First Team 06/05/2019

Chalobah: “I Left It All Out There”

Watch Nathaniel Chalobah's post-match interview above, or read on for his thoughts below.

If ever there was a day for mixed emotions it was today for Nathaniel Chalobah, who returned to his boyhood club to make his first league start in five months but ended up on the losing side.

The 24-year-old, who spent more than a decade rising through the ranks at Chelsea, was handed just his third league start of the campaign in place of the injured Étienne Capoue but left Stamford Bridge feeling the Hornets deserved more than their 3-0 loss.

“It was my first time coming back here since I left so it was a good moment for me in a way but obviously the result wasn’t what we could’ve got today and that’s more important than me coming back,” Chalobah said.

“It felt like we played very well in the first half and a bit of a lack of concentration killed the game for us. It’s a lesson learned for this season, we have to be very ruthless in both boxes.

“We played some good stuff, we had a game-plan and we executed it very well and we were a bit unfortunate not to put some of those chances in.

“We’re disappointed. The mood in the changing room wasn’t great but we have to dust ourselves off and go again.”

It was a useful hour or so for Chalobah, who has found game-time hard to come by in a Watford team who have been exceeding expectations all season.

“It’s been a very difficult year for me, coming in and out, but I just tried to give everything I can today,” said the England midfielder.

“I left it all out there and I blew up after about 50 minutes! It’s always difficult not playing games and that match fitness and sharpness is something you always lack when you don’t get that opportunity. 

“But what can I do, the boys been flying this year and you’ve got to look at it that way and keep going.”

When you’ve got Étienne Capoue and Abdoulaye Doucouré performing as well as they have this term, it’s always going to be tricky finding a way into Javi Gracia’s team.

“Those two have been phenomenal this year and you’ve got to put your hands up at the end of the day,” he conceded.

“There’s a lot of competition for places and the boys that aren’t playing every week are there battling every week and trying to make it hard for them, and that’s helped them keep their levels high.

“It’s a negative that you’re not playing, but a positive that the team are doing well and those players are flying. At the end of the day the team is the most important thing.

“Individual disappointment is something you’ve got to put aside sometimes and show your frustration in other ways, by coming in every day and grafting and trying to do as best as we can.”

First Team 05/05/2019

Gracia: “We Didn’t Deserve That Result”

Watch Javi Gracia's post-match interview above, or read on below for his thoughts from his post-match press conference.

By Kevin Affleck

Javi Gracia admitted he ended up with the same feeling this afternoon as he did away at the Emirates and Old Trafford, the one where he wondered how his bold side ended up with nothing after going toe-to-toe with one of the big boys.

The Hornets bossed large parts of the first half at Stamford Bridge and even Maurizio Sarri admitted his side were “in trouble”. Kepa Arrizabalaga pulled off what must rank as his best save of the season to keep out a header from Troy Deeney and it was a mystery how the Hornets were not in front at the break after popping the ball about with real confidence.

There was, though, a grim sense of inevitably about the way Chelsea came back in the second half and punished the Hornets for their wastefulness in the first half, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and David Luiz powering in headers in the space of three minutes and then Gonzalo Higuaín rubbing salt into the wounds with a third on 75 minutes. It was never a 3-0 game in a month of Sundays.

“I think the result was very, very tough for us,” said Gracia. “In my opinion, we didn’t deserve that result. We had some good moments in the first half, a good performance, creating chances, dominating the game, recovering the ball with a good attitude and playing in the opposition half. We didn’t take our chances, we didn't confirm [our superiority]. We have to be more clinical in that situation and be more aggressive in both boxes. It is difficult as I am happy with the performance but I am not happy losing 3-0.”

Gracia is not happy to concede any goal, but he was furious at the concession of the two goals from set-pieces.

“Sometimes I know you have to defend players taller than you, but we have been defending well in these situations,” he said. “We need to improve this part of the game. I am disappointed with that. We have to be more aggressive in both areas.”

The Head Coach did not need reminding that the Hornets have now lost the last 15 consecutive away games against the big six, going down by an aggregate margin of 45-9. It is something that will be near to the top of his to-do list in the summer.

“I prefer to be optimistic,” he said. “I prefer to see the fact that we had chances to get a good result. It is something next season we have to improve. It is not fair to only speak about results as, in my opinion, we have played well [against these teams]. If you analyse the game against United, against Arsenal and against Chelsea, we had real chances to get better results. For sure, I recognise we have to do something better.”

Gracia gave Nathaniel Chalobah his first league start since December and he scrubbed up well against his former club.

“He played really well,” said Gracia. “It wasn’t easy as it was a long time without playing and he had a very good performance.”