Watford’s perfect start to the season is no more after hard-fought efforts reaped little rewards in the 2-1 loss to Manchester United on Saturday. The Hornets conceded two quick-fire goals in the first half, and despite a strike from Andre Gray and an onslaught on the United goal in the second period, the home side left Vicarage Road with scant to show for their endeavours.
However, head coach Javi Gracia only sees the positives from the narrow defeat and insists that replicating the performances over the first five league games will produce astounding results across the season.
He said: “I am sure keeping this level we will be able to win again quickly. I am pleased with our behaviour in these five games. We will try to keep our level, always knowing what we are.
“Against United, we showed we are able to compete against a very good team. We did not get the points, but I can be proud.”
A man of modesty and method
The Premier League Manager of the Month for August has been hailed for his modest and realistic outlook on football. Having previously left a prosperous job at Almería in his native Spain due to the thought of signing too many players, Gracia has brought this frugal and adaptable approach to Watford and it would be safe to admit that his footballing ideology suits the club to a tee.
“There’s a series of things the manager has to do,” he said. “An order to establish, a way of working. But if you want to do your job well, a fundamental thing is to evaluate the assets at your disposal and adjust to circumstances.”
While Watford’s dream start to the season has so far spanned the entirety of 2018/19, Gracia’s tenure at the club has not been short of incident. Taking over a team that were in disarray after the departure of Marco Silva was an arduous task for any manager, of any ability, and the 48-year-old recognised from the start that the Watford he envisaged under his guidance would take long to achieve.
“I arrived in January, when there were a lot of injured players,” he said. “We had to regain confidence after the bad results. We tried to instil a way of doing things, but via normal methods, nothing extraordinary. In pre season we had more time to work, live together, and strengthen the team mentality.
“That’s what we’re showing on the pitch. I wouldn’t say we are a good team, I’d say we are a good group.”
The coveted 100% record may no longer be intact, but five wins from six in all competitions is hardly a poor record and Gracia will be hoping to continue the good form next weekend as Watford face Fulham at Craven Cottage, the new home of former Hornets manager Slavisa Jokanovic.