Leeds United have appointed the former Watford boss Javi Gracia as their new manager, following the recent sacking of Jesse Marsch. The Spaniard has been appointed on what Sky Sports are descirbing as a ‘flexible contract’.
It emerged on Monday (19 February) that Gracia was one of two names under consideration by the Whites and Football Insider reported that the bosses at Elland Road abandoned the idea of leaving Michael Skubala in charge until the end of the season following Saturday’s defeat by Everton pushed them closer to relegation.
It has been over two weeks since Leeds sacked the American football manager Jesse Marsch but their losing streak continues and fans feared it would extend into this weekend when they take on Southampton, who currently sit bottom of the league, if a major change didn’t happen soon. Leeds are currently 19th in the Premier League.
Several names had been in the mix, including former Liverpool and Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez; Rayo Vallecano’s Andoni Iraola; Feyenoord’s Arne Slot and Alfred Schreuder but fans will delight in the knowledge that a manager has now been appointed.
Here is all you need to know about Javi Gracia...
Who is Javi Gracia?
Javier Gracia Carlos was born in Pamplona and played as a defensive midfielder for Osasuna and Chantrea before moving to Bilbao Athletic where he made 100 league appearances during his three years there. He then moved on to Lleida where in the 1992-93 campaign, the side returned to La Liga after an absence of more than 40 years.
He spent the next six seasons in the top flight, appearing for Real Valladolid and Real Sociedad before returning to the Segunda Division in 1999 with Villarreal CF.
Gracia went on to help the Valencian club to get promoted to the top division after one year. The midfielder then joined Cordoba as his playing career began to come to a close and he appeared in 39 league games for the side before hanging up his boots in 2004.
Who has Gracia managed?
The 52-year-old started his managerial career with the youth squad at Villarreal and has since gone on to manage teams around Europe and the Middle East, including Cadiz, Olympiacos Volou, Osasuna, Malaga, Rubin Kazan, Watford, Valencia and most recently Al Sadd.
His best managerial stats came during his brief stint at the Greek side Olympiacos Volou where his side had a 75% win percentage. At the Qatari side, Al Sadd, Gracia has led the team to a win percentage of 72.7, winning 16 of the 22 games he has been in charge. The 52-year-old manager led the squad to victory in the Qatar Stars League.
He has won two Seguna Divisions - the first in 2006-07 with Pontevedra and the second with Cadiz in 2008-09. Gracia has also led Watford to an FA Cup final, coming runner-up in 2018-19. This was Watford’s first FA Cup final for 35 years and only the second time in the club’s history. In August 2018, Gracia won the Premier League Manager of the Month, having led Watford to domestic safety the previous season.
What are Javi Gracia’s tactics?
According to one of his former players, goalkeeper Ben Foster, Gracia is a manager whom players will immediately warm to and buy into. Back in 2018, Foster spoke to the Mirror saying: “The lads have bought into (Gracia’s) ideas and he puts it across really well. He’s calm, not a ranter and raver, and the players appreciate that.
“He is very big on pressing and pushing higher up the pitch. The main thing is work-rate: there’s a lot of high-intensity running, closing down and closing the space.”
Gracia has often favoured a 4-4-2 system and this has been seen since his time at Malaga. He would often use two deep central midfielders with two wide players who had the freedom to drift infield and contribute centrally. At Al Sadd, Gracia changed it up a little, switching to more of a 3-4-2-1.
However, it is expected that at Leeds, a 4-4-2 will be used with wide full backs, wingers drifting infield, one striker dropping a little deeper, quick transitions and a desire to press.