Despite Arsenal’s 2-0 lead over winless Watford, there was something in the air at Vicarage Road on Saturday.
Just ask Tom Cleverley.
“Arsenal were a bit tentative and we could smell that a bit,” said Cleverley, who scored one of two Watford goals
[ RECAP: Watford 2-2 Arsenal ]
What also stunk was Arsenal’s decision making in the second half.
On a day the Gunners were out shot 31-7 and being held in the match (again) by goalkeeper Bernd Leno, an elementary mistake by Sokratis Papastathopoulos and terrible block by David Luiz allowed Watford a 2-2 in Quique Sanchez Flores’ first match of his second stint as Hornets boss.
“I think the reaction of the players was the most important thing,” said Sanchez Flores. “It’s easy to be down when you are losing 2-0 to a team as good as Arsenal. But we never gave up and we tried to keep the energy. In the second half we played really well.”
Cleverley had a less shielded response to the comeback.
“I would have snatched your hand off for 2-2 at half-time but we should have won it in the end,” Cleverley said. “We can definitely build on this and go forward.”
Quique Sanchez Flores is heading back to Vicarage Road, taking over for fired Javi Gracia at Watford.
Flores managed the Hornets from 2015-16, and has since led Espanyol and Shanghai Shenhua.
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The Hornets have just one point from four matches to start the Premier League season, having drawn Newcastle United 1-1 in Week Four. Their only win came against Coventry City in the League Cup.
The club announced that Gracia was fired earlier Saturday, and that a new hiring was imminent. Gracia led Watford to the FA Cup Final and was the first manager in nine to manage the Hornets for more than 50 matches (51).
Flores, 54, won 16 matches, drew nine, and lost 19 in a single season at Watford. The Hornets finished 13, eight points clear of the drop zone, drew Chelsea twice and beat Liverpool 3-0 amongst their more memorable results of the season.
Watford also made it to the semifinals of the FA Cup, knocking Newcastle United and Arsenal out of the competition.
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Espanyol says it has fired manager Quique Sanchez Flores with the club slumping in the Spanish league and in danger of facing a relegation fight to end the season.
Espanyol announced the decision on Friday, adding sports director Jordi Lardin has also been let go.
Sanchez Flores, a former manager of Atletico Madrid, Valencia and Watford, among other clubs, coached the Barcelona-based club for the past two seasons.
Reserve team coach David Gallego will take over for the remaining five rounds of the season, starting with a visit to Girona on Sunday.
Espanyol hasn’t scored a goal in five matches, and has only two wins in the last 15 rounds. It is in 16th place, nine points from the drop.
Stoke City is looking for its newest manager, and according to one report, it’s looking at a name that will be familiar to some Premier League fans.
The BBC is reporting that Stoke City is interested in former Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores to take over for the departed Mark Hughes, who parted ways with the club on January 6 after a poor run of results. Flores led Watford to a 13th-place finish in the Premier League in 2016, it’s highest position in 29 years, but it wasn’t enough to save his job as Flores was pushed out by the Pozzo family at the end of the 2015-2016 season.
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Shortly after, he said he hoped to manage in the Premier League again. But this time, there is a hitch. Flores is currently the manager of La Liga side Espanyol and Stoke City or Flores himself would likely have to pay up to buy him out of his contract.
Stoke City is reportedly also considering Martin O’Neill, the currently out-of-contract Republic of Ireland boss, though there’s speculation that he could re-sign for another campaign on the Emerald Isle.
Flores doesn’t really have a track record of saving relegation-threatened clubs, having coached bigger clubs throughout most of his career, though he did keep Watford afloat during his season there.
Steve Parish is tired of hiring new managers, and this time wants to nab a lifer for the Crystal Palace managerial post.
“We do not really want someone who sees it as a stepping stone,” said the Palace chairman.
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Saying he’d like to find a man who appreciates Palace’s style of play and wants to grow the club, Parish expounded the virtues of his potential boss on Sirius XM’s FC show.
“We have got a personnel and a way of playing. It has served us well. Do we try and change that again? That will inform probably where we go on the list of managers. After that you are just looking for somebody who has got a long-term view for the club.”
In 112 years of play, the club has hired exactly one manager from outside Wales, Scotland, England, and Ireland, and the bettors’ favorite for the job is Burnley man Sean Dyche. Also on that list with decent odds are Garry Monk and Roy Hodgson.
At 69, that last name doesn’t fit the bill of a long-term solution (though it’s energy, not age, that would dictate that).
Some other ideas who could fit Palace’s bill, especially if they are open to heading away from the island in terms of nationality (and one Brit, too).
- Jaap Stam — The Reading boss has had an outstanding debut as First Team manager, and is well-connected in terms of the transfer market.
- Thomas Tuchel — Would the ex-BVB man be willing to dip down from the Champions League to challenge his predecessor Jurgen Klopp and old nemesis Pep Guardiola in the Premier League?
- Nigel Clough — Currently with Burton Albion, a club he also played for, would he relish a chance at the PL?
- Walter Mazzarri or Quique Flores — Both kept Watford in the Premier League, and both were victims of the notoriously short-sighted Hornets.