Gracia: “We Showed Our Quality”
Watch Javi Gracia's post-match interview above, or read on below.
By Kevin Affleck
Javi Gracia felt his side were good value for the win at the London Stadium and that it was rooted in a resilient defensive performance.
West Ham had won each of their previous four matches and been beaten at home only once since the beginning of September, but the Hornets produced a classic away performance, similar to the one they did at Wolves, to record a mightily impressive win on the road.
“I think we had a good performance today,” said Gracia. “We knew we played against a West Ham team in a good moment and that it would be demanding. It was like we thought. We played better in the beginning, dominated the game and we didn't suffer a lot. The second [half], it's true. West Ham played much better, created more chances, but I was never scared about the result. I always had confidence in my players. We created good chances, we had to kill the game, especially with Carroll and the long balls and second balls. In some moments we have to defend the set-pieces. It is always difficult with these very tall players. We did really well. We got the deserved victory.”
The Hornets had conceded two goals in each of their last five games and you had to go back to the end of October for the last clean sheet. But they defended manfully today, withstanding everything West Ham had to throw at them. Craig Cathcart was a rock at centre-half and José Holebas was first class at left-back, but everyone mucked in, from back to front.
“It's important for us to get a clean sheet,” said Gracia. “We can score in all the games, creating chances, even today we have created more chances, like Troy, like Doucouré, with two very good saves from Fabianski. We need to be more demanding defensively. This week we have talking about that. We've worked defensively and today we have been very organised, knowing how important it is to concentrate in every play.”
Gracia suggested they had hatched a plan to keep Felipe Anderson, West Ham's £36 million man, quiet.
“We had to be ready,” said the Head Coach. “Kiko knew today he had to concentrate. Even in the second half, at the end, there was one play when Anderson had the ball. There was Kiko first, then Tom Cleverley and then after Doucouré. It was the third player who recovered the ball. This shows the dedication and commitment. There is no secret, no special plan. It's the ambition and desire of the players.”
Amid all the perspiration, there was some inspiration from Roberto Pereyra. He cleverly won the penalty after a neat exchange with Gerard Deulofeu and then dovetailed quite beautifully with the Spaniard again for the killer second.
“He keeps a very good level,” said Gracia. “In the first half, there were two counter-attacks and if we did a good pass for him, instead of playing down the right side, he had very good chances to score. He also did some amazing defensive work and always shows his quality. The second goal, with the one-two, they are able to do it.”
Gracia made a bold call by leaving out Domingos Quina against his former club, but Étienne Capoue justified his recall with another towering performance in the middle of the park.
“In the last two games, Domingos has played very, very well, but everyone knows Étienne is an important player and we have a better balance in some moments, like defending corner kicks. He was many times the player who solved that situation [from a corner]. We have lots of midfielders who can play in different positions but it is not easy to choose game by game.”