First Team 6 days ago

Team News: Arsenal

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


By Kevin Affleck

José Holebas will miss the homecoming of the FA Cup finalists on Monday with the injury he picked up in the epic semi-final victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday. 

The left-back, who was outstanding in the 3-2 extra-time win, came off after 98 minutes of the game at the home of English football with a hamstring problem and has been receiving treatment from physio Peter Webb and his team ever since. The 34-year-old will definitely miss the game with Arsenal at Vicarage Road and possibly longer.

“I’m not sure about Holebas,” said Gracia. “We need time to see how he is. He will not be ready for the next game, for sure.”

Gracia never moans about the loss of a player because he has such faith in the likely replacement.

“Masina is ready,” said Gracia. “He came on and did very well and in other games as well. I want all my players to be fit but in this case we have other players.”

Gerard Deulofeu and Kiko Femenía also came off in the extra period at Wembley, but Gracia reported that “Kiko trained all this week and Gerard as well.”

Domingos Quina was on the bench at Wembley and did get on, but he picked up an injury in training this week, meaning the vacant central midfield spot on the bench could go to Nathaniel Chalobah. Adalberto Peñaranda is training outside of the main group and undergoing some on-pitch rehab.

“Tom Cleverley is injured and Domingos Quina as well,” said Gracia. “Yesterday he had a problem in a training session with his shoulder. Some players have different pains so we will see in the next days if they are ok to play against Arsenal.”

The Head Coach is not even contemplating the FA Cup final and is going hell for leather to claim seventh spot. There will be no chance of him resting and rotating, certainly not against Arsenal. “I try to choose the best players for the next game,” he said. “I am only thinking about trying to win the next game. I don’t want to think any further. I prefer to only focus on the next game.”

Gracia gave the players three days off after the breathless win over Wolves, although Troy Deeney came in on Wednesday to do a bit extra, and the Head Coach thinks the players will be sufficiently recharged to go again against Arsenal in what should be a cracking atmosphere at Vicarage Road.

“I think we had time to recover,” said Gracia. “The players had three days off and they were ready to start preparing for the next game. We have enough time as we play on Monday. I think it’s good for us to have more time to recover and prepare for Monday. We have good professionals and with these players, it is easy as they know the next game is very important. We don’t have only one final – we have seven finals. All of them are focused on the next game.”

First Team 6 days ago

Holebas: “We Can Achieve Something & Go To Europe”

José Holebas says the Golden Boys can achieve something special by winning the FA Cup and qualifying for Europe.

The Hornets are currently on-course for their best season since the Graham Taylor era, after Watford reached the FA Cup final and surpassed their record Premier League points total.

The former Roma and Greece left-back is typically frank whenever he speaks to the media, and he didn’t hold back when it was put to him that the FA Cup doesn’t have the same appeal that it used to.

“That’s their opinion,” said Holebas. “We know what we want and we know what we have to do for it.

“If you win the cup you can achieve something in your career, and we can go to Europe, so it means a lot.”

A place in the FA Cup final also comes alongside a battle for seventh place in the Premier League – that would be the club’s highest finish since the days of the old First Division.

Holebas thinks that the reason behind such a good campaign has been the work ethic and team spirit in this Watford side.

“I am really proud of how we’ve done this season as a team,” said the former Olympiacos player.

“[At the start of the season] we didn’t say we wanted to target the Europa League.

“Now we are sitting up in the table but that’s only because we worked hard, we took our points where we had to take them.

“We had so many games where we worked so hard and we lost. If I count those points as well I don’t know where we would stand in the table.

“It is not a one-man show here, we are 11 players on the pitch and we show that.”

Credit for assembling and nurturing the best Watford squad in recent times goes to the upper management and Javi Gracia.

Holebas says he can now see the vision of the club that was pitched to him being realised.

“The manager is a big part of it because he’s not really hard or speaking rudely to us, he’s a really normal guy,” said Holebas. “He tries to improve all the players.

“The club said it was a future project here [when I joined] and you can see now the improvement of it with the team.

“It’s our fourth season now in the Premier League with Watford and it’s the best season.”