Gracia: “This Game Will Be No Different”
Watch Javi Gracia's pre-match press conference above, or read on below.
By Kevin Affleck
Javi Gracia plans to ignore the various subplots around Saturday’s game and focus on making sure his team turn up and do the business at home to Everton.
There is lot of talk about the return of Marco Silva to the club for the first time since he left in January and also the homecoming of Richarlison, but they are just sideshows to the Head Coach. He has prepared the team as diligently as he usually does and there will not be any extra words of motivation in the dressing room just before the players run out. It will be business as usual.
“It’s nothing different to other games,” Gracia said. “We are concentrated on the game and we prepare for the games not thinking about other coaches. I am thinking about their shape, their players, how we can defend and how we can attack – not the coach.”
Gracia has been unflappable this season, even when things have really gone against his side, and wants his players to play with the same cold dispassion, to play with their minds rather than hearts on Saturday. If they are over eager, he figures, the game plan will go out the window.
“They have motivation in all the games, not in this one especially,” he said. “We always want to win the three points. In the next game we try to do it as best as possible. We usually do. I expect the supporters to back us like they usually do. The best thing for us is to feel the support we feel in all the games and I think this game will be no different.”
Gracia does a nice line in humour and he joked with Richarlison after the thrilling 2-2 draw at Goodison Park that it was nice to see him find the back of the net as he failed to score for him during the second half of last season. His last goal in a Watford shirt came in November 2017 against West Ham and now he returns to the ground where he went from a wide-eyed teenager from Brazil to an international forward whom Everton paid a reported £40million for.
“I have the same point of view now as last season,” said Gracia. “He is a very good player and a very good person as well. He changed teams last season and now he is a rival for us, but I always wish him the best. He is playing well, scoring goals and he played in two different positions, as a striker as a left winger. I think he always kept a very good level.”
Gracia watched the Toffees in action against Manchester City on Wednesday night and noted how Richarlison was kept on the bench for 73 minutes, perhaps saving him for the game at Vicarage Road.
“They managed their squad, they changed some players,” said the Head Coach. “We know there will be three or four players different than in the game against City. We are ready to compete and the decisions they take don’t worry us, as we try to be ready and do our best.”
Gracia likes his stats, particularly the ones on possession, corner kicks and shots on target, but he prefers to trust what he sees with the naked eye and what sort of feel he gets from a game. He therefore isn’t too pre-occupied with the fact Everton have only won three of the last 13 as he knows that sort of form usually goes out the window once the whistle blows.
“I don’t focus too much on the past,” he said. “Everton is not my job – my job is Watford. We are competing well and focussing on the next game. This is the only thing we can do: try to win the next three points. We are concentrated on the next game.”
Gracia is looking forward to returning to the safe haven of Vicarage Road. Only one of the last seven games have been at home.
“I know there is always a good chance for us playing home,” he said. “In the last games we have played a lot away. We need to feel the support of our fans. I think it will good for the spirt and ambition of the players. I feel better playing home. If you see all the results, you can see we’ve got good results playing away, maybe better. But I think it is important to play at home because the feeling for the players is always different. They feel better. I think our level will be better playing at Vicarage Road.”
The team may feel they owe the fans a performance at home. They have probably not turned it on at Vicarage Road since they stormed into a three-goal lead at home to Cardiff in the middle of December. Yet the Golden Boys have managed to grind out a series of results that have seen them lose just two of the last 12 – and the losses came against top-four titans Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur.
“Since we played versus Everton, we have played 12 games, and we have won five, drawn five and only lost two versus Chelsea and Tottenham, maybe losing but deserving a draw,” Gracia said. “We are competing well, but I don’t know if we will get more points than the teams at the top of the table or playing against others. The only focus is on the next game.”