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Watford line up EFL manager as potential successor to Nigel Pearson

Reports have emerged claiming that Watford line up one particular EFL manager as a potential successor to recently sacked Nigel Pearson.

The Hornets will accelerate their efforts to hire a new head coach after their Premier League fate is decided on Sunday with Hayden Mullins looking towards his second game as caretaker, having lost 4-0 to Man City in his first game.

They go into their final match of the season at Arsenal knowing they must better Aston Villa’s result at West Ham United in order to stay up and avoid a return to the Championship since the 2014/15 season.

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Former Leicester manager Claude Puel, who is currently managing Saint-Etienne, is the early favourite to take over. The other candidates in contention are former Valencia boss Marcelino, Croatia manager Zlatko Dalic and Nottingham Forest’s Sabri Lamouchi.

The latter has just seen his side unexpectedly drop out of the playoffs on the final day of the Championship season as Swansea overtook them on goal difference.

Wednesday’s defeat by three goals, as well as Swansea’s 4-1 win at Reading, saw Forest drop down to seventh.

“It’s difficult to react,” a stunned Lamouchi told BBC Radio Nottingham.

“I’m here because it’s obligatory to be here, but I don’t have words. It’s a disaster, to lose everything in the last game at home.

“I’m so sorry. Sorry to the fans for the last few games.

“For me, it doesn’t feel real, but it is the truth. We are out of the play-offs. It’s just unacceptable.

“One point was enough tonight [Wednesday]. Enough three days ago, enough last week. We were so close.

“I’m so down thinking about the fans, the club, my family, the players and staff.

“It was unacceptable what has happened in the last five games. I was furious after Derby for this reason, as we looked to be secure before what we didn’t want to happen, happened.

“How is it possible? To fight all the whole season, for many games, and many weeks and now we are out of that.”

Lamouchi came into the club last summer to replace Martin O’Neill, and after a slow start, they quickly rose up the table and his spell has been described as a positive one on the whole.

He’s transformed them into promotion contenders for much of the campaign with attractive football and brought in key signings including goalkeeper Brice Samba, midfielder Samba Sow and playmaker Tiago Silva.

Yet Forest and a promotion challenge is a familiar one but is forgettable having previously finished seventh, eighth and ninth to miss out over the past seven years.

Watford are usually swift in appointing head coaches, with owner Gino Pozzo preferring to have his next boss lined up straight away or almost immediately as the manager has been sacked, but the uncertainty over the club’s Premier League status has delayed matters.

Chris Hughton, who was interviewed for the role before Pearson was appointed in December, would be an ideal choice if Watford were in the Championship, however he could be heading to Bristol City.

Watford under 23s coach Hayden Mullins, who will be in caretaker charge on Sunday, is highly thought of by the club’s hierarchy but is not considered a candidate.

It is likely that he and interim assistant Graham Stack are wanted by the club to be part of any new coaching staff.

Midfielder Will Hughes insists the squad have not given up hope of pulling off a great escape. “The spirit is still there,” he said. “It’s everything to play for and we have to give it everything.”

Charlie Nicholas has given his prediction for the game, stating: “Arsenal looked pretty empty on gas against Aston Villa, but there’s some serious risks Watford are taking in sacking Nigel Pearson and throwing Hayden Mullins in at the deep end. Apart from the goalkeeper, Ben Foster, there’s not really anyone in form.

“For Arsenal, the league emphasis has gone, it’s about being competitive for the FA Cup final. I think Mikel Arteta will make a couple of changes, but they’ll want to finish the season well. He’s doing a good job, he’s taken over a mess and is making it better. I think they’ll have a response from Tuesday night – Arteta will be telling the players some of them are playing for their futures, others for a place in the FA Cup final line-up.

“I think Watford are seriously in danger of going down, but I think Arsenal will win anyway.” PREDICTION: Arsenal 3-1 Watford, Sunday – 4pm, live on Sky Sports

Fans reacted after seeing that Watford line up an EFL manager as the potential successor to Nigel Pearson…

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