First Team 25/08/2019

Cleverley: “We Weren't Clinical Enough”

Fine margins can be the difference in football games, not least in the Premier League, and the Hornets cannot afford to keep missing chances according to Tom Cleverley.

“We created 23 opportunities today, so the creative side was there, but we just weren’t clinical enough,” said Cleverley. “To be in the lead in these games is massive, the first goal in games is massive.

“On the face of it they had a little bit extra quality today. I don’t think they have more quality players; I just think today they were sharper in both boxes.”

Cleverley was pleased with the Hornets’ attacking threat on his return to the team but wants to regain last season’s defensive stability after an incredibly open game at Vicarage Road.

“I thought going forward we were good today; creativity wise we were really good and if we go 2-1 up it changes everything,” he said. “We want to be more solid, we were a very solid team at home last year and it’s not a worry but it’s something we can work on.

“The reaction from the poor start is another positive we can take but 23 chances and not winning the game is disappointing. I’d have swapped anything for three points today really. The quality and intensity in both boxes was the difference.”

Watford have two chances to right today’s wrongs in a Carabao Cup tie against Coventry City on Tuesday and a Premier League trip to Newcastle United next Saturday.

“We can’t feel sorry for ourselves,” said Cleverley. “We’ve got two big games this week before heading into an international break and we want to get that good feeling back desperately.

“Let’s try to get through to the next round of the cup against Coventry and then all focus on Wednesday morning in training on Newcastle.”

First Team 24/08/2019

Gracia: “We Need To Find Our Balance”

By Kevin Affleck

Javi Gracia has vowed to make alterations, either tactically or personnel wise, after watching his side slip to a third straight Premier League defeat.

The Watford Head Coach is never one to hide behind excuses or gloss over things when things don't go well and he was keen to reassure everyone that he will get to the bottom of this poor start and do his damndest to put it right.

"I know in this moment we are all disappointed: the supporters, the players, all of us," said the Head Coach. "It's in this moment we have to believe and deal with it. We know after the defeats we need to change and do something as what we have done is not enough. We need to improve something. I know it."

He strongly suggested he would look to ensure the team are better in both boxes, more ruthless when it comes to taking chances and more resolute when it comes to keeping the opposition out. Only three of the 23 attempts were on target while, at the other end, that's now 18 games without a clean sheet and 41 goals conceded in that period.

"We need to find the balance we had before, defending and attacking," he said. "It is not only the responsibility of the defensive line, of the 'keeper: it's the whole team. We can analyse the way we have conceded some goals but, in my opinion, all of them are different.

"We know we can improve and we have to improve the balance. If we had 23 shots and only three on target, that says something about the attack and that we need to improve and to be more precise, more clinical. Defending, we need to defend better at set-pieces.

"From a corner kick they hit the post [through Anderson], for example. In all different phases of play we need to improve. There are moments when the anxiety doesn't help us to play better. We don't have a good balance. It's difficult to change that dynamic."

Gracia certainly couldn't accuse his players of not putting a shift in. They had a real go at West Ham, particularly in the first half and it could easily have been 3-2 at the break. Then Will Hughes missed a golden chance on 55 minutes with the game on a knife-edge. West Ham made the most of that reprieve and won it with two goals in nine second-half minutes from Sébastien Haller. 

"We've lost 1-3," he said. "That's the final result. It's true there were some moments in the game when we dominated, we created chances but if you don't score [more than once] with 23 shots then it's difficult. We have to be more clinical when we dominate the game.

"In the second half, it's true West Ham played better after that clear chance with Will and if we are critical with ourselves and demanding, we have to know we can't concede seven goals in three games. We have to get the balance between attacking and defending and we have to be more clinical. We've been punished for all the mistakes. It's a difficult moment. We need to change the momentum and try to change with a good game and a good result."

Gracia went on to give an insight into how he set the team up in the absence of his captain and main striker. It was a slight departure from his favoured 4-4-2.

"Without Troy we tried a different formation, with four in a diamond and keeping two strikers with more mobility," he said. "In the first half we did it well, with good chances after 10 minutes: two clear chances for Gerard. We tried a different way to find the balance, but not so well in the second half."

The Head Coach threw on Ismaïla Sarr for his debut, along with Danny Welbeck, but the game was up by then. Moments before he had looked to bring on Daryl Janmaat to stiffen up the defence.

"It was an option in that moment," he said. "I thought Daryl could give us a solution to defend better. Antonio was fresh and we tried to be stronger in that part of the pitch. After we conceded a goal, I thought it was better to make other decisions."