Gracia: “It's A Good Point For Us”
Watch Javi Gracia's post-match interview above, or read on below for his comments from the post-match press conference.
By Kevin Affleck
Javi Gracia said Nathaniel Chalobah told him in the dressing room that he was clearly fouled in the penalty area and that the Hornets should have been awarded a spot-kick.
Following a delicious one-two with Troy Deeney, Chalobah powered into the box and was bearing down on Alex McCarthy in the Southampton goal when Ryan Bertrand, a former teammate of his at Chelsea who was already on a booking, slid in and made clear contact with Chalobah's right leg. Chalobah went down and it seemed for all the world that referee Simon Hooper was going to point to the spot, but he waved away some pretty strong protests.
“To be honest, I didn't see from my position,” said the ever-diplomatic Gracia. “It is impossible to know what happened, but after asking Chalobah, he told me it was clear. Maybe the game changes from that moment. But I prefer to support the referee's decision. Their job is difficult and I accept the decision.”
Watford managed to dust themselves down after the penalty blow and kept coming, kept plugging away and eventually got their reward when José Holebas scored a deflected equaliser. The Hornets were not at their best, like they were at Wolves and Arsenal, but they probably merited a point.
“It was a difficult game for us,” said Gracia. “We started well, we created some chances, we missed them and after that Southampton played better. They created chances, scored one goal. We were improving after that and in the second half we showed character and ambition to try and score to get a better result.”
The Hornets got the leveller eight minutes from time and with four forwards on the pitch, they threw the kitchen sink at the Saints in search of a winner.
“We scored the goal and maybe we had the chance to score again,” Gracia said. “I know it wasn't the best game but we are keeping a good level, competing well, creating today more chances than the opponents, more shots, more possession. It is not enough, but it is something good for us. We are competing well and I am proud of my players.”
Hopes were high that the Hornets could pick up four points from their last two away games against sides struggling near the bottom of the table, and they certainly had a damn good go at trying, fashioning 28 attempts at goal. But they only have one point and one goal to show for their efforts.
“Both are amazing places to play,” said Gracia, “and we were ready to play in these stadiums. When the last game finished I thought we needed to be more efficient to win these two games. We are creating the chances, but we need to be more demanding with ourselves.”
Nobody is more demanding than Holebas and he delivered the goods here with his second goal of the season.
“There was a moment when he didn't play [at home to Huddersfield], but Adam Masina showed a high level and this is the strength of the squad, of the club,” said the Head Coach. “Now we can trust all of them because when they have the chance, like Chalobah today, they show a good level. It is important we think about the collective target before the individual target. I am very proud of them. All deserve more minutes to play.”
Gracia was without his midfield general today because Étienne Capoue was suspended. Asked if he missed the Frenchman, Gracia said: “Capoue is one of the best midfielders in the Premier League. I have no doubt about that.
“If you ask me about all the midfielders we have, we speak about Doucouré, Chalobah, Cleverley, Wilmot and Quina. We have different options. All of them are good for the team. Today, I think the team competed well without Capoue. We were able to get a point.”
Chalobah started his first Premier League game since September last year and he scrubbed up well in a hotly-contested midfield battle.
“It's normal he didn't play his best level because he needs more time, but playing with Doucouré both have played well and I am pleased for them. Chalobah deserves his chance to play.”
Gracia could certainly not be accused of not having a go. He finished the match with Isaac Success on the left, Gerard Deulofeu on the right, and Troy Deeney and Andre Gray through the middle for the last 22 minutes.
“We tried to look for different options to attack and score,” said the Head Coach. “At the end we finished with Gerard and Isaac, who started as strikers, as wingers. We tried to look for a better result and we got it.”