WILL JAVI GRACIA LAST LONG ENOUGH TO BUILD HIS OWN SIDE?
Even in the sack-happy landscape of Premier League football, Watford’s hire ’em and fire ’em blitzkrieg looks mad. Javi Gracia is the 10th Hornets manager since the Pozzo family took over in 2012, and most incumbents rack up 30-odd league matches before feeling their wrath. Gianfranco Zola (2012-13) was the last gaffer to have 40 league games at the helm. Somehow, the insanity appears to have worked for the Pozzos. Watford have been so vastly improved on and off the pitch – solid scouting network, decent facilities, healthy transfer budget – that whichever bloke they slot in has ample opportunity to do all right. It may be an easy fix to get rid of the manager, but in Hertfordshire it can be done with less disruption than at most outfits. The owners also identify new victims – sorry: potential bringers of managerial excellence – early, so they can slide into the existing culture at the club, instead of having to build their own. Watford supporters largely understand, as you would when you’re taken from the brink of bankruptcy to signing Gerard Deulofeu from Barcelona, and they aren’t shy about calling for heads on sticks themselves – just ask Walter Mazzarri. However, having finally put behind them the Marco Silva debacle that derailed much of last season, Watford fans must surely be hankering for a smidgeon of stability. Gracia arrived in January with a reputation for helping less fashionable teams to turn over the big boys, most notably at Malaga, and he did reasonably well to tidy up the mess he’d been bequeathed. Yet the Spaniard may not have long to make the most of a talented squad, which has been bolstered further by the usual easyJet-load of young signings that Watford make every summer. Stepping off the plane are half a dozen players aged 18-24, arriving from such exotic destinations as Ostersunds, Bologna and Stevenage. The manager’s qualities should work well with this group. He is level-headed, tactically very clear, extremely hard-working and loyal to his players. Ultimately, the answer to questions over his future lies with Gino Pozzo and his pals. So far, they have been happy to change things up and gamble that it keeps them dining at the top table. Javi has to work much faster than most to break the cycle. The 48-year-old’s 40th Premier League game in charge of Watford will be at the start of February. Will he survive to see the January transfer window close?