'Effective, rather than thrilling'

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Watford sacked head coach Marco Silva on Sunday and quickly replaced him with Javi Gracia – a man largely unknown to English football fans.

Spaniard Gracia has been out of work since June, when he left Russian club Rubin Kazan – his most recent job after a 10-year coaching career in his homeland and in Greece.

He has signed an 18-month contract to become the 10th manager to work under the Pozzo family at Vicarage Road since 2012.

But who is the 47-year-old? What can Watford fans expect from a side under his management? And have the club made the right decision to let Silva go?

‘Effective and balanced team, rather than thrilling’

Spanish football expert Andy West

Nobody in Spain will be surprised to see Javi Gracia back in management, because he has regularly been linked with a number of high-profile jobs – including Athletic Bilbao, Sevilla and former club Malaga – since leaving his brief tenure with Rubin Kazan last summer.

Most recently, he was reportedly lined up to take over at Espanyol if Quique Sanchez Flores decided to leave the Barcelona-based club and accept the offer he had from Stoke City.


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The demand for his services stems largely from two highly successful seasons in charge at Malaga, where he enjoyed consecutive top-half finishes between 2014 and 2016.

His team’s achievements during that period, including a 1-0 victory at Barcelona in the middle of the Catalan club’s 2014-15 treble-winning campaign, were largely based on excellent defensive organisation, with Malaga conceding just 35 goals – only one more than Real Madrid – as they finished eighth in his final season at the Rosaleda.

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His teams do not play flowing, attacking football but operate with good positional discipline and are very hard to break down, so Watford fans can prepare for an effective and balanced team rather than a thrilling one.

A mark of his influence is how badly Malaga have struggled this season – they finished in the bottom half last season and are bottom now, having gone through four different managers since Gracia departed just 18 months ago.

His most recent job ended in frustration after just one season, with Kazan finishing in mid-table and Gracia blaming difficulties in communication for his failure to get more out of his players.

But he speaks good English so that should not be a problem at Vicarage Road, and many fans in Spain will be intrigued to see how copes in a new league after coming close to taking over at many clubs in La Liga in the last few months.

‘Team spirit had ebbed away’

BBC chief football reporter Ian Dennis

In announcing Silva’s departure, Watford described Everton’s approach for the Portuguese in November as the “catalyst”.

Things had not been right at the club since they turned down the Toffees’ £8.5m offer. It did not go unnoticed among the Watford hierarchy that Silva did not kill the speculation.

You compare his stance to, say, Burnley boss Sean Dyche when he has been linked with jobs. He will come out with a line that he is fully focused and concentrating on the job. Silva never did that, and the owners believed he had lost focus. They have seen the spirit ebb away from inside the club.

I have been saying for a while that Watford are a club on the slide. Perception is everything. Last season, people would say Walter Mazzarri was struggling but Marco Silva made a strong start and everything was fine. The hard facts are Watford are four points worse off now than at this stage last season.

Watford have got a lot of flak for the hiring and firing, and chopping and changing of managers, but there is no instability in the boardroom. There is a clear focus.

‘Gracia fits the profile’

Independent chief football writer Miguel Delaney

It’s a remarkable turnaround. Marco Silva is a manager who it was reported Manchester United were looking at in the long term. They were impressed with what he’s done. Chelsea had an eye on him.

He’s gone from that, and everyone talking about how good his coaching is, to a relegation with Hull and a sacking, which is incredible.

It’s hard not to get the feeling that he tried to make too many jumps too quickly, having just come to England.

I was talking to an executive at a Premier League club recently, and why they still like young players from Spain and Germany, rather than England, is because of how good the coaching is, and Gracia is the latest in that.

Malaga have had their own issues in the past few years, and he’s helped stabilised the club. It fits the profile for Watford.

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Former Arsenal striker Ian Wright on 606

Marco Silva’s character will be called in to doubt. If a player reacted like that, we’d be criticising him and rightly so. If you want to go and you get that kind of offer, sometimes it is too much to deal with.

Philippe Coutinho was able to do that at Liverpool, Alexis Sanchez couldn’t at Arsenal, Marco Silva couldn’t as a manager. His team stopped performing. Bigger clubs will see that as a fault in him

Watford think things out. They had a plan to see how he would react to the interest from Everton and they think he hasn’t reacted in a positive way. They would have been feeling other people out.

The way Watford have been getting rid of managers anyway, I’m sure they are always looking.

Your reaction on #bbcfootball

Alphonse: Watford did the right thing over Silva. Team had lost its way. Silva responded in an apathetic manner and the team has been feeling that apathy ever since.

Prince Gyimah: Gracia is la decima manager for Watford in six years. They’ve trampled on Chelsea’s record of sacking and appointing.

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Mark: Sooner or later, all of these sackings will backfire on them.

Nick: Marco Silva sacked, while Watford sit in 10th place. A dreadful decision by the Watford board. Let’s just admit it, no-one in Watford will manage longer than one single season.

Johnny: Sacking Silva is probably the best move for both him and the club. Something wasn’t right after Everton’s approach but he’s a good manager so shouldn’t find it hard to get another job. Watford can rebuild now but it’s risky this late in season when facing relegation.

Joe: Watford have made a colossal mistake firing Marco Silva. Clubs go through down times but he had them playing some tasty football earlier this season. Massive mistake in my opinion.

Kim: Watford are an average at best club, with no trophies ever. They are doing well at 10th place in the Premier League and so they decide to sack their seventh manager in the five years since the Pozzo family took over. Will they fall eight places and get relegated?

Chris: It really makes you wonder what owners expect these days. They were 10th. With the greatest of respect were Watford expecting Champions League football next season?

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