes before half-time, as he superbly backheeled Nordin Amrabat's cross home.
Walter Mazzarri's men then took the lead just before the hour mark, as Sebastian Prodl turned the ball home following Jose Holebas' free kick and it was 3-1 moments later, with Okaka grabbing his second of the game, having nodded the ball past Stekelenburg from another Holebas set-piece.
Lukaku then pulled one back for Everton with four minutes plus stoppage time remaining, but Watford held on to secure their first victory over Everton in 29 years.
Having attended Saturday's game at Vicarage Road, here are five of my main thoughts.
1 - Much more like it from Watford
This was much better from Watford compared to recent weeks and the Golden Boys were fully deserving of the three points. We took a while to get going but after Everton's first goal, the Hornets were well on top and were carving open the Toffees defence with ease at times. Nordin Amrabat, Troy Deeney and Stefano Okaka were causing all sorts of problems and the Hornets looked threatening every time they ventured forward. We were enjoying a lot of joy out wide and the Hornets were also playing some decent football as well. Defensively, Walter Mazzarri's men were a lot better and they dealt with the majority of set-pieces and crosses reasonably well. Everton didn't create too many chances during the second-half and Watford were fully deserving of the three points in the end. There are still a few things Walter Mazzarri's men need to work on though and they will surely be disappointed by the goals they conceded on Saturday. The Hornets yet again conceded from a cross and as Everton piled on the pressure in the final minutes, the Golden Boys did look nervous in possession. I didn't think Heurelho Gomes had his best game in a Watford shirt either; he looked nervous and I think he should have done better for Everton's first as well. All in all though, it was a much better display from the Hornets compared to recent weeks. The only question is can they reproduce this type of performance on a consistent basis? If we want to finish in the top-ten, then we consistently need to put in performances like these. We cannot simply choose when we want to turn it on.
2 - Okaka provides Mazzarri and Ighalo with some food for thought
I think it's fair to say that the inclusion of Stefano Okaka in the starting line-up was a surprise to many, myself included. I wasn't at the West Bromwich Albion game last Saturday, but many have said to me that he was disappointing and with Miguel Britos and Valon Behrami coming back into the fold, I thought Mazzarri might revert back to his trusted 3-5-2, with Okaka one of the players making way. But the Italian kept faith in Okaka and he certainly repaid that faith in style. The former Anderlecht striker was superb as he and Troy Deeney gave Everton's defender's a torrid time all afternoon. Okaka worked his socks off all game, hassling and harrying Everton when in possession and he was not afraid to track back either, pulling off some decent tackles. The big Italian was also energetic and calm with the ball at his feet, with Okaka forming a good partnership with Deeney during the game. He didn't stop working all afternoon and he deservedly got his name on the score-sheet. His first goal was magnificent, a delicate back-heel that gave Stekelenburg no chance, and had the likes of Sergio Aguero and Zlatan Ibrahimovic pulled that off, it would have been raved about for the rest of the season. It was also a pleasant surprise to see one of our strikers making a run into the near post, as Amrabat has been putting those crosses in to that area all season. His second goal was a bullet header from Jose Holebas' corner and it capped off an excellent display from Okaka. He was everything that you wanted him to be and his performance will certainly have provided Walter Mazzarri and the misfiring Odion Ighalo with some food for thought. If Okaka can replicate his performance vs Everton in the coming weeks, then Ighalo won't be getting into this starting line-up any time soon.
3 - Prodl superb once again
How on earth did we manage to sign Seb Prodl on a free transfer during the summer of 2015? What a coup and the signing of the Austrian looks better and better every week. Werder Bremen must be kicking themselves for allowing him to leave. Prodl has been our most consistent performer this season and Saturday's game against Everton was no different. The Austrian won literally everything in the air and Romelu Lukaku had little joy when he came up against the big 29-year-old at the back. Prodl also pulled off some fantastic interceptions and he showcased once again that he is comfortable with the ball at his feet as well. He is also becoming a real leader in this Watford side and Prodl can frequently be seen bellowing orders to his team-mates. He scored a terrific header to put the Golden Boys in front and it capped off another superb display from the Austrian who, as I said before, has been our most consistent performer this season. Prodl has really blossomed this season and is our first-choice centre-back without a shadow of a doubt. To think there were rumours in the summer that he was going to be shipped off to Udinese on loan. Where would we be without Prodl this term? If he keeps these performances up over the course of the season, then the Austrian is a legend in the making. My player-of-the-season so far, with Amrabat a close second.
4 - Amrabat has another excellent game
From being one of the fringe players among this squad at the end of last-season, Nordin Amrabat has turned his Watford career around, and he is now one of the first names on the team-sheet. Revitalised under Walter Mazzarri, having not been given much of a chance under Quique Sanchez Flores, Amrabat has been one of our shining lights this season and yesterday was no different. The Moroccan was excellent once again and he caused Everton all sorts of problems with his pace and power. Amrabat had Leighton Baines on ice as he turned the England international with ease time and time again. A lot of people have, wrongly in my opinion, criticised his final ball but he played a number of teasing crosses into the Everton area which caused their defenders all sorts of problems. For our first goal, he's been putting balls like that into the near post all season, with no-one busting a gut to get onto them. With Okaka in the team, it was different and the Italian exquisitely turned Amrabat's low cross home. Amrabat's pace and power caused Everton's defenders problems, especially Leighton Baines, and they will be glad that they won't have to face the Moroccan every week, as he wreaked havoc at times. The former Malaga man was up-and-down the right hand flank all afternoon and you can always rely on the Moroccan to give 110% each week. His timewasting tactics were hilarious to watch towards the end of the game, as he hugged a steward, turned three Everton players with a neat turn and threw the ball back to the ball-boys to waste time. All in all, it was another excellent display from Amrabat, who has been one of our best players this season. He could so easily have left over the summer, with La Liga teams reportedly keen to take him back to Spain, but fair play to Amrabat for sticking around and he is now reaping the rewards.
5 - Behrami back to his best
When Valon Behrami's at his best, then there's not too many better sights. He's one of those players that when he's on top of his game, you just don't want to play against him. Against Everton, the Swiss international grew into the match and he was back to his very best in the second-half. Despite being sick on the pitch before the second half started, Behrami got better and better as the game went on, with the Swiss enforcer crunching into tackles and pulling off some vital interceptions, the best of which being when he dispossessed Deulofeu who was sprinting towards the Watford goal on the counter attack. This was much more like the Valon Behrami Watford fans have grown to love over the past year, so here's hoping the Swiss enforcer can replicate this performance in the coming weeks.