At last the start of the new season is finally upon us but will it be one to savour or another one to quickly forget after last seasons bitterly disappointing campaign? First up on Saturday is newly promoted Watford at Goodison Park. Roberto Martinez will be looking to get off the mark quickly and gain three valuable and important points from this one because there are some hugely testing fixtures just around the corner.
After what can only be described as a major let down last season Evertonians will be hoping for a much improved season this time out. The anticipated arrival of several new signings to boost morale has failed to materialise as of yet, although there is still almost a month to go before the transfer deadline. Two new signings have arrived in the shape of Tom Cleverley and Gerard Deulofeu. The latter needs no introduction at all to Evertonians after his hugely impressive loan spell two seasons ago, although it is to be hoped that he finds more consistency and avoids the injuries that derailed his first season so badly this time around. Tom Cleverley on the other hand may not be so familiar to Evertonians as of yet. It’s fair to say his signing was greeted with much less enthusiasm from the Goodison faithful than that of Deulofeu, after a mixed season on loan at Aston Villa and a poor end to his career at Manchester United.
Both these players though will bring something different to the Everton squad yet more signings are desperately needed and it would be hoped that Roberto Martinez is working hard behind the scenes to bring in the players we need before the transfer window slams shut at the end of this month. Martinez has recently admitted to the press for the first time that he has now added a striker to the centre half and number ten he has been looking for this summer, casting even more doubt on the future of Arouna Kone.
If he can find the players he is looking for this month and add them to a squad of players that would still include John Stones, Kevin Mirallas and James McCarthy plus youngsters like the emerging Tyias Browning and Brendan Galloway things would certainly start to look a lot brighter for Everton this season. A much improved performance from Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku will also be required if last seasons eleventh placed finish is to be improved upon. Both have been amongst the goals this pre-season.
Our opponents on Saturday will be Watford. The free scoring Hornets had a hugely impressive season last time out eventually finishing second in the Championship. In a season in which they changed their head coach four times that is no mean feat. Slavisa Jokanovic was replaced in the summer by new head coach Quique Sanchez Flores. The Spaniard will be hoping his tenure will last a lot longer than his predecessor. One thing this Watford team did possess last year was goalscorers. Troy Deeney is the stand out player up front but he is not alone. He managed twenty one league goals last season and provided nine assists for his team mates. Alongside him is Odion Ighalo. The name might not flow off the tongue yet but his twenty league goals last season suggest he too will be a threat for the Hornets. A more familiar name perhaps is Matej Vydra. The twenty three year old Czech Republic international finally signed a permanent deal this summer after two previous loan spells with the club. He scored sixteen times from thirty one starts last season.
There is also plenty of Premier League experience in the ranks with former Tottenham goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes the number one at Vicarage Road. He was joined this summer by midfielder Etienne Capoue also from Spurs and former Hammer Valon Behrami joined from German outfit Hamburg.
Also in the squad is a familiar face to Roberto Martinez in the shape of former Wigan player Ben Watson who famously scored the winner at Wembley in the F A Cup final in 2013. In stark contrast to Everton, Watford have been busy this summer bringing in eleven new faces for what they hope will be their most successful Premier League campaign to date having finished bottom on both their previous outings.
It is difficult to look to deeply in to either clubs recent form as pre-season results tend to mean very little, both clubs have lost their last two friendlies. But there is little doubt winning becomes a habit and the sooner Everton start doing so the better.
Now to the treatment table and injuries have again played their part in our summer preparations and continue to be a worry going in to the new season. Already ruled out of the game are Aiden McGeady, Steven Pienaar, Daron Gibson, Muhamed Besic and Tony Hibbert with doubts also hanging over John Stones, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas. With not enough signings being made in the summer this could seriously derail Everton’s start to the season so lets hope the majority make the starting line up. Watford too have concerns over midfielders Almen Abdi and new signing Jose Manuel Juardo although the latter is expected to be fit.
With so many doubts going in to this one it is difficult to predict who will start on Saturday. I expect Cleverley to be given his debut and if Mirallas is fit he will be asked to provide the width, if not expect Osman or Naismith to fill in for him. Howard seems a certain starter under Martinez although many Evertonians are pushing for a change. Don’t expect Robles to be given his chance any time soon.
Predicted Eleven. 1. Howard 2. Coleman 3. Baines 4. Jagielka 5. Stones 6. Barry 7. Mirallas 8. McCarthy 9. Lukaku 10. Barkley 11. Cleverley.
A lot depends on who makes the starting eleven but I expect this to be a tight encounter. As a team we must cut out the silly mistakes which haunted our campaign last time out otherwise we will continue to hemorrhage goals this season. Having said that I expect Watford to play open attractive football on Saturday. Their ethos is similar to that of Evertons. When teams come to Goodison with that mentality rather than putting ten men behind the ball it normally benefits Everton so I would expect us to just sneak this one by the odd goal.
Last Three Meetings. Watford 0 Everton 3. Everton 2 Watford 1. Watford 1 Everton 2.
Prediction. Everton 2 Watford 1
About the author
I’m a 41 year old father of two little blues. I’ve been following Everton all my life and have been lucky enough to see us win two league championships, a European trophy and go to five F A cup finals, winning one. My first game was Sunderland at home, a game we won 4-1 with my boyhood hero Andy Gray scoring two diving headers…been hooked ever since.