Gracia: “All My Players Are Ready To Compete”
By Kevin Affleck
Javi Gracia felt Adalberto Peñaranda always had that sort of strike in his locker after watching the Venezuelan open his Watford account in spectacular fashion.
Peñaranda came off the bench on 64 minutes for only his third ever appearance for the club and took just four minutes to make his mark, cracking one into the roof of the net from just outside the box. Ben Wilson, the Coventry 'keeper, stood no absolutely no chance.
“It was a great goal,” said Gracia on Peñaranda's first goal for anyone since April 2016. “It doesn't surprise me. I know Peña is able do these things. He needs to do it more often and more consistently. Maybe he didn't have many chances before to play but today he did it well and helped the team and scored his goal well.”
Peñaranda's goal was struck with such venom that it upstaged a goal on full debut for club-record signing Ismaïla Sarr, which takes some doing. Gracia is excited about the potential of the Senegal international after getting a glimpse of what he can do in a live game.
“Sarr started training with us later and I think he’s not in the best condition yet and needs time to do it,” said Gracia. "I think games like today help him to do it. But not only him, all the players today competed really well."
Mark Robins, the Coventry manager, had warned his team about the threat Sarr would pose, but forewarned didn't necessarily mean his team was forearmed.
“He is absolutely lightning,” said Robins. “He looks a real talent and like he could catch pigeons.”
Danny Welbeck is no slouch but it's his endurance levels that will have benefited from a first 90 minutes since October 4.
“He needs to compete, he needs to play,” said Gracia. “Maybe he is not in his best condition yet and needs time, same as Roberto Pereyra and like Sarr. They need time to improve and be in their best way – not only in training but playing as well.”
Daryl Janmaat couldn't have done anymore to push his claims for a recall to the Premier League XI. He locked down the right-hand side of the defence, helped keep a clean sheet and popped up on the left, cut on his right and slammed in the second goal.
“I know Daryl is playing well, not only today but from the first day in pre-season,” said Gracia. “He is working really well. In his position there are other players, like Kiko. Foulquier played as a left-back but I know he feels better at right-back. I have many players in a good moment to choose in some positions. All of them are in my mind but I have to chose only one.
“We play on Saturday and all my players are ready to compete in the different competitions we have. We did it last season. They deserve the chance to play in different competitions, in the Carabao Cup, in the FA Cup and in the Premier League. My squad is ready to do it, like today. They deserve these rewards.”
Robins was impressed by the depth of the Hornets' squad and the attitude of the newly-configured XI.
“It was difficult to know which side they would put out,” said the Coventry manager. “We weren't too far away [with our guess] but stopping them was another matter. We hoped to come up against a side that was a bit sulky and a bit moody but that wasn't the case. There are some real talented boys there and they did it the right way. It was very difficult for us to get anything from the game.”