First Team 14/04/2019

Pereyra: “Now We Can Talk About Europe”

Roberto Pereyra insists Watford’s focus has switched back to the race for Europe after the highs of their Wembley exploits last Sunday.

The Hornets return to Premier League action after their success over Wolves when they welcome Arsenal to Vicarage Road in front of the Sky cameras on Monday night.

Having beaten Fulham in their previous league outing, Watford sit in 10th place in the table but only a point off seventh-placed Leicester City.

Goals from Abdoulaye Doucouré, Will Hughes, Troy Deeney and Kiko Fermenía helped Javi Gracia’s men set a club-record of 46 Premier League points against the Cottagers and Pereyra insists the focus is now on building on that haul.

“It has been a special week,” he said. “It was an historic result against Wolves but we need to be focussed on the Premier League.

“It has obviously been a little bit hard to switch our attentions to Arsenal but everyone knows how important these next few games are and what we need to do.

“Now we can talk about Europe, but we know that we are in a fight. I think it’s a concrete opportunity for the club to get into Europe this season and we need to fight for it.

“We know how strong Arsenal are. But we are preparing to play a great game and to take advantage of their weaknesses.

“We are very confident now and we know we can play a good match.”

Argentina international Pereyra made a blistering start to the current season, netting a brace in the opening day 2-0 win at home to Brighton, and raced to six goals for club and country by the end of October. 

However, he has not scored since a Boxing Day strike against Chelsea.

Yet the former Juventus schemer is enjoying playing his part for the Golden Boys and says much of that is down to Hornets chief Gracia.

“I am very happy for this season,” he added. “I am playing in all the games which is what I wanted.

“This season the team is doing well pushing for Europe and reaching the FA Cup Final.

“Javi is a great professional and works really hard. He helps all the players and gives us confidence, which is the most important thing.

“I would like to score more goals, but I am quite relaxed because I know they will come. It is not a big problem for me.

“I just try to keep focussed on what I’ve been doing and if I can do that, the goals will come for me.”

First Team 13/04/2019

Gracia: “Emery Is One Of The Best Coaches In The World”

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

By Kevin Affleck

Javi Gracia told his players in the dressing room before Sunday’s breathtaking semi-final that he had never reached a final as a coach or a player. He asked them, among many other things, if they could allow him the pleasure of experiencing one. It says plenty about the respect they have for the Head Coach that they delivered for him big time.

Now Gracia, who you can never accuse of standing still or resting on his laurels, would dearly like it if his team could help him get one over Unai Emery, his great friend from their playing days at Real Sociedad. Gracia has faced Emery seven times and lost six times, drawing the other one. Obviously, the bigger picture is the daring pursuit of a seventh-place finish but if Gracia can break it down to smaller targets, like beating Emery’s Arsenal and enjoying the bragging rights in London Colney, it can help achieve the long-term goal. One game at a time and all that.

“We played together at Real Sociedad many years ago and from that moment we have had a good relationship,” said Gracia. “When we played together we didn’t know we’d be in this situation [playing against each other in the Premier League]. We’ve had dinner together twice [since I’ve been in England] and he’s a good friend. It’s good to see him again. We are very close but our teams and tastes are different. Unai is one of the best coaches in the world – not only in England.”

Gracia lost the game at the Emirates in September but he won the tactical battle. The Hornets had more shots on goal, more shots on target and the same amount of corners. Not many do that at the Emirates. Rob Holding and Bernd Leno were the Gunners’ two best players. Gracia ranks the performance in North London that day as one of the two best this season.

“I remember that game,” he said. “I think we played a good game against United away as well. Against Arsenal we played really well. We deserved a better result. Now we have a chance to show we can do it again. Playing at home we can get a better result.”

A win would come in handy after Leicester surprisingly lost at home to Newcastle. The Foxes have now played two more games than the Hornets but are only one point ahead. In fact, you could throw a blanket over the four teams bidding to become the best of the rest.

“I think it’s more than four,” said Gracia. “The best news is we have to play one game more than the others. We have to take advantage of that chance. We are going to play four games at home and two away. 

“In this moment, I prefer to keep the same attitude we had during all the season, trying to give importance to the next game. Our final is against Arsenal – not in May. This is the mentality we will keep and then at the end we will see the position and the points. But in this moment, our final is on Monday. My feeling is that the players are really focused on the next game.”