4 immediate tasks for Javi Gracia at Watford
Many Premier League followers would not have heard of Javi Gracia. That changed last weekend, though. The Watford faithful must now place complete faith in the Pamplona-born Spaniard to forge a new course after Marco Silva's dismissal.
Gracia has spent only a few days at Vicarage Road, but he already appears to be ticking the right boxes. His words and actions seem faultless.
Four new faces have joined forces with the 47-year-old in Watford's dugout. Yet, much more needs addressing.
Here are four things Javi Gracia must do to revive the Hornets' ailing season.
Return to winning ways
After an incredible start to the campaign, Watford suffered a massive slump. They have picked up maximum points just once since thrashing Newcastle United 3-0 on the road in November. Something radical was needed, hence the Hertfordshire club axed Silva and called on Gracia.
For Gracia to swiftly win over the Hornets supporters and erase his predecessor's somewhat controversial exit, he must win at all costs. The 47-year-old's reign begins at Southampton in the FA Cup. Followed by a Premier League clash away to Stoke City. Anything short of two victories could cause unrest among the fans.
Troy Deeney endured his worst patch under Silva. Although he missed seven matches through suspension, Watford's skipper has notched only three goals during a troubled season.
Off the pitch, Deeney's faced further problems. He's had sessions with a sports psychologist, aiming to improve his conduct and confidence issues. Nonetheless, holding on to the 29-year-old is key for Gracia. The striker's exit would certainly disrupt the harmony at Watford. Reported interest from West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle must be ignored.
A fully-focused Deeney could make all the difference for the Hornets. Gracia must help him rediscover top form.
Address fitness issues
Without any doubt, Silva had a positive impact on Watford. His aura, charisma and brand of football made him popular among the fans. His intense training methods, however, didn't go down well at the club.
As many as 12 first-team players were sidelined during Silva's six months in charge. Although bad luck can play a part in injuries, a crisis of this magnitude indicates the former manager's harsh training regime was at fault. Gracia should lighten the rigorous sessions to enjoy the full luxury of his squad.
Add Defensive stability
Watford were superb going forward under Silva. Even when the strikers constantly fluffed their lines, midfield duo Richarlison and Abdoulaye Doucoure graciously shouldered the goalscoring burden. The pair contributed almost half of the team's Premier League goals with 16.
Praise can't be delivered at the opposite end, however. The Hornets have been woeful at the back, conceding an alarming 44 times in 24 league matches. Only Stoke have shipped in more. More worryingly, though, Watford have failed to keep a clean sheet in 11 successive games.
An experienced centre-back will likely top Gracia's January wish list. For his Watford career to begin smoothly, though, he must explore other defensive options, too. Goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes performed well last season, but he currently needs better protection.