In their owns words, Unai Emery and Javi Gracia open up about each other
On Monday night two Spaniards, two friends, two men with their own agendas, meet in a game that could be pivotal to their respective end of season success, or not as may be the case.
Watford manager Javi Gracia and Arsenal manager Unai Emery know each other very well, they have had dinner together, they have played together and it is clear they have a hell of a lot of respect for each other.
Emery knows full well what Gracia is capable of, what sort of Watford team he will send out at Vicarage Road on Monday evening and has no illusions about the task ahead.
“I know Javi Gracia and above all his teams are very organised with a big commitment to helping each other” Emery said. “They are very difficult teams to battle because defensively they are very strong and this is now at Watford. They are a very organised team, with a big capacity offensively because they create a good movement and a good idea, a good style to take that. They are going to demand a lot from us on Monday but it is a good match and I appreciate it a lot, and I want to play matches against Javi Gracia and Watford because I think they are doing a big season”
Watford may have a cup final to look forward to, but do not kid yourselves that they have nothing to play for in the league, they are desperate to finish seventh and with both Leicester City and Everton losing, their hopes of achieving that final league position have been given a significant boost.
But Gracia knows that in Emery he has a huge challenge to overcome, he believes that the Arsenal manager is not just one of the best coaches in the Premier League but one in world football.
“We played together at Real Sociedad many years ago and from that moment we have had a good relationship,” said Gracia.
“When we played together we didn’t know we’d be in this situation [playing against each other in the Premier League]. We’ve had dinner together twice [since I’ve been in England] and he’s a good friend. It’s good to see him again. We are very close but our teams and tastes are different. Unai is one of the best coaches in the world – not only in England.”
Friendships and mutual respect are going to have to be put aside Monday night, both managers want to win for different reasons and you can see that there is a friendly personal rivalry there as well, they clearly admire each other and the chance to get one over on each other is an added bonus that you have to think both will relish.
Friendship will be postponed until the final whistle…