Gracia: “It's Difficult To Explain”
Watch Javi Gracia's post-match interview above, or read on below for his thoughts from his press conference.
By Kevin Affleck
Javi Gracia agreed that the defeat at Old Trafford had all the hallmarks of the one at the Emirates Stadium in September.
Like at Arsenal, the Hornets had more shots, more shots on target and forced more corners than their much-fancied hosts and yet somehow returned having conceded two goals and slipped to defeat. Watford at least had the consolation of a goal this time, an excellently created and executed one from Abdoulaye Doucouré, but this performance warranted way more than a consolation. The Hornets played as well here than they have done at any point since they last won in this neck of the woods in 1978.
“It was similar game [to the one at Arsenal],” said Gracia. “We know we have to make the step forward if we want to get points against these teams. I know we are able to get it. We are in the right way. I have that feeling every day in training. They have ambition and I can feel it. These are the games we have to show it in.”
Watford certainly turned up at Old Trafford and you could argue, with some justification, this was their best performance of the season. It leaves everyone feeling extremely positive ahead of a huge week for the club.
“We had a good performance,” said the Head Coach. “It’s true, it wasn’t enough to get the points but I’m happy with the performance. We need to finish better, we need to improve in the last metres. We created chances, we had more shots, more shots on target and more corners. We dominated and played a lot of time in the opposition half. The first goal was a counter-attack and the second was a moment when we played well. But when you don’t kill the game against these teams with high quality, you know you can lose in any moment. We tried until the end. We believed but it wasn’t enough.”
Gracia has given this team an identity and belief that they can come to imposing places like the Emirates, like Old Trafford and give as good as they get.
“Before the game, we knew it would be a very tough game, but at half-time we spoke about believing we could do it,” said Gracia. “We were dominating the game and I am very happy and proud. It’s true, in the last part of the first half, United created some counter-attacks and that was a moment when the game was open. We took control again in the second half and I’m very happy and proud of my players. It’s just some little details that mean you don’t get the points.
“We took risks, we tried to play offensive and we created chances. The players believed form the beginning. After that you have to show in the last metres, a bit more aggression and be more efficient to finish but the rest of the performance was good.”
The Head Coach again showed the depth of his squad by making five changes. He fielded an entirely new back five (including the goalkeeper) from the quarter-final win against Crystal Palace and yet the performance level didn’t drop at all. If anything, it went up.
“In all the games, I made changes, but I have a good squad,” he said. “I have to choose different players as we have three important games in eight days. I know all of them are ready to play and compete.”