First Team 2 weeks ago

Gracia: “We Need To Change Something”

By Kevin Affleck

Javi Gracia believes a first Premier League win is just around the corner and wants his players to be clinical and composed in pursuit of it today.

The Hornets run out at St James' Park this afternoon knowing a victory will get their season up and running and make everyone feel a bit better about life going into the international break. The Head Coach wants cool heads in what is always a lively atmosphere in the north east and believes hard work allied with the team's ability should be enough to glean a positive result.

“We know we have to be very calm but show our needs and show what we want to be in the future,” he said. “We need to change something and work hard as, after you work hard, you are closer to having better luck in some moments and have more chances to change that dynamic.”

Gracia is not for one minute bemoaning his team's misfortune or blaming Lady Luck for the winless start to the campaign. He knows they have not been ruthless enough at either end of the field in the first three Premier League games.

“It's true, in these three games we didn't get any points and we need to improve those results,” he said. “We had some positives but we need to be more consistent, to recover our strength defending, to be more solid and more demanding because we conceded too many goals. We can't concede two or three goals per game. At the same time we need to be more clinical as we created many chances. What we've done so far is not enough. We know it and we are able to do it better in the next games.”

Gracia had some right old tactical tussles with Rafa Benítez last season, with the three games resulting in a full-house of results. He knows how Benítez operates, how he sets his team up, so it will be a new challenge coming up against a Magpies side coached by Steve Bruce.

“Benítez changed the shape, starting with a line of four, but changed to three at the back,” he said. “Newcastle have kept that shape, they keep most of the players, only changing with Almiron last season and now Joelinton up front. They are growing as a team and they started with a new manager and they need time to play their best level. They play a similar shape and it will be a very, very close game. They got a great victory against Tottenham. It's a good team and they need points as well. I'm sure it will be an equal game and we will have to work hard to create chances.”

Gracia did not get too carried away when his team made a riotous start to last season and he's not getting too downbeat after the winless start to this one. He's been here before, starting the 2015/16 season with a run of six games without a goal, let alone a win. Málaga ended up finishing eighth.

“The experience helps you when you live some similar moments,” he said. “It's good for you because you now manage better and remember how you managed in the bad results. The best way is to try to work hard and try to prepare for the next game in the best way possible. Football is present and your work depends on results and you have to work knowing the players are the main protagonists.”

First Team 2 weeks ago

Team News: Newcastle United

By Kevin Affleck

Javi Gracia will not shy away from making changes at St James' Park on Saturday as he bids to find the formula to secure that first Premier League win of the season.

The Head Coach was delighted so many players put their hand up for selection this weekend with their performances against Coventry City on Tuesday night and he admits he now has some big selection calls to make for the game with the Magpies.

"The players know perfectly," he said. "After the game this week, and the players who played well against Coventry, everybody knows there are other players competing well and ready. It's something I explain every day. The competition is good and we need to keep it during all the season so the players react."

Only Troy Deeney is unavailable, meaning Gracia has nearly 30 players to choose from for the trip to the North East. He plans to think long and hard before naming his XI.

"It's true we need to change something to change our results," he said. "We'll see how many changes but the solution is not always to change the players. The players we have we need to improve. We have a lot of games to play and we have to be ready. I try to look for the best way to find the XI to start and look for the solution for this game."

Danny Welbeck and Ismaïla Sarr are edging ever closer to making their first league starts for the club. Welbeck played his first 90 minutes of any sort since October 4, 2018 in the 3-0 win over Coventry while Sarr played 72 minutes and looked stronger and more acclimatised as the game wore on.

"These two players need time," said Gracia. "They need time to show their best quality, their best condition, but in this moment we need all of them. We will see and decide if they start or play some minutes."

Gracia was asked about the health of Troy Deeney following knee surgery last week but as important as the captain is, he feels the focus should be on the players he does have available. He is not about to start crying over spilt milk.

"I don't know anything new about him after surgery," said the Head Coach. "We spoke about him being out for a minimum of two months and after that, we have to wait. It's true Troy is very important for us, he's our captain but we have other players with experience, with character and we need them in this moment. For that reason I'd like to speak about the team – not one player. We need that solidarity and spirit if we want to achieve things."