Javi Gracia ‘surprised’ by Watford sacking as club reappoint Quique Sanchez Flores

8 Sep

Javi Gracia says he was ‘surprised’ by Watford’s decision to sack him.

The Spaniard was dismissed as Hornets boss on Saturday after suffering three defeats in their opening four Premier League games.

Javi Gracia feels hard done by with his Watford departure
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Quique Sanchez Flores, who was axed by Watford chiefs in 2016, has succeeded Gracia at Vicarage Road for a second spell in Hertfordshire.

Gracia led Watford to an eleventh-placed Premier League finish and an FA Cup final in his only full season in charge.

In a statement published by the 49-year-old, he said: “After the unexpected announcement about the termination of my contract after only 4 matches, I want to express my surprise after completing the best season in Watford’s history.

“I respect this decision and I’d like to reassure the excellent relationship I have with [owner] Gino Pozzo and [technical director] Filippo Giraldi, and this is not going to change despite by abrupt exit of the club.

Quique Sanchez Flores gives backing to new Valencia boss Gary Neville
Quique Sanchez Flores has returned for a second spell at Watford
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“I am grateful to this club for allowing me to manage this great club in the Premier League, it has been an incredible experience, with very special moments like the FA Cup final I had the privilege to enjoy.

“I want to thank every single person who works for this club and has made my everyday very easy. My gratefulness and love for this club will be eternal.

“And finally, I want to thank the fans for supporting me the way they did from day 1, until my last.

“I will always wish the fans and these players the best.”

Flores managed Watford during the 2015/16 season and guided them to 13th in the Premier League and an FA Cup semi-final.

But he was given the boot in the summer of 2016 and replaced by Walter Mazzarri.

Watford sack Javi Gracia and reappoint Quique Sanchez Flores as manager after dismal start to Premier League season

7 Sep

Watford have sacked Javi Gracia and reappointed Quique Sanchez Flores as their manager.

The Hornets are yet to win a game in the Premier League this season and are currently rooted to the bottom of the table.

Javi Gracia is the first managerial casualty of the Premier League season
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Gracia was appointed as Hornets boss in January 2018 after the sacking of Marco Silva.

The former Malaga manager took Watford to the FA Cup final for the first time in 35 years and just the second time in the club’s history, when they were beaten convincingly by Manchester City in May.

He also led them to an 11th-place finish in the Premier League last season. But having picked up just one win from their four games this term, the club decided to make their 11th managerial change in just over eight years.

“Javi has represented Watford with great dignity and will always be deserving of our fullest respect for his achievements,” said chairman and chief executive Scott Duxbury.

“Javi Gracia’s staff will also be leaving the club, ahead of the imminent appointment of a new coaching team.

“Everyone at the Hornets wishes Javi and his staff all the very best for the future, and they will always be welcome visitors in the future at Vicarage Road.”

Sanchez Flores’ reappointment was confirmed just 30 minutes after Gracia’s departure had been announced.

Quique Sanchez Flores gives backing to new Valencia boss Gary Neville
Quique Sanchez Flores was Watford boss previously between 2015 and 2016
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In his first spell at the club, the Spaniard guided the club to a comfortable mid-table finish during the 2015/16 season in the club’s first season back in the Premier League but left after just under 12 months in charge.

Since the departure of current Burnley boss Sean Dyche in July 2012, Watford have gone through Gianfranco Zola, Guiseppe Sannino, Oscar Garcia, Billy McKinley (on a caretaker basis), Slavisa Jokanovic, Sanchez Flores, Walter Mazzarri, Silva – who went to Everton – and now Gracia.

Premier League managers’ playing careers rated, including Frank Lampard and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

4 Sep

All 20 Premier League managers have done exceptionally well to get into the position they’re in.

They’re in charge of teams in, arguably, the best league in the world – but what were they like as players?

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola played for Barcelona at senior level for over ten years
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Some reached the very top of football, playing for huge clubs including Chelsea, Manchester United and Barcelona.

However, others didn’t have so much to put on their CV’s when they were trying to break into management.

Below you can see where each Premier League manager ranks based on their playing careers, according to talkSPORT.com.

20. Roy Hodgson (Crystal Palace)

The veteran manager is best known for his days in the dugout and with good reason too.

Hodgson played for Palace at youth level but could never break into the first-team and then went on to play non-league football at a string of clubs for several years.

He began his training to become a coach in his early twenties so it’s no surprise Hodgson occupies bottom spot in this chart.

Hodgson never really made it as a player
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19. Brendan Rodgers (Leicester City)

He didn’t have much of a playing career at senior level but this was through no fault of Rodgers.

The Northern Irishman, who has managed Swansea and Liverpool in the Premier League before taking his current post at Leicester, had to retire as a professional at 20-years-old due to a genetic knee injury.

Like Hodgson, Rodgers studied coaching very young and has built up his name ever since.

18. Daniel Farke (Norwich City)

The German has taken Norwich back to the big time and their attractive playing style should see the Canaries get a lot of good results this season.

Farke, 42, has already achieved more as a manager than he ever did as a player
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However, Farke’s career as a player was not so good as he spent his short playing career in the lower levels of German football, representing SV Lippstadt, Bonner SC and SV Meppen.

17. Eddie Howe (Bournemouth)

Another one whose playing career was blighted by injury, Cherries boss Howe enjoyed limited success before turning to management.

He begun his career at Bournemouth and was signed by Harry Redknapp at Portsmouth in 2002 but sustained a knee injury shortly afterwards.

Pompey got promoted to the Premier League in 2003 but Howe was not part of that success and he eventually hung up his boots in 2007, aged 29.

It’s likely Howe would have had more success as a player were it not for his injuries
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16. Chris Wilder (Sheffield United)

Sheffield United manager Wilder is living the dream by managing the club he supports in the top flight and he was arguably living the dream at the start of his playing career too by playing for them.

But after six years at Bramall Lane, via four different loan spells, Wilder was offloaded to Rotherham United.

The former right-back played for eleven different clubs in his playing career but did not see any kind of success compared to what he’s experienced as a manager.

15. Dean Smith (Aston Villa)

Villans boss Smith played for five different clubs in the football league over a 16-year playing career but his success was limited.

Smith is now in charge of Villa, the team he grew up supporting
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Smith came close to achieving promotion to the third tier of English football with Leyton Orient but the O’s lost in the play-off final twice.

The closest he ever got to the Premier League as a player was when he was at Sheffield Wednesday, who were one league below for one season.

14. Sean Dyche (Burnley)

A promising start to former Nottingham Forest man Dyche’s playing career was put on hold by a broken leg and after that he had to settle with bouncing around clubs in the lower divisions.

Probably the most memorable moment of his playing career saw him reach the FA Cup semi-finals with Chesterfield in 1997 where they almost beat Premier League side Middlesbrough.

12. Sean Dyche (Burnley)
Dyche almost helped Chesterfield to surprise FA Cup glory
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Dyche scored a penalty which put Chesterfield 2-0 up against Boro at Old Trafford but the game finished 3-3. Boro booked their place in the final by winning the replay 3-0.

13. Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool)

By his own admission, Klopp was not a particularly talented footballer and probably would have moved into management sooner than he did if Mainz let him.

Klopp played for five different German clubs but his days at Mainz are what his playing days are best known for.

He played for them for eleven years but never played in the Bundesliga despite going close to promotion a couple of times. He became manager in February 2001 and the rest as they say is history.

Klopp has achieved plenty as a manager, however
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12. Marco Silva (Everton) 

The Toffees boss edges out Klopp as he managed to make a grand total of two appearances in Portugal’s top flight but Silva didn’t have much of a playing career.

These appearances came while on loan at S.C. Campomaiorense but Silva spent most of his playing days at second or third division clubs in Portugal.

11. Graham Potter (Brighton)

You could argue that Potter has somewhat come from nowhere in recent seasons, however, he has plenty of experience playing in England.

The Brighton boss played for twelve different clubs including a season-long spell at Southampton in the Premier League, which helped him earn his only international cap for England’s Under-21 side.

It remains to be seen whether Potter will be a success as Brighton boss
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10. Manuel Pellegrini (West Ham)

The Chilean was a one-club man throughout his 13-year playing career, representing Universidad de Chile.

Pellegrini started when the club were going through a lean patch of form but they won the league title in 1979. He hung up his boots in 1986 aged 32.

9. Unai Emery (Arsenal)

Although he made just five LaLiga appearances, Emery enjoyed a decent career playing in the second tier of Spanish football, making over 200 appearances over the space of seven seasons.

However, a knee injury brought the Arsenal manager’s playing career to a premature end in 2004/05 and he retired from the game aged 32.

Emery has managed some big sides in Europe including Valencia, Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain
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8. Ralph Hasenhuttl (Southampton)

Saints boss Hasenhuttl spent most of his playing career in his homeland of Austria and enjoyed a good amount of success there.

He won the Austrian Bundesliga four times and Austrian Cup twice, before having a spell with German side FC Cologne which didn’t really work out.

7. Javi Gracia (Watford)

After breaking into LaLiga by helping UE Lleida achieve promotion in 1993, Gracia established himself as a top flight player.

He went down a division by signing for Villarreal in 1999 but was part of their side which got promoted before going back down four years later with Cordoba where he saw out the final year of his playing days.

Gracia is Watford’s longest ever serving manager in the Premier League, having been appointed in January 2018
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6. Mauricio Pochettino (Tottenham)

Die hard England fans will know Pochettino as the player who gave away a penalty during England’s victory over Argentina at the 2002 World Cup, even if Michael Owen did go down a bit too easily.

The Argentine played at a good level though, representing Espanyol for ten years over two spells and played for French giants Paris Saint-Germain for two years.

Pochettino’s most notable achievements as a player include two Copa del Rey titles.

He can also count Ronaldinho as a former teammate, while he shared a room with Diego Maradona on international duty with Argentina.

5. Nuno Espirito Santo (Wolves)

The Wolves boss won a bucket load of trophies in Portugal, particularly during his days at Porto.

Nuno won a surprising amount of trophies as a player
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Nuno won the Primeira Liga five times, the UEFA Cup and a Champions League title under a certain Jose Mourinho.

However, it should be noted that Nuno was the second choice goalkeeper throughout his glory days at Porto.

4. Pep Guardiola (Manchester City)

All this man knows is success. Guardiola has won trophies as a player and a manager.

The Manchester City boss is best known as a player for Barcelona where he won LaLiga five times, the Copa del Rey twice and was also in the team which helped them win the European Cup in 1992 – the Blaugrana’s first title in Europe’s premier club competition.

He also had some success at international level, helping Spain to Olympic gold at the 1992 games in Barcelona.

3. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Manchester United)

If Solskjaer can have similar success as Manchester United manager as he did as a player then fans will be happy.

Solskjaer’s best moment as a player saw him score the winner in the 1999 Champions League final
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The Norwegian won six Premier Leagues, two FA Cups and a Champions League title in 1999, scoring the winning goal in the dramatic 2-1 triumph over Bayern Munich.

Solskjaer was something of a fringe player at Old Trafford at times but that was only due to the huge talent the United squad had when he was there.

2. Steve Bruce (Newcastle United)

His managerial career has had plenty of setbacks but there’s no doubting Bruce enjoyed a great playing career.

Bruce is best known for his days at Manchester United where he won three Premier League titles, three FA Cups and a European Cup Winners’ Cup.

Amazingly though, he never made a senior appearance for England’s national team despite captaining the Red Devils.

Steve Bruce (left) helped United win their first league title in 27 years
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1. Frank Lampard (Chelsea)

But at the top has to be new Chelsea boss Lampard, who is arguably the club’s greatest ever player.

Super Lamps, as he’s affectionately known, won everything on offer for club players including the Premier League, FA Cup, Europa League and Champions League.

He also finished second to Ronaldinho in the Ballon d’Or awards in 2005.

Lampard is Chelsea’s all-time leading goalscorer
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Watford news: Under pressure Javi Gracia admits his squad’s ‘dynamic is not good’ as Hornets slump to another defeat

25 Aug

Javi Gracia has admitted he is facing a battle to keep hold of his job after Watford fell to another defeat on Saturday.

West Ham recorded their first win of the season with a 3-1 victory at Vicarage Road, as record signing Sebastien Haller notched a brace for the visitors.

Javi Gracia hopes he gets the time to turn around Watford’s fortunes
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The result leaves Gracia’s side rooted to the foot of the Premier League, having lost their opening three matches this season.

They have lost seven in a row all competitions dating back to last season. This is the first time Watford have done that in two decades.

Gracia signed a new four-and-a-half year deal last November, but Watford’s latest defeat heaps further pressure on the under-fire Spaniard.

Asked if he was worried about his Watford future, Gracia said: “It is true. What can I say? The dynamic is not good and we need to improve. I know that.

“I am preparing for the next game. We have three days to prepare for Coventry in the Carabao Cup and it is one week before we face Newcastle in the Premier League.

“These games are important, and that is what I am focused on.”

Watford’s afternoon got off to the worst possible start when Abdoulaye Doucoure fouled Manuel Lanzini in the area after just 59 seconds.

Issa Diop, left, hugs Sebastien Haller after his first goals for West Ham
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West Ham captain Mark Noble made no mistake from the resulting spot-kick.

Andre Gray, deputising for the injured Troy Deeney, hauled the hosts level with 17 minutes gone.

But Gracia’s men were punished for spurning a host of chances, with just three of their 23 shots on target.

Will Hughes should have put the Hornets ahead in the second half only to fire Gray’s cross wide with the goal at his mercy.

“It is true that there were some moments in the game where we dominated and created chances, but if you have 23 shots and only three of them are on target, it is difficult,” added Gracia.

Craig Cathcart looks on despondent following Watford’s defeat
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“We need to be more clinical. We had one clear chance with Will and it was impossible to miss.

“We’ve been punished for all the mistakes we’ve made and it’s a difficult moment. We need to change the momentum.”

West Ham capitalised on Watford’s wastefulness with Haller, the £45million summer arrival from Eintracht Frankfurt, scoring his first goals for the London club in nine second-half minutes.

Felipe Anderson popped up on the left-hand side and his perfect cut-back found Haller, who could not miss from six yards. The French striker then doubled his tally with a neat bicycle kick after Ben Foster tipped Michail Antonio’s header on to the bar.

“It is a new league for Sebastien and it is not easy to play in the Premier League from the beginning,” said Hammers boss Manuel Pellegrini.

“These goals will give him a lot of trust. I trust him a lot that he will have a positive impact on this league.”

Jack Wilshere did not travel to Watford, but Pellegrini said the midfielder was not injured and will play for West Ham in their Carabao Cup clash at Newport on Tuesday.

Saturday is GameDay on talkSPORT and talkSPORT 2 as we become your go to destination for all the Premier League action. We’ll bring you LIVE commentary of Premier League games across all three time slots on Saturday – 12.30pm, 3pm and 5.30pm – delivering award-winning coverage to more GameDay listeners than ever.

Danny Welbeck unlikely to play Premier League game against Brighton, says Watford manager Javi Gracia

9 Aug

Watford boss Javi Gracia admits his ‘quality’ new signing Danny Welbeck is unlikely to be fit to play against Brighton in their first Premier League game of the season.

Welbeck joined the Hornets on a three-year deal on Wednesday following his release from Arsenal, but is not ready for the Saturday kick-off.

Danny Welbeck played 127 times for Arsenal
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Gracia said: ”In my opinion [Welbeck] is a very good player and with good players you can improve and I think it is the best thing for us.

“He has played with his national team recently (Welbeck appeared against Spain last September in the Nations League) and I think it is good news for us, and we will see what we are able to achieve.”

Welbeck left Manchester United to join Arsenal in 2014, but his career has been plagued by injuries.

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The England international has not played since breaking his ankle before Christmas against Sporting Lisbon, but Gracia is not concerned about his fitness.

“To be honest he started this morning, he was with the medical staff doing some tests, and after these tests I expect he will be ready to train with the team as soon as possible,” he said.

“Everybody knows he is quality, we will see if he is ready soon to play with the rest of the players.

“We will try to help him to recover as soon as possible his best condition and try to compete with the other players.”

When asked whether the forward would feature on Saturday, the Spaniard said: “I don’t think so.”

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Chelsea manager latest: Watford boss Javi Gracia in consideration to replace Maurizio Sarri at Stamford Bridge

4 Jun

Watford boss Javi Gracia is reportedly under consideration to replace Maurizio Sarri as Chelsea manager should the Italian leave his post at Stamford Bridge.

Sarri wants to join Juventus and the Blues are happy to let him leave once the Serie A club agree to buy out the final year of his £5million contract.

Sarri’s time in English football appears to be coming to an end
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Juventus have reportedly offered the 60-year-old a three-year deal after making him their no. 1 target to replace Massimiliano Allegri.

Sarri allegedly met with Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia on Friday to reveal his desire to return to Italy after just 11 months in charge at Stamford Bridge.

According to ESPN, Allegri, who has departed Juventus after winning five consecutive league titles in Turin, could trade places with Sarri.

However, the Blues hierarchy are said to be unsure whether to appoint a third successive Italian manager due to the players struggling to embrace the methods employed by both Sarri and his predecessor Antonio Conte.

Another name now being considered is Watford head coach Javi Gracia, the report adds.

Gracia is Watford’s longest ever serving manager in the Premier League, having been appointed in January 2018
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The Spaniard has impressed since being appointed at Vicarage Road in January 2018, having guided the Hornets to the 2019 FA Cup final – though they were defeated 6-0 by Manchester City in the Wembley showpiece.

The playing style he has instilled at Watford has caught the attention of Blues chiefs, and while Derby boss Frank Lampard remains the bookmakers favourite to replace Sarri, Gracia is very much in the running.

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Gracia worked for a number of clubs in his native Spain, as well as a couple of Greek teams and Russian outfit Rubin Kazan before taking the Watford job last year.

He is the only manager to keep his job with the Hornets beyond the end of a season since they returned to the Premier League in 2015, and he penned a new four-and-a-half-year contract with the Hertfordshire club in November.

The 49-year-old has been in charge of Watford for a total 61 matches, winning 24 and losing 25 for a 39.3 per cent win ratio.

Watford handed boost ahead of FA Cup final with Manchester City as Jose Holebas’ available after red card rescinded

13 May

Jose Holebas had his red card in Watford’s 4-1 defeat to West Ham on Sunday overturned.

The 34-year-old defender was sent off in the final Premier League match of the season when he was judged to have pulled back Michail Antonio as he ran through on goal.

Jose Holebas will be able to play in the FA Cup final
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Watford head coach Javi Gracia said the club would appeal the decision and on Monday the Football Association announced it had been overturned.

This now means the defender will be available for Saturday’s FA Cup final against Manchester City at Wembley.

Javi Gracia’s side face Manchester City in the FA Cup final

“An Independent Regulatory Commission has today [13/05/2019] upheld a claim of wrongful dismissal regarding Jose Holebas,” an FA statement read.

“The Watford player was sent off against West Ham United in the Premier League on Sunday [12/05/2019] for denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity.”

The Hornets ended the season in 11th following the final day defeat to the Hammers.

Gracia’s side have the chance to prevent Manchester City from completing a historic domestic treble on Saturday.

Pep Guardiola’s side wrapped up the Premier League title on Sunday and have already won the Carabao Cup and now have the FA Cup in their sights.

Watford to appeal Jose Holebas’ red card against West Ham as defender faces FA Cup final heartbreak

13 May

Watford head coach Javi Gracia hit out at the decision to send off Jose Holebas in Sunday’s defeat to West Ham.

The left-back was given his marching orders after he brought down Michail Antonio when he was through on goal in the 48th minute and now faces missing this weekend’s FA Cup final.

Chris Kavanagh gave Jose Holebas a straight red card
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Asked if the club would appeal against the red card, Watford boss Javi Gracia replied: “For sure. I kept the same attitude during all of the season and I don’t want to change at the last one.

“I prefer to be respectful to the referees decision and I prefer at this moment to not say what I am thinking about that.

“In my opinion, I can’t believe one player will miss the final for that contact, I can’t believe it.

“Maybe it is a foul, soft foul, light foul but I can be angry with that decision. In this moment it is difficult to accept knowing you have an important game next week.”

Holebas has enjoyed a fine season, scoring three times and registering six assists in 31 appearances.

Jose Holebas has been a consistent performer for Watford this season
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Gracia likened the decision of referee Michael Oliver to an incident which saw Watford captain Troy Deeney sent off against Arsenal recently.

The club unsuccessfully appealed against that that decision and Gracia called for a level of continuity from officials.

“It wasn’t a foul,” he added on Holebas’ misdemeanour.

“That contact with one player like Antonio, it is a foul there a lot of fouls during the game.

“It was the same with Troy and (Lucas) Torreira – in the next games there were similar situations.

“After two games, it is true, they say it is possible it was a mistake but that is after two days. I don’t want that, I want the referees to take the right decisions.”

Watford endured a testing end to the season after securing just two league wins – both against relegated clubs Fulham and Huddersfield – in their final nine games.

Gracia added: “It’s obvious we would prefer to be as high as possible.

“But we have to know how we can improve our play to compete better in the next game, the final, because the last games we didn’t keep the same level as before.”

Watford will be hoping to ruin Manchester City’s chances of a domestic treble when they meet at Wembley on May 18.

Watford manager Javi Gracia rules out signings in January transfer window, unless ‘something changes’

10 Jan

Watford manager Javi Gracia has ruled out a move into the transfer market this month.

Fringe striker Stefano Okaka completed his temporary switch to Udinese earlier this week, with defender Marvin Zeegelaar following suit.

Hornets supporters should not be expected any new arrivals this month

There is also speculation surrounding the future of the in-form Abdoulaye Doucoure, but Gracia does not envisage any players arriving at Vicarage Road this month.

“In this moment, maybe different things happen, but I am happy with the squad I have,” said Gracia.

“With the players we have we can complete a very good season and if in one week something changes, we will see.

“But at the moment I prefer to value the players I have because they deserve that. We have to be demanding with the players and we have to be ambitious with them, too.”

Stefano Okaka has been loaned to Udinese

Okaka joined Watford from Anderlecht in the summer of 2016, but has fallen out of favour under Gracia, featuring in just three matches this season, all of them as substitutes, prior to his loan switch.

“In my opinion, Stefano is a great player and a great person,” Gracia added.

“He was very important for the squad, not just for the minutes he played, but other things.

“However, the club, the player, and me, thought it was better to take this step and go on loan for the rest of the season.

“In his position there are many strikers and many options, so it was better for all of us to take this decision.”

Watford head to Selhurst Park to face Crystal Palace on Saturday, eighth in the Premier League table after losing just once during the festive period.

Christian Kabasele and Andre Gray returned to training from their respective injury lay-offs on Thursday, but the game against Palace may have arrived too soon for the duo to feature.

Everton 2-2 Watford: Javi Gracia says result would have been different if ‘VAR was ready today’

11 Dec

Javi Gracia has bemoaned the lack of video assistant referees in the Premier League after Watford were held to a draw at Everton in a match in which the Hornets were clearly on the wrong side of some poor officiating.

Kevin Friend and his team allowed Everton’s opening goal to stand despite Theo Walcott influencing play from a clearly offside position, before they failed to call a foul for Yerry Mina’s challenge on Isaac Success.

Walcott was in an offside position when Andre Gomes played the ball
He slightly touched the ball before Gomes regained possession
Gomes played the ball across the face of goal for Richarlison to fire home

Success was through on goal at the time of the incident, with Mina – already on a yellow card – taking the Watford forward out without touching the ball as the last man of Everton’s defence.

The general consensus is that Mina was facing a second caution and sending off due to the incident, but his foul was not called and the Colombia defender remained on the pitch for the entire match.

“I prefer not to say anything about the referees,” Gracia said. “If VAR was ready today the result would have been different. I’m very proud of my players.”

Watford got back into the game on the back of an excellent second half performance, with a Seamus Coleman own-goal levelling the tie before Abdoulaye Doucoure sent the visitors in front a few moments later.

However, Lucas Digne curled a fine free-kick past Ben Foster to secure the hosts a share of the spoils in the last minute of injury time.

“It’s difficult to accept because in the second half we dominated,” Gracia admitted after the match.

Digne’s free-kick was a stunning way to rescue a draw for Everton

“To concede in the last minute is tough to accept but we’ll continue in the same way with the same attitude.

“Only some difficult decisions to accept changed the game in the first half. After that the team was confident playing the same way.”

Earlier this year, it was confirmed Premier League clubs have agreed ‘in principle’ to the introduction of VAR in England’s top flight from next season.