First Team 12/02/2018

Lukebakio | “I'll Learn Here”

Three Saturdays ago, Dodi Lukebakio was putting a shift in on the wing for Sporting Charleroi against Royal Antwerp in the Belgian top-flight.

You wonder if he might have pinched himself when he got the shout from Javi Gracia to get warm at the weekend in front of 50,000 people at West Ham.

There wasn't much room for fairytales, though. The Hornets were struggling and it was a slog for both sides, not a particularly great advert for Premier League football. 

It certainly wasn't the type of game for a young winger to easily put his mark on. While neither set of fans will wax lyrical about the match in years to come, it will always be a memorable day for Lukebakio.

“It was the first time for me, it was beautiful to make my debut in England,” he said in the tunnel after full-time.

“It was difficult for me, I came in and it was 1-0. The situation wasn't easy for me and I hope to do better for the next game. Everybody was disappointed, but we will carry on. We must look forward. 

“I wish we could get the three points but now I look forward to coming home to the stadium for the next match.”

The graft needed to make it in this league isn't lost on Lukebakio. He knows what he's signed up for and says he's willing to be patient. 

“I want to play more and more, but I'm young, I'll get more experience to do better. I'll learn here at Watford. 

“The Premier League has a high intensity and I'm ready. I hope to score many goals and help the team.”

First Team 11/02/2018

Gracia | “We Didn’t Create Clear Chances”

Javi Gracia accepted his side were largely second best at the London Stadium and admitted he tried all he could to spark his team into life and engineer a comeback.

The Hornets weren't as dogged as they were at Stoke and certainly not as exhilarating as they were against Chelsea as they crashed to their first Premier League defeat under the Spaniard.

Gracia wasn't about to gloss over what he saw and one thing we already know about the Head Coach is that he isn't one to dress things up. He calls it how he sees it, always with a smile.

"Today wasn't the best performance," Gracia said. "West Ham was more aggressive than us, they dominated the areas and controlled the first-half. We tried in the second-half better but it wasn't possible. We try next time. 

"The last match showed us the way, how we can get points by running, fighting, and today we didn't do it enough. I think we can do better, I am sure. I am confident next time it will be better."

Gracia could certainly not be accused of not having a go. He made three ultra positive substitutions in the second-half and tinkered with the formation to try and get his team going. It was all-out attack at one point.

"We had more possession in the second-half but we didn't create clear attacking chances," he said.

"We tried to change the shape of the team, playing with 3-5-2, playing 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2 but we didn't create chances. We had chances to score but not clear chances."

Gracia was not about to make excuses for the defeat and he probably wouldn't have brought up the alleged foul on Marvin Zeegelaar for the first goal had he not been asked about it by the press.

"I would like to see this first goal because I didn't have a good view from the bench," he said.

"I thought Zeegelaar was pushed but that's not an excuse. I would like to see it again. It is very difficult work for the referee. I don't want to complain about anything. West Ham were better and deserved a good result."