First Team 24/08/2019

Gracia: “We Need To Find Our Balance”

By Kevin Affleck

Javi Gracia has vowed to make alterations, either tactically or personnel wise, after watching his side slip to a third straight Premier League defeat.

The Watford Head Coach is never one to hide behind excuses or gloss over things when things don't go well and he was keen to reassure everyone that he will get to the bottom of this poor start and do his damndest to put it right.

"I know in this moment we are all disappointed: the supporters, the players, all of us," said the Head Coach. "It's in this moment we have to believe and deal with it. We know after the defeats we need to change and do something as what we have done is not enough. We need to improve something. I know it."

He strongly suggested he would look to ensure the team are better in both boxes, more ruthless when it comes to taking chances and more resolute when it comes to keeping the opposition out. Only three of the 23 attempts were on target while, at the other end, that's now 18 games without a clean sheet and 41 goals conceded in that period.

"We need to find the balance we had before, defending and attacking," he said. "It is not only the responsibility of the defensive line, of the 'keeper: it's the whole team. We can analyse the way we have conceded some goals but, in my opinion, all of them are different.

"We know we can improve and we have to improve the balance. If we had 23 shots and only three on target, that says something about the attack and that we need to improve and to be more precise, more clinical. Defending, we need to defend better at set-pieces.

"From a corner kick they hit the post [through Anderson], for example. In all different phases of play we need to improve. There are moments when the anxiety doesn't help us to play better. We don't have a good balance. It's difficult to change that dynamic."

Gracia certainly couldn't accuse his players of not putting a shift in. They had a real go at West Ham, particularly in the first half and it could easily have been 3-2 at the break. Then Will Hughes missed a golden chance on 55 minutes with the game on a knife-edge. West Ham made the most of that reprieve and won it with two goals in nine second-half minutes from Sébastien Haller. 

"We've lost 1-3," he said. "That's the final result. It's true there were some moments in the game when we dominated, we created chances but if you don't score [more than once] with 23 shots then it's difficult. We have to be more clinical when we dominate the game.

"In the second half, it's true West Ham played better after that clear chance with Will and if we are critical with ourselves and demanding, we have to know we can't concede seven goals in three games. We have to get the balance between attacking and defending and we have to be more clinical. We've been punished for all the mistakes. It's a difficult moment. We need to change the momentum and try to change with a good game and a good result."

Gracia went on to give an insight into how he set the team up in the absence of his captain and main striker. It was a slight departure from his favoured 4-4-2.

"Without Troy we tried a different formation, with four in a diamond and keeping two strikers with more mobility," he said. "In the first half we did it well, with good chances after 10 minutes: two clear chances for Gerard. We tried a different way to find the balance, but not so well in the second half."

The Head Coach threw on Ismaïla Sarr for his debut, along with Danny Welbeck, but the game was up by then. Moments before he had looked to bring on Daryl Janmaat to stiffen up the defence.

"It was an option in that moment," he said. "I thought Daryl could give us a solution to defend better. Antonio was fresh and we tried to be stronger in that part of the pitch. After we conceded a goal, I thought it was better to make other decisions."

First Team 24/08/2019

Gray: “We Can’t Sit Down & Sulk”

A game full of chances would usually be a striker’s dream but for Andre Gray getting points on the board is all that matters after a third straight defeat for Javi Gracia’s side.

“I would rather not create so many chances and just get the one and win the game,” said Gray. “We need to win games, we said that last week. We’re creating so many chances but it’s the points that matter.”

Tightening up the defence is another priority according to Gray, after the Hornets conceded three goals for the second consecutive home game despite carving open West Ham United regularly.

“I thought there was only one team to go on and win but we didn’t,” he said. “It doesn’t help conceding the penalty in the first minute, but we got back in the game and were the better team up until they scored.

“We can’t concede goals every game and expect to win. That’s not just on the defence, it’s the whole team. We conceded from a set-piece and that’s the whole team defending. We can’t pick out individuals.”

The Hornets will be back at London Colney bright and early for training tomorrow and Gray said the team will be looking forward rather than feeling sorry for themselves.

“We all know what we’ve got to do, and it starts tomorrow on the training pitch,” said Gray. “We can’t sit down and sulk about it, we need to get on with it and be better. We’re not making excuses, that’s not what we’re going to do.

“Last season is dead and buried. As soon as the season finishes you stop and then come back and start over again.”