To their credit, Watford’s supporters stuck around to applaud their team during the lap of honour after the final whistle. “You give us a bit of shit from time to time,” Deeney said. “But we deserve it.”
Mazzarri has often cited injuries as the reason for his team’s indifferent performances and the situation was so bad here that he was forced to select two goalkeepers among the substitutes. But there was no excuse for continuing his perverse insistence on beginning with club captain and leader Troy Deeney on the bench. That left his team short of heart and spirit and it showed.
As for Watford, this was their sixth straight defeat since they secured 40 points and it was too much for some parts of the home support, who baited their departing manager. When referee Jon Moss called Mazzarri over for a chat about his conduct, the home fans chanted for their manager to be dismissed. When the fifth goal went in it got even nastier, with Mazzarri invited to “f— off”, and “get out of our club”.
Our leader, in a final peevish move by his manager, was on the bench (and it’s arguable that in the admittedly ring-rusty Ben Watson, another to have been discarded cheaply by Mazzarri, we had another wise head underemployed). And, of course, we named two goalkeepers… much as we all love Rene Gilmartin this was no tribute to a departing hero (notably, no fawning 26th minute intro/outro for Rene who isn’t nearly a vain enough peacock to have suggested one) but a pathetically self-indulgent sulky statement by the outgoing coach. “Look what I’m left with”. A Charlie Rowan, a Carl Stewart or an Ogo Obi could have filled that space and garnered Mazzarri more sympathy and options.
Mazzarri surprised everyone by naming two goalkeepers on the bench, something which I have never ever seen done before. It was as baffling as it was disrespectful to those young players trying to break into the first team.
The homecoming of champions can rarely have been this thrilling. An absurdly entertaining occasion littered with smartly taken goals, bouts of cringe-worthy defending, some late snarl that left Watford depleted and bickering among themselves and a mischievous Diego Costa leaving the bench to pilfer some citrus fruit ended with Antonio Conte wearing a plastic crown on the pitch. The Italian conducted a delighted audience as the fireworks boomed and the tickertape fluttered down all around. If only every night in this arena was this giddy.
If there was ever a sign that John Terry had given all he had to give at Chelsea, Monday night’s victory with Watford was just that, as he went from the familiar role of hero to the equally familiar role of villain and back again.
This kind of doesn’t need an intro does it? Whether you’ve been experiencing the last few months by attending games or watching on from greater distance you can’t have been looking forward to this. Chelsea’s title having been confirmed on Friday didn’t help matters at all… it removed the final straw to be clung to, the one where there might be a nagging nervousness in the home stands, something that still needed sorting if we could just hold out for 20 minutes or so.
Following yet another away defeat on Friday night, you would have been forgiven for giving our final away game of the season against newly crowned Premier League champions, Chelsea, a miss. Given also that the game was broadcast live on television on a Monday night, Watford were now mathematically safe and had nothing to play for and had also failed to score away from home since January, it was hard to see any appeal of going at all.
Also known as the day Walter Mazzarri bought us a beer.
Watford were more ambitious than of late with Stefano Okaka’s considerable presence causing a tremor each time he ran at Phil Jagielka. Wing back Jose Holebas also enjoyed himself against Mason Holgate and expected more when tricking his way down the left wing and delivering a cross demanding a thudding header from Adrian Mariappa from six yards. The defender did not oblige and ball rebounded harmlessly over Joel Robles crossbar.
Ronald Koeman had demanded a show of responsibility from Ross Barkley and the Everton midfielder obliged at Goodison Park: not with the requested decision on his future but with a match-winning display against Watford.
Daryl Janmaat’s early shot was deflected behind off Ashley Williams for a corner and Troy Deeney’s low drive into the Everton six-yard area caused momentary panic. Stefano Okaka was then, inexplicably, allowed the space to pick up the ball on the halfway line and advance to the edge of the Everton area before unleashing a shot that flew just off target.
A Friday night in Liverpool? The luxury lifestyle of a football fan! Although at first glance a Friday night game may have been seen as an inconvenience, we should be thankful, as this gives us all the free time we need to enjoy the greatest night of the year, Eurovision!
Walter Mazzarri’s future as Watford manager appears increasingly precarious and it is Craig Shakespeare who looks far more likely to be in the technical area next season. A fifth successive away defeat without scoring will pile more pressure on Mazzarri, while his decision to drop Troy Deeney is unlikely to generate support with the majority of supporters.
A year can be a long time in football. Twelve months after the 5,000-1 shots were crowned Premier League champions here, goals from Wilfred Ndidi, Riyad Mahrez and Marc Albrighton secured a victory for Leicester that moved them into the top half of the table for the first time since September.
There are days when it’s just a bad idea all round. The great empty swathes of seats in the away end for what should be a popular trip – local-ish, easy to get to, against the League Champions to boot – suggested that plenty had had the same thought. Dad nearly didn’t make it, Daughter 1 pondered whether she should forego the afternoon in favour of preparation for her forthcoming SATs. Meanwhile the pre-match pub turned out to be closed; we opted for an alternative next to the station, but beat a disorientated path from the pub in entirely the wrong direction until we sorted ourselves out. Sometimes the world is trying to tell you something.