Gracia: “A Big Chance Missed”
Watch Javi Gracia's post-match interview above, or read on below for more from his press conference.
By Kevin Affleck
It seems forewarned was not forearmed for this Watford team.
Javi Gracia had briefed his players on Monday and Tuesday about the aerial threat of Fernando Llorente, told them of his experience of seeing the man from his hometown of Pamplona head them in from every angle for Athletic Bilbao, Sevilla and the national team, but it could not prevent the Tottenham Hotspur striker from nodding in the winner at Wembley.
In fairness there is not much you can do when the cross is as inviting as the one Danny Rose slung over and when the 6ft 4in Llorente has such a height advantage at the far post. Gracia wasn’t throwing anybody under the bus as it is not his style, but the manner of the goal still jarred with the Head Coach as he’s seen Llorente do it so many times before.
“They knew it,“ said Gracia. “I didn’t need to tell them that Llorente is a good player, a good header [of the ball] but you know when there is a lateral cross it is difficult to defend Fernando as is he is very good. I know it today and I know he is going to score more goals.”
The threat of Llorente as Tottenham went increasingly long was the reason why Gracia was so keen to get Miguel Britos on the field. He had the Uruguayan ready just before Heung-Min Son equalised and again just before the winner.
“We had Roberto Pereyra with some problems, we are waiting to see if he is able to continue or if we needed to make the change,” said Gracia. “They then changed their shape and defending with our line of four we thought it was enough. In the moment, we wanted to be stronger in the defensive moments, with defending better the lateral cross for Fernando.”
Gracia made one defensive move earlier by bringing on Ben Wilmot to shore up the midfield.
“Ben always plays well in my opinion,” Gracia said. “He is like a mature player. He is only 19 years old and he can play in different positions. Tom Cleverley was a little bit tired as the first half was very demanding. We wanted to be stronger in the middle, after the lateral crosses and defending set pieces. He was a good option in that moment when the game was very demanding. He is a very good player.”
Spurs had some exceptional players missing in Dele Alli and Harry Kane so this felt like a good chance to plunder some points, especially after getting their noses in front and staying there for 42 minutes.
“My feeling is that we've missed a very good chance to get points against a very good team like Tottenham,” said Gracia. “It's true they dominated the game with more possession, with some chances. After scoring first we have worked a lot, defending well. In the last ten minutes we have conceded two goals and it’s tough, difficult to accept. It’s a good sign for us that the team is very, very disappointed. The team is very ambitious, very demanding and we are disappointed.”
Watford enjoyed less than a third of the possession and had to have their wits about them defensively for large parts, but they still threw a few punches, mustering nine attempts on goal.
“We have created chances as well,” said Gracia. “I know Tottenham dominated the second half, but we had chances with Troy, with Gerard, with Isaac and, in this game, you need to score these chances. If you don't do it, in the last minutes they put more offensive players on, change the shape and scored goals. It’s a shame as the team played well, a good game.”