First Team 11/02/2019

Mariappa: “Everyone Is Pulling In The Same Direction”

Adrian Mariappa was quick to praise the Vicarage Road faithful after he felt the fans roared the Hornets to victory over Everton.

It was a closely-fought game with few real chances, so maybe, just maybe, the crowd gave the players that marginal advantage they needed to win.

“I thought [the atmosphere] was incredible and I think it has been all season,” said Mariappa, speaking to the press after full-time. “The crowd really get behind us, they sing, you see the banners before the game - it’s becoming a tough place to come to for opposing teams.

“The fans have been terrific - home and away - in every single game. They really give us a good push, which is perfect for the club because everyone is pulling in the same direction, everyone has got a common goal.”

Andre Gray netted the decisive, and only, goal of the game, running onto a pass across the face of goal from Will Hughes to finish off a good team move. Mariappa was pleased for the forward to be back amongst the goals in the Premier League. 

“It was a good team performance, but I’m delighted for Andre, after his injury he’s fought hard to get back into the team,” said the defender. “Obviously he’s got his goal which is great for him and great for the team, and he’s got us three points as well.”

He also reserved special praise for Abdoulaye Doucouré on his return to the side, as he feels the Frenchman gives Watford a different dimension when he plays.

“We’re very blessed to have so many talented central-midfielders,” said the centre-back. “Clevs came on, Nate came on and Domingos wasn’t even involved today. 

“We’ve definitely got strength in depth in the midfield area. I thought [Doucouré] had a terrific game, he was driving us on, winning second balls.”

The Harrow-born defender also dismissed the media narrative surrounding the game - that the Golden Boys would be more up for it because of the return of Marco Silva.

“I’ve played against a lot of ex-managers, but I’m always just focused on us as a team,” said Mariappa. “The media were always going to make a story of it, but for us it was just another home game, a tough game, but an opportunity to get three points.”

First Team 10/02/2019

Gracia: “It’s Something Amazing For Us”

Watch Javi Gracia's post-match interview above, or read on below.

By Kevin Affleck

Javi Gracia had plenty to smile about after his side pulled off a victory that will be remembered in these parts for some time to come.

In beating the Toffees 1-0 at a bouncing Vicarage Road, Gracia saw his half-time substitution pay handsome dividends, as he witnessed Andre Gray score his first league goal since September, put clear daylight between his team and Everton in ninth and cemented his own position as the new darling of Vicarage Road.

“I am very happy to get three points today,” Gracia said. “After seeing all our supporters enjoy the game, with the result, it’s something amazing for us. After playing a lot of games away – we have played seven games and six have been away – to play at home is always something special for us. To get a victory today was something amazing.”

Gracia was serenaded throughout the game and he took real satisfaction in being able to deliver the victory everyone connected with Watford wanted.

“I am very grateful,” he said. “For me the most important thing was to see all the people around me happy. It’s enough for me.”

Gracia demonstrated his tactical acumen once again by making a bold change at half-time. Some would have waited to see how the second half would have unfolded for five or 10 minutes, but Gracia felt the decision to swap Ken Sema for Gray needed to be made without any further ado.

“In that moment we decided to change the shape because playing with Troy and Gerard we didn’t find the way to attack well,” he said. “I prefer in that moment to play with Troy and Andre, and with Gerard on the left because we weren’t precise. I think the way to attack was directly and be ready for the second balls.”

Gray has not really had too much of a look-in since Gracia changed things up away at Wolverhampton and introduced Deulofeu as an auxiliary striker. But he showed today he deserves to be seriously reconsidered as Deeney’s preferred partner.

“I was very pleased for him,” said Gracia. “He deserved his reward today. I think he helped the team a lot in the second half and when he scored, I was very, very happy for him.”

The Head Coach was just as thrilled for Craig Cathcart, who played an extraordinary pass over his shoulder to play in Will Hughes who then, in turn, fed the ball across the face of goal for Gray. 

“It was high quality, we prepared that,” joked Gracia. “It was a pass more of a striker than a centre-back. It was a very good moment for the team.”

Cathcart played an equally important role at the back, locking things down to help the Hornets keep a fourth clean sheet in five games.

“I think the team is defending a high level,” said Gracia. “Not only the defensive line and not only the keeper, but all of them have played really well, defending well as a team. It was very demanding, but they did it.”

The only downside on a near-perfect afternoon was the booking picked up by José Holebas, his 10th of the season. The left-back will now be suspended for two matches.

“Yes, [it’s a shame] but I prefer not to complain about the players I don’t have,” he said. “In this case, we have other players like Adam Masina who are ready. We will have to do something different, but we didn’t have Kiko [Femenía], Roberto Pereyra, Sebastian Prödl and Isaac Success and the team keeps going.”

Gracia had hoped to have Femenía available for today’s game, but the Spanish right-back was ruled out at the 11th hour, with the Head Coach not prepared to risk rushing him back from a hamstring injury.

“Yesterday before training, I thought Kiko was ready but after that, we decided it was better to wait,” said Gracia. “Pereyra is in his process, he’s improving. I’m not sure if he will be ready for the next game or whether we will wait.”