OPINION - Reflecting on Everton and why this international break is important for Watford
I don't know why, but I had a bad feeling about Sunday's match against Everton all week in the build-up to the game.
There was no reason why. Anyone who knows me personally will know that I'm always optimistic going into a match. But for some reason, I just had a horrible feeling something was going to go wrong at Goodison Park. Sadly, that proved to be the case.
Watford slipped to a 3-2 defeat to Everton at the weekend and whatever way you look at it, it's simply inexcusable to throw away a 2-0 lead like we did. It doesn't matter what league you're in, but if you're 2-0 up with 20 minutes to play, you really should be winning the game.
Once Christian Kabasele had put us 2-0 up, Watford should have been comfortable. With Everton on a poor run of form and with home fans getting increasingly restless, the Hornets should have been able to manage the game like they have done against Southampton and Bournemouth this season to gain the three points.
But the simple fact of the matter is we didn't. We capitulated.
I've seen some supporters pinning the defeat solely on the injury to Heurelho Gomes which I don't particularly buy.
There's no disputing that Gomes is a crucial figure for Watford and one of our most consistent performers. He's also a popular figure in the dressing room by the looks of things and a huge fan favourite among supporters.
I'm a huge fan of his too, but I wouldn't say that we lost simply because of his injury. Yes, substitute Orestis Karnezis does not cover himself in glory for the first two goals, but our defending as a team has got to come into question.
For the first Everton goal, a long hopeful ball forward by Ademola Lookman has cut our defence wide open and that should not be happening. Yes, Karnezis doesn't need to rush off his line like he did, but Jose Holebas should also be doing far better too for a man of his experience. He's been beaten far too easily by Oumar Niasse and then doesn't even bother to go with his man once Niasse beats Karnezis. The way we gave away that first goal is quite frankly, comical.
Then for the second goal, we've conceded from a set-piece once again. Marco Silva hasn't done much wrong since he's arrived at Watford, but he simply must consider dropping zonal marking as we're conceding too many sloppy goals from set-pieces. That's now five games in a row that the Hornets have conceded from a set-piece and it's clear that teams have identified this as a clear weak point of ours.
On Sunday, Dominic Calvert Lewin gets a simple free header at the far post and Everton are back on level terms just ten minutes after being 2-0 down. You can accept it if Everton had scored two world class goals to get back on level terms. But they didn't. If truth be told, they didn't have to work too hard to score the goals they did.
So, while some can point the finger at Karnezis' display, and I agree he doesn't cover himself in glory, it is not the only reason why we lost that game. Poor defending as a team has cost us again and it meant that despite playing well for 70 minutes, we've come away from Goodison Park empty handed when we really should have been talking about an excellent victory.
People can also point to the fact that Watford were without a number of influential players on Sunday due to injury. There was no Nathaniel Chalobah, Roberto Pereyra, Sebastian Prodl or Younes Kaboul among others and when you factor in that Troy Deeney was banned for the Hornets on Sunday, you could arguably say that we were without half of our first choice eleven. But this Watford team is far too good for excuses to be made when they don't perform.
We've seen before this season that we can win without some of our best players and we can dig in and grind out a result if need be. However, that hasn't been the case recently.
Ok, you can accept Watford throwing away a 2-1 lead away to Chelsea, given that we were facing the current Premier League champions and one of the best teams in the Premier League.
But, if we are targeting a top ten finish this season, as so many of our players have spoken about in the media, then fans have a right to expect the Hornets to get results from fixtures against Stoke and Everton given their recent poor run of form and our own performances this season. But if truth be told, we didn't do enough against either the Potters or the Toffees.
The international break, therefore, comes at a good time for the Golden Boys. Silva now has two weeks to work with the majority of the players and ensure they are ready for what now is a crucial match against West Ham United at Vicarage Road.
With West Ham and Newcastle to play after the international break, it is crucial that Watford pick up at least four points from those two games, especially as they face Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur after.
This, therefore, marks Marco Silva's first big test as Watford head coach. This is the first time we have recorded back-to-back defeats this season and if you look at the previous two campaigns, a series of consecutive defeats or games without a win in December and January have been the catalyst for a Watford capitulation after a promising start. Heads have dropped and the team have struggled to regain form following these runs in the previous campaigns.
Now, while this, I'm sure, is a very different Watford side under Silva's stewardship this season, it's important not to underestimate how crucial it is that Watford get back to winning ways as soon as possible after the international break. Failure to win against Newcastle or West Ham and it's not inconceivable that Watford could go seven games without a win, given that they face Manchester United and Spurs after the fixtures with the Hammers and the Magpies.
I know the Hornets have got points off two big teams this season in Arsenal and Liverpool, but realistically, we can't be expecting to get any points from games against Jose Mourinho and Mauricio Pochettino's men. That's coming from an ever-optimistic fan like me as well!
Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of Silva's work at Vicarage Road so far and it has been an excellent start to the campaign. There have been many highlights so far and I think most of us would have bitten your hand off to be in 9th place in the table going into November.
But all of our good work could be undone if we don't pick up points against West Ham and Newcastle, which is why I feel that this international break is important not only for Silva, but this Watford side too.
I hope, therefore, that this series of defeats is just a temporary blip from the Golden Boys and not the start of the annual capitulation which we have seen in the last two campaigns.