Gracia | “Everybody Believes”
By Kevin Affleck
Javi Gracia declared him himself 'very proud of my players' after they rolled up their sleeves to make it back-to-back home wins.
The Hornets were not at their best and got nowhere near the level of performance they produced against Chelsea, but they won it thanks to one moment of quality from Troy Deeney.
The captain stepped up when his team needed him the most, lashing a 79th-minute strike into the roof of the net to light up Vicarage Road. It means Gracia has now taken seven points from four matches in charge, and the table is making for much prettier reading.
"I am very happy today because we got three very important points against a very good team," said the Head Coach. "It was a very tough game. We knew it [would be], but most important today was that we worked a lot during all the match and we waited and took our moment to score a good goal.
“We did many other things, like more possession and more shots, but it was a very difficult game. We knew we had to be patient during the match, take our moment to score a good goal and win this match. We needed to work a lot. I am very proud of my players because I think we deserved the three points."
Deeney's goal was fit to win any game and was his first from open play since April 4. It underlined that the captain is still the main man at Vicarage Road and the one everyone rallies around.
"Troy is very important to us on the pitch and out of the match," Gracia said. "I could say many good things about him but, for me, he is the captain."
Gracia has shown his tactical flexibility in his five games in charge, switching between formations and making full use of his bench. With more options at his disposal after the much-needed return of some of the walking wounded, Gracia was decisive in his thinking when it came to the use of his substitutions against Everton.
He took just 11 minutes of the second-half to make a double change, bringing on Stefano Okaka and Kiko Femenía, and the move paid off handsomely, with both involved in the move that led to the winning goal.
"It was the moment when we changed in the second-half," Gracia said. "It was a change I made looking for two strikers. It was the moment to play this way. Stefano worked a lot and helped us to get three points."
The victory was built on a solid defensive display. Everton didn't really have a sniff and this was the second clean sheet in four games and the first in the league at home since November.
"It was important for us to keep another clean sheet," said Gracia. "Today we played with a [back]line of four players, other times we play with five. We try to find the best option every game. Today I am happy with our defensive work."
Gracia was asked in the build-up to the match how many points he thinks Watford might need to stay up. Now, following the win over Everton, he was being asked how high he thinks his team might finish.
"I don't know about the future," he said. "I am only focusing on the next match – that is the best mentality. Everybody speaks about how many points you need and I only say one thing: ‘I don't know’. What I am sure of is that we need three points in the next game versus West Brom. When we play at home we feel the backing of our supporters. We play with another man at home."
Gracia was boosted by the return of Femenía, Okaka, Miguel Britos and Heurelho Gomes today and there is a chance Will Hughes could be fit for the next game, further increasing Gracia's options. From struggling to name 18 fit players, he now has a welcome job on his hands in picking the best team.
"I am confident in all players," he said. "It is not easy to choose the players because now we have more options. My players work very hard and it is for me to take all the decisions. All the players are important for me but most important is the team."
That's now two wins, a draw and two defeats from Gracia's five games in charge and there is definitely a feel-good factor around the place since he arrived.
"I feel good at the club since the first day," he said. "Everything is good but we need to continue in this way. We need to get more points. We have 33, we need more. The atmosphere is better and everybody is happy, everybody believes this is the way to achieve [results]."
Gracia added finally that he did not know how serious the extent of the injury suffered by Gerard Deulofeu was.
"I don't know what happened," he said. "He's feeling pain in his right foot."