Team News: West Ham United
By Kevin Affleck
Javi Gracia is giving serious consideration to involving both Danny Welbeck and Ismaïla Sarr against West Ham on Saturday, but does not want the injury to Troy Deeney to force his hand and start either of his major summer signings ahead of schedule.
The Head Coach was rocked this week with the news his captain will be out for several weeks following knee surgery, but the Spaniard is not one to dwell on bad news for too long or get too caught up in the players unavailable to him.
He views the absence of Deeney as an opportunity for someone else, but wonders if it is a lot to ask of Welbeck and Sarr so early into their Watford careers and with neither in peak physical condition and completely up to speed on the team's shape and tactical nuances. The last thing he wants is for either to pick up an injury because they have been rushed into action.
“They are training well,” said Gracia. “Both are training with the team. Both are not in the best condition but most important in this moment is that they can help us. I'm sure they cannot play all the minutes, but they can help us in the next performance.”
Welbeck is slightly further ahead of schedule than Sarr when it comes to acclimatising to Gracia's comprehensive game-plan, but he hasn't started a game of any sort since the beginning of November.
“In the last game we saw how he is in this moment," said Gracia. “He needs more time to train and recover his best condition. We'll see. [Starting him] doesn't depend on one reason – there are many circumstances as to whether he starts the next one or the next one.”
Sarr played as recently as July 19 but he has been on holiday for a fortnight and hasn't put together the same body of work in pre-season as the rest of the squad. This was his first week in full training.
“Sarr is the player that needs more training but from the first session you can see his quality,” said Gracia. “He's fast, good technically and a good winger, sharp and I'm sure he gives us a good option to change the games. It will depend on other players in the squad on how he can help us.”
The deployment of Sarr might hinge on the fitness of Roberto Pereyra, who is struggling with a thigh problem. Abdoulaye Doucouré is also struggling with an ankle injury.
“They are not training and we'll see in the next days if some of them can be available or not,” said the Head Coach. “In this moment they are doubtful.”
Even if Pereyra and Doucourè don't make it, missing out along with Deeney, Gracia remains a glass half-full man.
“I'm sure we miss the players we don't have, but we don't complain about that," he said. “We have other players waiting and now is the moment to show the strength of our squad and try to show it in the next game. All the players are working well and I'm sure we are going to have a good performance.”