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In with the even older 07/09/2019

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

International breaks.  Dull as hell, aren’t they?  Particularly this one, not even a month into the season.  We’ve barely got going. And having chosen not to spend brownie points on Newcastle it’s two weeks into a three week slog.  Driving back from a thing with the wife and kids, half listening to the England game and the news breaks.

Whatever your reaction, to Javi’s departure, it’s surely not surprise.  As countless pub-bore pundits have no doubt already reminded you, this is What Watford Do.  (One might be forgiven for thinking that this is ALL Watford have done, since getting promoted, such is the limited range of opinion of such pundits.  Chelsea, Huddersfield, Fulham, Southampton and West Brom have all had three managers during Javi’s Watford reign, incidentally).

If there’s a surprise it’s that the change comes halfway through the break rather than at the beginning of it.  If a change was being made then the decision was surely already made and so little to gain by delaying appointing an out-of-work replacement.

But the decision itself, I think, was always coming.  Javi Gracia has been a successful, utterly likeable, gracious and unpretentious head coach but problems with the team have been evident and are down to him.  The poor results at the end of last season came with all sorts of mitigating factors and context – the Cup Final, the suspension to Troy which was all the captain’s fault and which we struggled to accommodate as we’re struggling in the wake of his injury now.

But this season’s form has been miserable.  In particular the defensive shape of the side has been, well, indefensible. The back four have all been criticised individually, but a set-up that asks full-backs to provide all the width, effectively playing as wing-backs with two centre-backs behind them is only going to end one way.  We have the greatest array of attacking talent we’ve ever had but haven’t looked like exploiting it.  We’ve been far, far too easy to hurt.

Too soon?  Too harsh?  Maybe.  But we know the drill by now.  We know that Scott and Gino aren’t going to sit on their hands and see how things turn out, we know that they believe a head coach has a limited shelf life. And in reality they can’t afford to prevaricate; after four games from which we might have expected, say, seven points we have one with tougher challenges to come.

Then half an hour later, the confirmation that Quique was back.  And this took a bit more time to get my head around.  On the plus side…  lovely bloke.  Knows how to sort a defence, very quickly drilled a side that had been playing open expansive football four years ago and took us to mid-table and a Cup semi.  On the minus…  his tendency towards favourites, ostracising faces that didn’t fit (José Holebas must be delighted). The pathetic tailing off of our first season after he felt his job was done – the defeat at Carrow Road that season remains perhaps the weakest since promotion.

But against that…  he’s being hired by the people that employed him then.  They know what happened, and they know what they’re getting.  And nothing speaks for the sound structures that we’ve all boasted so comprehensively of, the way that a head coach is a cog at this club rather than defining the machine, that both Duxbury and Flores are happy to resume their partnership.

Some kind of change was clearly needed.  How this one turns out will be fascinating.



1. Andrew - 07/09/2019

Honestly Matt, you really should be a carpenter. Somewhere out there there is a nail….. (as M Rowson would say, fill in the rest yourselves)

2. David - 07/09/2019

As a 16 year old I was gutted when John Barnes left Watford but over the subsequent 25 years I bonded with the team over and above any individual. In the last 10 years or so I have reverted to my 16 year old self. It took me ages to get over Doyley departing and although it has only been 20 months, I place Gracia up there with GT and Lewington.

A sad day.

3. Adam Cummings - 07/09/2019

1) He knows the set up
2) He should be able to sort the defence out
and 3) Mot important of all, he is available.

peter tomlin - 07/09/2019

A workman is only as good as his tools Javi’s big mistake was not walking in the summer we have a championship defence if we don’t change it we will be fighting to stay up at the end of the season

Matt Rowson - 07/09/2019

I had expected us to make a bigger defensive signing this summer. But this argument is oversimplified nonsense. Whatever our defenders’ limitations we coped fine last season with fewer options. The defensive set up this season was going to make whoever was put into those positions look like idiots.

4. Jeff Lloyd - 08/09/2019

It’s form over six months not the past 4 games. I like JG but his team selection against Newcastle was one designed not to be beat and not one to win a very winnable game. Sarr must have been thinking ‘if I can’t get selected for this game when can I?’

5. Richard Steeden - 08/09/2019

I’m baffled at how a coach as good as Javi can have a team set up so dysfunctionally for so long. As far as QSF is concerned, as you say, the concern is primarily player management and maybe use of younger players. He’s certainly got way better attacking choices than last time, so I don’t think style should be such an issue. Short term its about finding some stability and regaining confidence. Arsenal and Man City first up not for the faint hearted. And finally I wonder just how damaging the Cup final humiliation was; I know better sides than us get mauled by City but even so, such a public capitulation must be tough to deal with mentally for everyone.

6. Harefield Hornet - 08/09/2019

At least we won’t have to invent a new song!

7. drdavewatford - 08/09/2019

I’m bafffled why Javi kept banging away with the same formation game after game for so long during which time we failed to keep a clean sheet and latterly failed to win a single game. And when he did finally change things against Newcastle there still wasn’t a place for Welbeck or Sarr, while other players who hadn’t performed in previous games kept their places.

I’ll miss Javi as a person – a gracious and humble man – and for some great memories last season, but when things started to go wrong he seemed too fearful to look for an answer beyond just going again with the same old same old. A big shame.

8. Vaughn Smith - 10/09/2019

Excellent full page piece in today’s Telegraph about his by Jason Burt. He refers to this as ‘Watford’s Way’, and speaks very eloquently about how well the club’s senior management run the club. Finally someone who gets it…

9. Robert Hill - 21/10/2019

Well done Vaughan, that just about sums it up. The press though will still knock the club back, as we’ve always been dealt with by the press as a 5 minute wonder. Well at least Jason Burt has managed to put a more realistic view on our club. For the now we have struggled, but the last few games have been better and I believe we will get out of trouble. We deserved more from Saturdays game fo be sure, and there is a growing feeling in the players that we will climb the the league. A win against Bournemouth would help us and the players confidence.

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