First Team 2 weeks ago

Gracia: “It’s An Important Point For Us”

Javi Gracia accepted the result at St James’ Park could have gone either way as his team got off the mark with a first Premier League point of the campaign.

“It’s an important point for us,” said the Head Coach. “So far, in the first three games, we weren't able to get any points so it's a good point. During the game, you can have different point of view.

“It was a close game, an equal game and it could be a different for us and different for them, but it's a good point. We need to improve and look for the first big victory in the next game. Now we have a break and it's good time to work and prepare better for the next game.”

Javi Gracia and his players spoke a lot in the week about getting off to a bright start at St James’ Park, having conceded the first goal in their opening three league fixtures. They couldn’t have started much brighter, with Will Hughes latching onto a deflected Tom Cleverley effort and finishing smartly past Martin Dúbravka within two minutes.

“I think we started well, scoring a goal and dominating the game in the first half,” said the Head Coach. “At the end of the first half we concede a goal from a cross and after I think they were better in the second half. They started better, they were dominating, creating some chances but after the changes we did we felt better, improving and creating our chances and with options in the end to win the game.”

Gracia changed his system for the trip to the north east, matching Steve Bruce’s Newcastle by starting three centre-halves, and the decision largely nullified Newcastle’s attacking threat. This was despite Étienne Capoue missing out through illness.

“We had a good performance,” said Gracia. “It was the moment to change something, playing against one team like Newcastle with three at the back. It was a good chance for us to play this way. We had a better balance, and I am happy with the performance. For sure we have to improve, as we didn't get the victory. I think the attitude was good.”

As the Hornets looked to snatch all three points late on, the Head Coach brought on Gerard Deulofeu, Isaac Success and Nathaniel Chalobah from a bench full of attacking options.

“We had different options,” said Gracia. “We put on the pitch Chalobah, Isaac and Deulofeu. We also had Welbeck, Sarr, Masina and Gomes. For the most we had offensive players and what we were looking for, after playing with three at the back with this shape, was to play with Deulofeu, Success and Chalobah.

“I thought this was the better option. You could see with our changes that we tried to look for offensive players with Isaac, with Chalobah and with Deulofeu. We try to look for the victory when all three results were in play. We weren't able to do it.”

Gracia praised the performances of Christian Kabasele and Daryl Janmaat, who each made their first Premier League stars of the season, and said he always looks to choose his best side for any particular game from a strong squad.

“All the players are training well,” he said. “They deserve to play more often but I try to always choose the best XI.”

First Team 2 weeks ago

Hughes: “We Came Here To Get A Win”

Will Hughes ran the show against Newcastle United at St James’ Park and, although his early goal helped the Hornets secure a first point of the season, the ambitious midfielder was eager for more.

“We’ve had a really difficult start,” he said. “We came here to get a win so, although it is a point on the board, we’re disappointed we didn’t get three.”

Within two minutes of kick-off, Hughes reacted to a deflected Tom Cleverley shot and slotted past Martin Dúbravka to open the scoring. It was just the start Watford were hoping for and silenced the home crowd.

“I just had to get a bit of contact on it and thankfully it went in,” said Hughes. “But we didn’t progress from there.”

Hughes was tenacious and creative in midfield alongside Abdoulaye Doucouré, Roberto Pereyra and Tom Cleverley, winning the ball back and popping up all over the pitch to carve open the Newcastle defence. But, despite an impressive performance, Hughes was not satisfied with leaving St James’ Park with a point.

“It had its positives and its negatives,” he said. “We haven’t played to our standards this season and results are showing. We need to galvanize and get back together and hopefully the results will turn. We have got to stick together as a team, I know it’s easy to say that but then we can turn in results.”

Hughes was visibly frustrated to be substituted with 20 minutes to play; it’s in the 24-year-old’s winning mentality to want to contribute for the full 90. But, with a number of attacking options eager to have an impact off the bench, the midfielder understood Javi Gracia’s decision to mix things up.

“Obviously everyone’s disappointed to be subbed,” he said. “But for fresh legs we’ve got to look at the bench today, the attacking talent we’ve got. I worked my socks off and was looking for the players to come on and do the business.”