First Team 6 days ago

Team News: Southampton

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


By Kevin Affleck

Javi Gracia confirmed Troy Deeney is back training and he should be in the squad for the game against Southampton.

The captain has missed the last three games with a hamstring problem he admitted in his programme notes for the Huddersfield game had plagued him against Bournemouth.

His return means Gracia has Isaac Success, Gerard Deulofeu, Andre Gray, Stefano Okaka and Deeney vying for the two spots in attack.

“Troy and Andre were important in the first games, playing well, scoring goals,” said the Head Coach. “In this moment we are stronger with his [Deeney’s] comeback. He’s another option.”

Javi Gracia also said it was “very, very special” to have Tom Cleverley return to training this week.

Cleverley is not being considered for the game against Southampton because he has been out since January with a combination of hamstring and Achilles problems and needs more time, but Gracia feels the sight of the popular midfielder working with the main group adds to the feel-good factor at the training ground.

“Tom Cleverley is not fit, but this week he has started to train with the team, doing something with the team,” said the Head Coach. “I think this is very good news for us. To see him on the pitch at the same time with rest of the players is something very, very special.”

The return of Deeney and Cleverley leaves only Daryl Janmaat (knee) and Sebastian Prödl (hamstring) in the treatment room. When Gracia first arrived, in January, he had injury doubts over 12 players.

“The rest of the players are available,” said Gracia. “I am happy because I like all my players to be fit and healthy. I will then decide what is the best option for the next game. Now I can make the best choice for the next game with more options than other games.”

Gracia has to make at least one change from the game against Newcastle because Étienne Capoue is suspended. Nathaniel Chalobah appears to be the next cab off the rank, but the Head Coach was mightily impressed with how Ben Wilmot and Domingos Quina showed up in the Carabao Cup games, particularly the one against Tottenham.

“Chalobah is one of our options,” said Gracia. “We have other players, like, Ben Wilmot and Domingos Quina. Chalobah is one player who plays with national team in the last games. It’s a good options for us and everybody knows he is a very good player. We see what happens in the next game.”

Capoue will be sorely missed because he has arguably been Watford’s player of the season so far. Nobody has made more interceptions in Europe than the Frenchman with the telescopic legs. But you will not find Gracia bemoaning the loss of his midfield general. He is instead excited by the opportunity it presents for someone else.

“I prefer not to miss players I don’t have,” he said. “I have very good payers waiting for their chance and in this game we will see other players. I am sure all of them will play very, very well.”

First Team 6 days ago

Deulofeu: “Three Points, Nothing Less”

Watford winger Gerard Deulofeu thinks a win at St Mary’s Stadium on Saturday is the minimum requirement as the Hornets take on out-of-form Southampton. 

Speaking to Premier League Productions, the Spaniard also said he is happy to be back in the team and playing in a new central role, after a difficult spell out on the sidelines.

But, Deulofeu is not going to underestimate the Saints, after a determined performance from an ailing Newcastle side saw the Golden Boys leave the North East with nothing to show for their endeavour after a slurry of spurned chances.

“Newcastle were [also] having a tough season, with not good results,“ said the former Barcelona man. “When you play in the Premier League any team can beat any top team. Even Manchester City or Liverpool can lose against Newcastle or Southampton, teams [that are] not better than them. But, we will go there to take the three points, nothing less.”

That said, after last week’s result, Deulofeu thinks the Hornets have to work hard on their own performance first, to turn those missed chances into match-winning goals.

“We have been shown some videos of Southampton but I think the best thing [to focus on] is how we have to play,” said Deulofeu. “First is us and we have to keep the same level from this season - because the staff and the players know that it will be a great season if we continue playing like this.”

Deulofeu had to watch on, side stage, as Javi Gracia steered Watford to their best-ever start to a Premier League season. He had to be patient, too, as once he came back to full fitness there were others ahead of him in the pecking order. But that has now changed, with the Spaniard deployed in a new central role, free to cause havoc in between the opposition lines, or break beyond the striker and stretch defences.

He said: “We are playing really well and also, I’m happy to be back playing minutes, enjoying being inside [the pitch], because outside is too tough and now I’m enjoying minutes. I’m so happy for me and for the team and we will try to keep this level, because that is the way.

“I’m in a different role now - it’s been three or four games in that position. I feel good, the manager knows that position and I think it’s a good position to help my team. 

“I’m so happy to play there because I’m closer to the goal, to score goals - but I have to score. I missed two or three chances in the last games and I can’t miss chances like this, but I’m happy to take this role and I think for the team it’s really good.”