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Five Aside
 By Mike Parkin

Watford and Walter Mazzarri at a crossroads in the Premier League

For the wider world, Monday night is all about Chelsea. The Blues will play in front of an adoring Stamford Bridge crowd for the first time since securing the Premier League title and the supporters will be there to party. The gooseberries for the evening are an increasingly hapless looking Watford, who despite losing their last four games to nil, also have something to celebrate. Premier League safety.

The Hornets' Premier League status for next season was confirmed when Crystal Palace dismantled Hull City on Sunday morning, condemning the Tigers to the rough and tumble of the Championship and allowing supporters of Palace, Swansea and indeed Watford to breathe a sigh of relief. However, while safety is to be applauded -- it was after all the primary objective for the season -- a wretched run of form has meant Walter Mazzarri and Watford are likely to end in 17th place and seemingly in need of a major overhaul.

It's been a curious but largely uninspiring season, with memorable wins against Manchester United and Arsenal juxtaposed with regular lacklustre showings against mediocre opponents. The recent run of form, one that has seen Watford fail to score in an away game for 617 minutes (they have lost six in a row away from Vicarage Road, failing to score in each) has brought the performance of both the players and the head coach into sharp focus.

Quique Sanchez Flores moved on after guiding Watford to safety, but under the shadow of what was widely regarded as a disastrous second half of the season. Watford sit five points shy of the total achieved under the Spaniard, and with games against the champions and Manchester City to come, it's unlikely to be bettered. After an unprecedented period of managerial turnover, many had hoped for a period of calm and continuity. It now seems increasingly likely that yet another new man will be at the helm next season.

Should he depart, Mazzarri will almost certainly point to an incredibly unkind list of injuries, while critics will point to the murmurs of discontent from players who have spoken of gruelling and unforgiving training sessions. It's true the Italian has been denied key performers for large chunks of the season, but it's also fair to say he has had access to the most expensively assembled Watford squad in history.

Watford are safe but it has been a season of struggle.

Whatever the outcome for Mazzarri, there can be no denying the Premier League is a spectacularly difficult competition, and the fact that Watford have secured what will be just their 11th season of top flight football is something to be cherished. The boss must be afforded credit for his part in delivering this, but for too many supporters the season has felt unsatisfactory and unfulfilling. Indeed it's questionable whether, despite two concurrent years in the Premier League, the team is in any better shape than it was when promoted from the Championship.

With safety assured, the end of the 2016-17 road is finally in sight, but it feels as though the Hornets are hurtling towards a precarious crossroads. So far owner Gino Pozzo and chief executive Scott Duxbury have got the big decisions almost exclusively correct. It feels like their next one, who will guide Watford into the 2017-18 Premier league season, is their biggest yet. The last month has shown just how easy it is to end up in the middle of a run of dismal results and it is imperative this malaise doesn't spill over into the beginning of the next campaign.

If Mazzarri is hoping to use the fixture with Chelsea as a last minute pitch for keeping his job, he'll have to do so with yet another reshuffled defensive unit, with Christian Kabasele the latest defender to fall victim of the Vicarage Road injury curse. At the other end of the pitch, Mazzarri will have been heartened by the display of Deeney and Okaka in a two pronged attack last time out at Everton, and with nothing to lose he may opt to start them both at Stamford Bridge.

One last chance, then, for Watford to prove they can deliver a performance away from Vicarage Road. With Chelsea set for an evening of celebration, the sensible money has to be on both teams being left singing the blues.

Mike is ESPN FC's Watford blogger.


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