Watford Observer journalist Ron Walker gives us the lowdown on the Hornets, ahead of the FA Cup fourth-round tie on Saturday...
It’s been an eventful time at Watford since the teams met earlier this month. Can you sum up what the last two weeks have been like?
It’s been busier than I expected – and that’s without any signings! We heard at the back-end of last week that relations had really gone south between Marco Silva and Watford’s owner Gino Pozzo, and that he was close to being sacked.
I took the second idea with a pinch of salt, and even after losing at Leicester we thought he would get a few more games to get Watford out of the run they’ve been on. After all, even with the way they have taken their foot off the accelerator since Marco was approached by Everton, they are now missing ten first-team players through injury.
But then, 10.30am on Sunday, it was all over. And within half a day, in walks Javi Gracia.
What are your initial impressions of the Javi Gracia appointment and what he might bring?
He’s a savvy appointment and someone who will fit in with the Pozzo model more than Marco ever did. Their philosophy is that the coach is there to coach, but Marco couldn’t help but vent his frustration when transfer decisions were made that he didn’t like, and when the injury problems began to hit. From what I’ve heard, Gracia will make do with what he’s got.
From his previous jobs, it looks like Javi will play a counter-attacking game with a focus on being solid defensively. Every team he has been with has built from the back, in the past. Work-rate, incredible levels of coaching detail and superb man-management are his fortes, and I think Watford have done well to land him given the run they’re on.
Do you think Gracia’s arrival could change the approach and significance of this game for Watford?
Yes, definitely. They will put out a full-strength line-up and it’s a big test for some of the players to impress the new head coach, because Watford need to make signings before the end of the transfer window, so this game will inevitably make up a big part of his thinking. Hopefully Watford look more confident than they have in recent weeks, because that is what they were really lacking last weekend, a bit of self-belief.
I don’t think there will be too many changes, there aren’t the personnel. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Javi try a 4-4-2 though, because Gray and Deeney have both looked better in attack when they’ve been paired together. That just hasn’t happened very much.
Given his penchant for a solid unit, though, I think he’ll opt for the extra man in midfield, and probably stick Gray up top on his own as they’re playing away.
Who would you say will be key for Watford this weekend?
They are desperate for Richarlison to get back into some better form than he has shown in recent weeks, he’s really gone off the boil down to a mixture of fatigue and low confidence.
Central midfielder Abdoulaye Doucouré is another who has been a real highlight this season, but even his normally consistent form has dipped.
At the back, Christian Kabasele has become a key man at centre-back and when he’s on form they look much more solid.