Gracia: “I'm Proud Of My Players”
Watch Javi Gracia's post-match interview above, or read on below for the Head Coach's thoughts from his post-match press conference.
By Kevin Affleck
Javi Gracia said he could not have asked for much more from his players after they pushed Manchester City all the way at Vicarage Road.
The Hornets became only the third Premier League side this season to restrict City's winning margin to a single goal, going down with a fight rather than with a whimper in a rousing finale under the lights.
Riyad Mahrez scored one and made another for Leroy Sané to put City in cruise control, but Gracia was determined for his side to throw a few punches and he chucked on attack-minded players Domingos Quina, Gerard Deulofeu and Andre Gray in the second half. His ambition was rewarded with five minutes to go when Abdoulaye Doucouré pulled one back to move the Hornets to within sight of an unlikely point.
“We have done well,” said the Head Coach. “It wasn't enough to get a good result but we showed the spirit and desire until the end. I think the supporters will be proud of our players.
“I am very proud of the efforts of my players as it's very difficult to compete against these teams, especially when you are losing. They are really dangerous with more spaces when we try to press higher.
“We knew it would be a difficult game for us. We needed to work very well if we were to have chances to get a good result. They have dominated the game, created a lot of chances. We have done good work during the game and in the end, in the last minutes, we had set-pieces to get a better result. It wasn't enough.
“We knew it was very demanding for us. We have to work hard all game and try and have options at the end. At the end you saw them wasting time, we have been close to getting a result but they are a very good team - they deserved to win.”
Gracia set his team up nice and compact, with the intention of closing the space between the defensive lines. He did not want to make things easy for City, like it had been on their previous two visits.
“We did some very demanding defensive work in the first half,” he said. “We created two good chances in the first half, with Roberto and Troy, and when you don't score, it's difficult to manage the game. We will always fight, that's our mentality. We competed until the end, I am happy. It's good for us to compete with City.”
The Head Coach again showed his tactical flexibility, this time playing 4-3-3 in a bid to keep City quiet and give Pep Guardiola something to think about.
“We tried to find the best option with Capoue out,” said Gracia. “It was the best option to try and be strong and compact in the middle, with three players there, with Troy, Roberto and Isaac ready to counter-attack when we recover the ball.”
Ben Foster was again excellent in front of the Rookery Stand, just like he had been against Crystal Palace and Huddersfield Town. His save to deny Leroy Sané early on was arguably his best of the season.
“Ben Foster was great, it is no surprise to me,” said Gracia. “When I came to London I thought Big Ben was in the city but no, he is in Watford for us. He usually does it for us.”
Foster was named Watford's Man of the Match and displayed the sort of form that won him eight England caps.
“We would have taken a point and it was close,” Foster said. “Fair play, to go 2-0 down against a world-class side, but we kept going and didn't let our heads drop. I'm proud of them for the effort.
“It's Man City, you know you're going to be on your toes. For any team to get anything against City you need your goalie to have a good game. It wasn't meant to be. City are relentless, they keep going. It's nice to watch, not so much to play against.”
The match will have been a great experience for Quina, who came off the bench to make his Premier League debut. He did not look out of place in some pretty high-class company in the middle of the park.
“He is training well and he's a young player with high quality,” said Gracia. “He has a great future and today is a special day for him. He has made his debut against City and played very well.”