Why Javi Gracia Is the Most Under Appreciated Manager in the Premier League

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In an era where managers are often bigger stars than the men who take to the pitch, Javi Gracia has found the perfect balance between masterminding a side, while taking enough of a back seat to make sure his players get the majority of the plaudits.

The unassuming Spaniard has undertaken a quiet revolution at Watford since taking over last January, and it’s led the club to finding themselves in the higher reaches of the Premier League. 

When Richarlison left the club for Everton in the summer, many would’ve been tipping the Hornets for a relegation battle this season. The reality is much different, and it’s down to Gracia and his expert use of the tools at his disposal.

Southampton FC v Watford FC - Premier League

The 4-4-2 that Gracia has employed at Watford this season plays to every strength his squad possesses. In possession, the two wide players – Roberto Pereyra and Will Hughes – are able to drift inside and operate centrally as they normally would, creating an overload in the middle of the park. 

Full backs Jose Holebas and Daryl Janmaat are given license to get forward in attacks and provide width, this is best evidenced by the two goals and four assists Holebas has this season.

It’s no accident that Watford have started the season so strongly, and Gracia didn’t just stumble upon this system. The Spaniard evaluated the squad in front of him and realised that a hybrid between a 4-4-2 and a 4-2-2-2 suited his side, there was a lack of wingers within the squad – the solution? Play without natural wingers.

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Watford v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League

In attack, Gracia has managed to reinvigorate a Troy Deeney who fell out of favour last season, and Andre Gray’s pace means the two have formed a strong partnership. The analytical side of Gracia is one of the strongest in the Premier League, perhaps it’s only gone unnoticed as of yet because he isn’t managing one of the big boys.

It’s been reported that the Spaniard will put pen to paper on a new contract at the club next week and that move would represent Watford’s best bit of business for years. This is a club that has lacked consistency ever since they were promoted back to the Premier League, Gracia offers consistency, he offers an identity but most of all he realises he isn’t bigger than the club – a criticism that has been levelled at the man he took over from.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Watford FC - Premier League

If Watford do end up in that precious seventh position at the end of the season, don’t be surprised. With Gracia at the helm European football isn’t out of the question, just don’t expect the Spaniard to be shouting from the rooftops about it.


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