First Team 01/02/2018

Ndong | “A Very Good Club For Me”

You can watch the full exclusive first interview with Didier Ndong above for free (no sign-up required)

Yesterday, Watford signed highly-rated Sunderland midfielder Didier Ndong on loan for the remainder of the season with a view to make it permanent in the summer.

The 23-year-old, who will wear the number 12 shirt, is one of the Golden Boys’ four January transfer window acquisitions and said in an exclusive interview with that this was the perfect club for him.

“I'm very happy to come here to Watford because it's a very good club for me,” he said. 

“I'm pleased everything has gone well today and I'm very happy to come here to Watford.”

The Gabonese international joins the club with prior Premier League experience. He became Sunderland’s record signing in the summer of 2016 and went on to play over 30 times for the Black Cats in the top flight.

Unfortunately for the Wearside club they saw their ten year stay in the Premier League come to an end during Didier’s first season there. The midfielder was keen to share that he is hoping to learn from last season’s disappointment and is happy to have a second chance in the Premier League.

“I will bring my intelligence in the game and experience from last year in terms of how to play in the league, I experienced that last year and know what is required,” he explained.

“This is a second chance for me in this league with Watford and I hope everything goes well.”

Ndong is known as a more defensive minded midfield player, with just six career goals to date. When questioned on his style and what type of player the Watford fans can expect he admitted there is plenty he can offer to the side without necessarily scoring goals.

“I would like to bring to this team my positive aggression, my capacity to pass the ball, to get the ball and to help win back the ball very quickly after we've lost possession.”


“We Need To Grow This Way”

Javi Gracia has been under the weather this week but this committed, disciplined and energised performance would have been the perfect tonic for the Head Coach.

The Hornets rolled up their sleeves at the bet365 Stadium to dig out a deserved point, the first under Gracia's reign and one that bodes well for the end-of-season run in. The Golden Boys showed they have the stomach for the fight and that they are fully behind the Head Coach and what he is trying to implement.

“Today we get a point but the most important thing is how we get the point,” said Gracia.  “We play with more intensity, a very good attitude and this is the way to get one or three points in the next games.”

The Hornets were more of a goal threat in the first half, creating five chances to Stoke's one before showing the other side of their game in the second half and standing tall defensively.

“It's true in the first half, we had a better match than the second half. We had more control, more chances. The second was difficult for us but I am happy with the way we get this point. It is good for us.

"Before coming here [to Stoke] I knew the first thing you need to do is play with intensity and win the individual battles. After that we try to make other things. But, for me, it was important the way the team competed.”

Gracia is renowned in Spain for knowing how to set teams up, keeping clean sheets against Barcelona in their free-scoring treble-winning season. Here he choreographed Watford's first clean sheet since Newcastle away in November.

“To keep a clean sheet, this is the way to grow up,” Gracia said. “Everyone like to score three of four goals but now, in this moment, we need to grow this way.”

Gerard Deulofeu made his debut against Stoke just a day after signing from Barcelona. He was a real source of danger down the right and provided the Hornets with genuine penetration.

“It was not easy for him but Gerard is very good player and all the teammates make him feel really happy and really easy to play today,” said the Head Coach. “I hope the next [new] players also have a very good first day.”

Gracia showed his tactical flexibility after the disappointing defeat at Southampton, moving Adrian Mariappa to right back and the rejuvenated Etienne Capoue to the base of midfield. Both moves made off as the pair were excellent.

“We try to make a different shape today,” said Gracia. “Mariappa played in the right side in defensive moments and then in offensive moments we played with three at the back. We were looking for solutions to attack better and create more chances.”

Gracia also tweaked things in attack, shifting Richarlison off the line and getting him to play more alongside Troy Deeney.

“Richarlison is a very good player,” said Gracia. “He was playing on left side but today he was more like a striker with Troy Deeney. He has quality but most important is he plays at the best level. I try to help him. The most important thing is the balance of the team. If it's best for the team he plays as a striker, then he plays as a striker. If best for team plays on the left, then he plays on the left.”