Javi Gracia begins his first full season in charge of Watford as they prepare to start their fourth successive Premier League campaign. The boss replaced now-Everton manager Marco Silva in January and guided them to 14th.
Watford Season Preview
Last Time Out
Watford started the season with just one loss in their opening eight games; a 6-0 drumming by a rampant Manchester City. In that time, though, they recorded away victories at Swansea and Bournemouth, a home win over Arsenal and a thrilling 3-3 opening day draw with Liverpool.
Fast forward to the end of the season, and it’s a completely different story. The Hornets’ form dipped over the Christmas period, which resulted in the sacking of Marco Silva (along with his interest in the Everton job). He was replaced by Javi Gracia, who could not really turn anything around. His most notable game would be the 4-1 over Chelsea at Vicarage Road, but a run of one win in their final nine games saw them dangle precariously over the relegation zone.
Their early season form was definitely a massive factor to keeping them in the division. What will worry Watford fans is that this was achieved by a man who is no longer at the club. Will Gracia be able to emulate what Silva did with a squad overhaul and a full pre-season under his belt?
With so many players coming through the doors at Watford in the last few years, it’s hard to pick one standout player who can make a real impact. The Hornets have made six signings already this summer, whilst the ten signed last summer are still relatively new faces to many fans.
The marquee signing so far this transfer window is Gerard Deulofeu from Barcelona. The winger spent the second half of last season on loan in Hertfordshire and has previously had two spells in England, both with Everton.
If Watford can get him firing, he is sure to be a massive help towards the goal-scoring tally as well as being the creative spark for forward Troy Deeney.
At 48-years-old, Javi Gracia is one of the younger managers in the Premier League. However, he is no less experienced. Gracia has accumulated 405 games as a manager in his career and boasts a 40.7% win rate.
His 26.7% win rate with Watford last season is the lowest in his career, however, it is currently the shortest amount of time he has spent with a club, so expect this to steadily increase as the season progresses.
His two titles as a manager have both been in Spain; he has won the Segunda Division B twice. One came with Pontevedra in 2006/07 and the second with Cadiz in 2008/09.
It’s unlikely that he’ll win any silverware this season with Watford, but if he can secure a Premier League place for next season with relative ease and provide a cup run of sorts, he should go down as one of the more successful managers that Watford have had in recent history.
With the Hornets nowhere close to challenging for a title but also seemingly too good to be drawn into a relegation battle, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where they could finish among the abundance of mid-table places the Premier Leauge offers.
The signings they have made so far this summer show perhaps a tad more ambition than previous campaigns, so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility for them to finish higher than the 14th they achieved last season. Their aim is surely to be in the top half, but they still lack a killer instinct in front of goal, so may fall just short in 11th.