First Team 3 weeks ago

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.”

First Team 3 weeks ago

Gracia: “We Need Workers To Fight”

By Kevin Affleck

The Watford Head Coach has challenged his players to turn in a home performance as payback to the fans and also step up collectively to replace the leadership void created by the injury to Troy Deeney.

Javi Gracia was cut deeply by the opening day defeat to Brighton and shared the pain felt by the supporters. He has been itching for a chance to get back to Vicarage Road and show what this team are really made of. 

“The supporters deserve something else,” he said. “We have to do it. We have to keep calm, keep playing with the intensity we need and everybody knows we want the three points. We want the supporters to enjoy it with the team and in this moment I'm sure the supporters will be helping the team. It's the moment to see the reaction and to try to get points.”

The need for a hero, for a leader, for that 12th man became pressing this week after the news Deeney is to miss several weeks following knee surgery. Étienne Capoue is an obvious candidate to captain the side, but Gracia is not fussed about who wears the armband. He wants a wider leadership group and everyone to stand up and be counted.

“We have many captains and if Troy isn't in the team, we have others,” he said. “Three or four players have experience, like Mariappa, like Capoue, Foster and Gomes. Always there are players with experience and they will try to show the rest of the team how to do many things. But we don't need many bosses now: we need workers. We need workers, workers, workers to fight and to play.

“In every game we need to show our desire, our passion and this way we have chances to win the games. If we don't do it every game, it will be very, very tough for us because all the teams have very good players. The first thing we have to do is try to be very concentrated and try to show our real level.”

Gracia saw enough at Goodison Park to show him that the Brighton game was a one-off, that his side are back on track and that a positive result is just around the corner.

“We need to be focused on that: playing well, having a good performance and I'm sure if we try to play the way we can, the result is coming,” he said. “I am sure of that. In the last game, we had a good performance. It's true it wasn't enough and we need to improve many things but there were positives as well.

“We improved many things compared with the first game. We competed well but we didn't take our chances. They scored one goal and they got the points. We showed a better attitude, a better commitment and this is the right way for us. After that defeat we have to improve things and playing at home is the best place and best moment to try to get the points in play. We don't want to wait more time.”