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Talking Point: Should Javi Gracia be worried about Watford job?

Javi Gracia

London, August 28: Pressure is reportedly building on Javi Gracia, with Watford the only team in the Premier League left without a point after three matches.

Defeats to Brighton and Hove Albion, Everton and West Ham led the former Malaga boss to admit "the dynamic is not good" as he called for improvement.

The achievements of last season should buy him time to turn results around but scratch beneath the surface and ingrained shortcomings are evident.

An assessment of the Opta data portrays a misfiring team as being on the slide for longer than might have been assumed.

Early promise in Premier League

Gracia took charge of Watford mere hours after Marco Silva's acrimonious exit in January 2018 and, amid the maelstrom, proved a calming presence.

The mild-mannered Spaniard steadied a side which had won one Premier League match in 11 by delivering victories over Chelsea, Everton and West Brom in the space of five games.

Watford ended the season eight points clear of danger and renewed optimism grew into European ambition with a four-match winning streak at the outset of the following campaign.

November brought an inevitable downturn in results but, after earning the club's highest Premier League points total, Gracia appeared untouchable.

He additionally secured an unexpected FA Cup final appearance and a points per game average of 1.18 ranks him level with Quique Sanchez Flores and above former bosses Silva (1.08) and Walter Mazzarri (1.05).

Why, then, does his position appear perilous?

Points becoming precious

A deeper look at the data suggests last season's run to the FA Cup final might have masked the degree to which Watford's results have nosedived in the Premier League.

Vicarage Road was rocking at the end of October as a 3-0 defeat of Huddersfield Town further cemented seventh spot.

Since then, the Hornets have claimed 31 points from 31 matches.

That leaves them in 15th on the form table beginning from November 2018, one place and two points above Cardiff City, despite playing three more top-flight matches than the Championship outfit.

Gracia's win percentage in the same period is a lowly 25.8 per cent.

Mazzarri posted a superior 29 per cent win ratio in the final 31 matches he oversaw before being moved on at the end of the 2016-17 season.

Watford have exhibited a ruthless streak since returning to the Premier League and Gracia will have to address one debilitating deficiency to avoid become the latest casualty.

Missed chances hurting Hornets

Conceding seven goals in three games this term is naturally a point of concern for Gracia, a defensive midfielder during his playing days.

Plugging holes at the back will not solve all of the problems, however.

Since the start of last season, Watford have converted a league-low 29.9 per cent of the 89 'big chances' they have created.

Will Hughes, responsible for a point-blank miss in the 3-1 weekend loss to West Ham, is the worst culprit.

The midfielder has passed up each of his four big chances over the past 12 months, while defenders Craig Cathcart, Christian Kabasele and Adrian Mariappa have each squandered three.

Roberto Pereyra and Andre Gray, with paltry big chance conversion rates of 20 per cent and 28.6 per cent respectively, share large levels of responsibility.

Under pressure to produce a fix, Gracia may have to start making some tough selection decisions.

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Story first published: Wednesday, August 28, 2019, 13:40 [IST]
Other articles published on Aug 28, 2019
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