Tuesday January 23 2018
Watford gracious for Gracia

Javi Gracia may be an unknown quantity in English football, but as Daryl Hammond writes, Watford have bagged themselves a fine Coach in the former Malaga boss...

Before the weekend, many in England would have likely never heard of Javi Gracia. Now Watford fans must place their complete faith in the Spaniard as he makes the move to the Premier League after the controversial sacking of his predecessor Marco Silva.

Silva likely had barely cleared his office before his replacement was announced, such was the swift turnaround as barely 10 hours had passed between the firing and hiring. It shows the professional and organised way the Pozzo family in charge of Watford go about their business, but also that Gracia was their first and only choice for the job. From their days at Udinese, this is a group of owners whose risky gambles more often than not turn out to be safe bets - if you're more adventurous, then visit this website for great casino games

They seem confident in his ability to turn things around at Vicaridge Road and, given his CV, it is not difficult to see why, given the position in which Watford find themselves. In his two full seasons in La Liga, he finished eighth and ninth, a feat many Watford fans would be pleased with if he can replicate that.

His exploits saw him head-hunted by Russian side Rubin Kazan, where in truth he did no better or worse than his predecessor but left by mutual consent at the end of the season and had been a free agent since.

But the effects of his move to Russia were felt harder in Andalusia.

Without him, Malaga have steadily dropped since, now finding themselves rock-bottom with only 11 points in 19 games this term. Gracia’s football at La Rosaleda wasn’t always the prettiest, but it got results and he relishes a tactical battle against the top sides.

Moreover, if there’s one thing he can be relied upon to bring, it’s defensive stability.

During the 2015-16 season with Los Boquerones, his side boasted the fourth-best defensive record in La Liga, conceding only 35 goals. They also held Real Madrid to draws home and away that campaign.

With 14 games still to play, the Hornets have already conceded 44 goals, with heavy 5-0 and 6-0 defeats to Manchester City among them. More impressively, he did it on a shoestring budget. He spent just over €1m on transfer fees in his first season and €8m over two years – all whilst dealing with the headache of replacing quality first-teamers such as Samu Castillejo, Sergi Darder, Nordin Amrabat, Samu Garcia, Willy Caballero, all of whom were sold during his tenure.

His other managerial experiences in Spain are mixed, but some of his other achievements in Spain cannot be understated. He took Cadiz to the second tier in 2009, and four years later he won promotion to La Liga via the playoffs with Almeria, although he left shortly after.

He joined Osasuna midway through the following season but couldn’t salvage the sinking ship, missing out on safety by a point to Almeria, whom he helped reach the top flight that season.

With managerial experience in Spain, Greece and Russia, coaching in England won’t be a plunge into the deep end, but with so many sides embroiled in the relegation dogfight, the 46-year-old have to hit the ground as quickly as Silva did.

Gracia is, in some ways, the antithesis to his predecessor, who played exciting, attacking but increasingly-ineffectual attacking football. Yet at this point in time, he’s likely to be exactly what Watford need.

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