First Team 25/08/2018

Gracia: “We've Created An Atmosphere”

Watch Javi Gracia's pre-match press conference above, or read on below.


 

by Kevin Affleck

Javi Gracia had his feet firmly planted on the floor when he spoke to the media at London Colney on Friday. He is not about to get too carried away by the Hornets starting the season with two impressive wins from two, just like he was not getting too downbeat by the team's away form last season. Gracia is a pretty level-headed cookie.

He is just focussing on creating a consistency of performance that means, by and large, the results will look after themselves. He wants this good run of form to be something sustainable and not just a flash in the pan.

“It is always important to start well,” said the Head Coach. “We have played only two games and they are two important wins, but it's only two games. It's only the beginning. It's a good moment for us, but I know we need to keep calm and know bad results will arrive in the future and it will be better to arrive there with not only good results, but having created something we can believe in.”

Crucially, the players look like they believe in what Gracia is preaching on the training ground. They, for example, are executing the press he likes to the letter and also buying in to his tactical flexibility. At Burnley, they switched seamlessly from a classic 4-4-2 to a 4-5-1 to close the game out.

“4-4-2 or 4-3-3 are numbers for me,” he said. “The most important thing is the quality of players. I cannot tell you if in two or four games we may change. The players not playing in this moment keep the level of the team.”

This reinvigorated group of players appear to have benefited from reporting back for pre-season training to find the same coach in-situ. Gracia laid the foundations at the back-end of last season and is now, with a bit more time, slowly building the rest of the house.

“It will be better to start with the coach you know from the last season because you don't need time to adapt to new things, new training, new situations,” Gracia said.

“For me, to do a good job in pre-season was important to have the possibility in these games to compete at the level we did. The spirit is important, we create a style of play where the players feel comfortable, where they feel part of something. We've created an atmosphere and we are showing all our features.”

A remodelled and refocussed Troy Deeney, in particular, is thriving in the new environment. He gave Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk a real searching examination without any personal rewards against Brighton, and then got the reward of an assist and a goal in a towering performance against Burnley. He looks a player reborn.

“I don't need to see Troy score goals to know how important he is for us,” said Gracia. “I always say in this team, we don't always depend on the strikers to score goals. We have players like Roberto Pereyra and Will Hughes to score goals as well. We know Troy is very important for us, scoring or not scoring.”

Gracia is also getting the best out of Hughes. The Head Coach had to wait a while to use Hughes as he was injured when he turned up, but he is quickly emerging as one of his go-to and most trusted players.

“I know it [his quality] and I knew it from the first day I saw him,” said Gracia. “You can see he is a different player, a high-quality player, always with a big commitment with the team. He has a lot of ambition.”

This team has lofty ambitions and there is an expectation now following a haul of six points from two games. Palace are next up and we know there is never a dull moment when the Hornets meet the Eagles.

“All the games against Palace are always very close,” said Gracia. “There are not many chances. I think this next game will not be different. We try to keep our level, keep our style of play and play at home, with support of our fans, we feel better.”

The game also pitches the Hornets against Wilfried Zaha, the mercurial Palace winger who has been booked for simulation in each of the last two fixtures between the two sides. Gracia respects Zaha's ability but will not be making any special plans for him.

“Our plan is always different,” he said. “You play against someone and you need to adapt. We are going to play against Palace with two good strikers. They score a lot on the counterattack and you have to adapt different things. It's not something different because we play against a special player or not.”

The match will also give Gracia the chance to pit his wits against Roy Hodgson. The pair must rank as two of the nicest men in football.

“I met him last season and I was speaking with him for a short time, but I could see his very nice person,” said Gracia. “It's a pleasure for me to speak with someone of that experience. It's an honour to meet him.”

Ladies 24/08/2018

Ladies: Loughborough Foxes Preview

Watford FC Ladies will be looking to make it back-to-back wins as the Golden Girls take on Loughborough Foxes at Kings Langley on Sunday.

It was an encouraging beginning to life in the FA Women’s National League for Armand Kavaja’s side, as the Hornets defeated Cardiff City 5-2 last time out.

This weekend’s opponents also got off to a good start and currently sit top of the table thanks to their 7-0 win over QPR.

VIEWS FROM THE HEAD COACH

“The mood has been really positive and enthusiastic,” Kavaja told watfordfc.com. “The girls have enjoyed the win last weekend but have refocused quickly on to the next game.

“It is hard for us to really think about the other teams too much as we are still working on making sure we all know and do our jobs. 

“We know it will be tough because it’s not easy to win 7-0 against any team in this league.”

When asked about the run of fixtures allowing the opportunity to build momentum, Kavaja emphasised the importance of continuing to work on knowing roles.

“It is a good opportunity to gain momentum, but we also need to not put pressure on ourselves as it’s very early in the season and we still have key players to come back,” he explained.

“At this stage we need to make sure that we understand and keep working on our roles in and out of possession.”

With the substitutes having an impact in the previous game, has that given the Head Coach any tough selection dilemmas ahead of Sunday’s match?

“We have a good group of girls in the squad who can all make a difference when they are asked to play,” Kavaja said. “It’s a nice headache to have when everyone is in good form.

“We will need everyone to be together and to give everything, whether they’re starting or coming off the bench.”

THE VISITORS

Loughborough Foxes are back in the third tier of women’s football after romping to the title in the WPL Midlands Division 1 last season.

91 goals were scored and only nine conceded as they finished with a staggering 21-1-0 record. This meant they finished 17 points clear of Burton Albion and 18 points ahead of a Sheffield United side that were awarded a license to play in the Championship for this season.

It’s the second time they’ve won that title having previously been victorious in 14/15. They were placed in the Northern Division of the WPL for the following season and on that occasion, despite a tight scrap at the bottom, they finished last with 11 points.

With three former WSL sides being placed in the Northern Division due to the restructure, it’s meant Loughborough find themselves playing in the Southern Division this time around.

As they aim to make more of a mark at this level, it appears continuity will be a key theme. Of the 14 players that featured for them last weekend, only one played no part in the previous campaign.

Now they face the Hornets for the first time as they look to build on an impressive start.

LAST TIME OUT

Watford 5-2 Cardiff City

Team: Baranowska, Peck, Kettle (Baker, 73), O’Halloran, Huggins, Stojko-Down, Scanlon, Afuakwah, Bell (Carid, 62), Shakes (O’Leary HT), Ward (c).

Goals: Ward (7, 42, 84), Carid (64, 75)

Loughborough Foxes 7-0 QPR

Team: Burle, Eastham (Brackenbury, 84), Acton, Bartle, Simes, Young (Hicks, 75), Lowder, Chambers (c), McGrother, Knight (Rogers, 67), Cooper

Goals: McGrother (3, 47), Cooper (12, 77), Chambers (27), Lowder (31)

INFORMATION

Watford FC Ladies v Loughborough Foxes

FA Women’s National League

Sunday 26th August, 2pm KO.

Kings Langley FC

WD4 8BS

Prices: £6 Adults, £1 Under-18’s, £2 Programme