Watch Javi Gracia's post-match interview above, or read on below.
By Kevin Affleck
Javi Gracia defended his decision to make half-a-dozen changes to his Watford side, believing it was time to show the depth of the squad against Newcastle United in the midst of a demanding sequence of games.
The Head Coach has always maintained he has faith in all the players he has at his disposal and has no qualms about using them at any stage of the season. He showed that particularly against Manchester City and Everton when he gave Domingos Quina his head.
He was forced into one change against Newcastle because Christian Kabasele was injured and the five other changes saw two internationals and three youth internationals brought into the XI. He argued there is no point having a squad as deep as his if you are not going to use it.
“I have to choose different players in this moment because we are playing every three or four days,” he said. “I have to give the chances for all of my players. I have said many times that all my players deserve the chance to play as they work very well. We are a good squad – not only a good team. If I don't do it in this moment, when can I do it? It was the moment to change the players as some of them needed a rest. I have to prepare for all the games. Now you see the result you can say that [I should not have made the changes], but I don't agree.”
Like at St James' Park, it could have been a very different story if the Hornets had taken an early chance. Gerard Deulofeu saw the whites of Martin Dúbravka’s eyes after 15 minutes and it was a much easier chance that the ones he converted against Huddersfield, Cardiff and West Ham, but it went begging.
“We started well the game,” Gracia said. “We created good, clear chances. We didn't take them.”
Then, as is always the case, the opposition make you pay a heavy price for your misses by scoring with virtually their first attempt on goal. In fact, Newcastle scored before they had even forced a corner. Now with their noses in front, Newcastle were able to get bodies behind the ball and play on the break, just the way Rafa Benitez likes it.
“We knew the game would be very demanding, but after conceding the goal it was even more difficult,” said the Head Coach. “We kept going, kept working and we scored one goal. Sometimes to have the possession is not the same as having control. Today we knew Newcastle would defend well. They play on the counterattack well. It's nothing different to what we expected. At the end I am happy with my players. Maybe the game could have another different result, but I am happy with our behaviour and how are we were believing until the end.”
Gracia gave Quina his third Premier League start and feels playing in a game where he had to muck in and force the issue will do wonders for his development.
“Young players have to learn by playing and making mistakes sometimes,” said Gracia. “In my opinion he has played very well, showing his quality, his character. He is a young player but a very good player.”