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Can Javi Gracia succeed at Watford where so many have previously failed?

The Boot Room

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Javi Gracia
Photo: Reuters

There were mixed reactions on Sunday morning when Watford announced the sudden departure of popular manager Marco Silva from the club.

In the early part of the season, Silva transformed the Hornets from relegation battlers to European candidates with a mixture of positive attacking football and shrewd signings.

The club’s away form was particularly impressive, with convincing wins over Southampton, Newcastle United and Swansea, as well as defeating Arsenal at home.

Richarlison arrived from Fluminense and immediately set the Premier League alight, with Kiko Femenia, Will Hughes and Nathaniel Chalobah also enjoying strong starts.

If it wasn’t for a serious knee injury suffered in September, Chalobah would surely have gone on to be one of the stars of Watford’s season, with the ex-Chelsea midfielder already having achieved England honours.

Former Derby midfielder Hughes also impressed before he suffered injury, having scored in consecutive games against West Ham and Newcastle.

Watford conceded plenty, though, and defence has been an issue all season. Nonetheless, the huge number of goals scored meant that Watford looked set to establish themselves as a secure top half outfit.

That all changed in October, when Everton sacked Ronald Koeman and quickly identified Silva as their replacement.

The Portuguese remained quiet on rumours linking him away from the club although, crucially, he never made a concrete statement that he wanted to stay.

One of the reasons Watford gave for Silva’s sacking was “the unwarranted approach by a Premier League rival”, which they clearly believed was a major factor in the club’s downturn in form – they have only won three games in 13 since that approach in mid-November.

After Silva’s sacking, Watford quickly acted, bringing in former Malaga coach Javi Gracia as his replacement.

The Spaniard, who signed a 18 month contract, has gained a reputation for taking points off big teams, with one of his most famous results being a win over Barcelona at the Nou Camp.

Gracia’s Malaga went unbeaten against Real Madrid home and away in the 2015/16 season, and also beat Atletico, recording consecutive top ten finishes from 2014/15.

When Malaga were struggling at the foot of La Liga earlier this season, many fans were calling for Gracia to return to the post he held until May 2016, before he joined Russian giants Rubin Kazan.

His defensive coaching is sound, a quality which he will need to employ on a Watford side who have shipped plenty of goals this season.

Only Stoke in 17th have conceded more goals than the Hornets.

He also speaks good English, meaning he will not need a translator – something which Walter Mazzarri consistently used when talking to his players and the press, to the disappointment of the Watford board.

Gracia is entering a club which is not known for sticking with managers, and he has never stayed at a club longer than two years, but his track record in terms of results is positive and if he can get off to a good start, Watford could finally be set for a spell of managerial stability in the Premier League.

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Everton

A Marco Silva reunion at Everton is exactly what goal-shy Richarlison needs

The Brazilian has struggled for form since Everton-linked Marco Silva left the Hornets.

Max Cohen

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Photo: Getty Images

Marco Silva has been heavily linked with the vacant Everton managerial job this week and, according to reports in the Daily Mail, the ex-Watford boss is set to hold further talks with the club in the coming days.

As a result of the Silva connections, Paddy Power’s odds suggest Everton are now the front runners to sign Watford winger Richarlison this summer.

The move could prove to be an ingenious way to revive Richarlison’s early-season brilliance under the manager who coaxed the best out of the mercurial Brazilian.

Both Richarlison and Silva enjoyed superb form when the two were together in the opening months of the 2017/18 campaign, and a reunion at Goodison Park would result in success.

The Portuguese manager steered the Hornets to an impressive start to the season that saw the club suffer just one defeat in their first eight league matches.

The Brazilian winger also hit the ground running at Vicarage Road, notching five goals and contributing three assists in his opening 12 Premier League matches.

However, the tide turned in the final months of 2017, as Richarlison scored his last league goal in November, and Silva won just one of his last 11 league matches before being sacked in January.

Richarlison clearly thrived under the management of Silva, and after the Portuguese departed the club, the winger scored and assisted a grand total of zero goals. But at only 21 years of age, the youngster has time on his side and is still adapting to English football.

Everton would do well to reconnect Marco Silva with Richarlison, and if the manager can get the best out of the Brazilian, the Toffees would attain the services of a top-class attacking talent who has many productive years in front of him.

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Tottenham Hotspur

Abdoulaye Doucoure could be the ideal successor for Tottenham’s Mousa Dembele

The France Under-21 international has enjoyed a fine season.

Josh Kerr

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Abdoulaye Doucoure
Photo: Getty Images

Watford‘s Abdoulaye Doucoure has enjoyed an impressive season at Vicarage Road and the versatile midfielder could prove to be an ideal signing for Tottenham Hotspur this summer.

According to the Mirror, Mauricio Pochettino is ready to listen to offers for the likes of Mousa Dembele, Toby Alderweireld, Danny Rose and Moussa Sissoko.

Dembele was one of the names shortlisted and has been a revelation in his six years at the club.

Many Spurs players, including Dele Alli, Danny Rose and Eric Dier stated in Soccer AM interviews that they believe the 30-year-old midfielder to be the best player at the club.

However, Dembele is one of the stars linked with a departure from the Lilywhites so a replacement for the Belgian will be a vital priority for Pochettino this summer. Doucoure could be the perfect man for the job.

The 25-year-old has been the Hornets’ stand-out player this season and has consistently demonstrated that he is capable of playing at the highest level.

(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Usually a holding midfielder, he is best known for his intricate array of passing in the middle of the park and his ability to break up play.

These traits match the qualities Dembele possesses and, therefore, he would prove a smart signing for Spurs.

The Frenchman also boasts an impressive tally in front of goal with seven goals and four assists in the league this season.

According to The Sun, Doucoure has been a previous target for Spurs, and the potential departure of Dembele gives Pochettino a greater incentive to find a replacement for the Belgium midfielder.

The France Under-21 international has two years remaining on his contract at Vicarage Road and is valued at £40 million.

The midfielder has been a goalscoring threat in a Watford side that has struggled to find consistency all season.

A move to one of the top-six would allow Doucoure to take his qualities to the next level and should definitely be a name the Lilywhites are monitoring over the summer period.

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Queens Park Rangers

QPR and Watford must be kicking themselves over Chris Mepham rejection

Both QPR and Watford denied Mepham a chance after he left Chelsea.

Mathew Coull

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It would be fair to say that Brentford defender Chris Mepham has had something of a breakthrough season at Griffin Park. The 20-year-old has emerged as a regular in the Bees side this term and has also made his international debut for Wales back in March.

Such a brilliant season has even seen him catch the eye of Premier League admirers. Bournemouth are clearly big fans. As reported by Wales Online, the Cherries made a £6.5 million approach to sign the defender in the winter after being so impressed with his form at Brentford.

Mepham certainly looks like a future star and one who could someday soon be playing in the Premier League.

Which will certainly not be welcome news as far as Watford and QPR are concerned. Because both clubs had the opportunity to sign the defender.

As reported by The Guardian in an interview with the player, Mepham was turned away by both Watford and the club he supported as a boy QPR after his release from the Chelsea academy. He was battling with the likes of Jake Clarke-Salter and Fikayo Tomori at Chelsea so the release was no surprise.

(Photo by James Chance/Getty Images)

Watford was a harsher moment. He spent six weeks on trial with the Hornets before they decided he was not good enough and QPR were brutal in the way they turned him away. Now, Mepham has become one of the Championships most wanted defenders.

Watford will be disappointed they missed out on such a talent, but it will hurt more for QPR. Struggling to find their ground in the Championship bringing through young players has to be a key target for them to continue thriving. Watford are in a place of privilege where they could easily go and buy Mepham now, should they wish to rectify their previous mistake.

Losing out on a player like Mepham because of poor decision making must hurt now, especially as he is now making waves with a West London rival.

Mepham must continue to grow at Brentford and hope he can eventually find his way into the Premier League.

If he does, Watford and QPR will be left to wonder what he might have done had they given him the chance to succeed.

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