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Javi Gracia Named As Jesse Marsch’s Replacement

Javi Gracia managed Watford from January 2018 to September 2019

Leeds United have agreed terms with former Watford boss Javi Gracia to replace Jesse Marsch as manager.

Marsch was sacked on 6 February but Leeds have faced several setbacks in their hunt for his replacement.

Spaniard Gracia, 52, took Watford to the FA Cup final in 2019, before managing Valencia and Qatari club Al Sadd.

Leeds are 19th in the Premier League and host bottom club Southampton in their next game on Saturday.

The club say Gracia has been appointed on a “flexible contract” and will take charge of the side against Saints “subject to obtaining the necessary work permissions”.

Under-21s boss Michael Skubala has been in interim charge since Marsch’s sacking despite club owner Andrea Radrizzani initially promising a quick appointment.

An approach for Rayo Vallecano’s Andoni Iraola was blocked, while Feyenoord’s Arne Slot ruled himself out.

Former Ajax manager Alfred Schreuder fell out of contention after a negative reaction from many fans, and Carlos Corberan – who previously worked under Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds – signed a new contract at West Brom.

Gracia was sacked by Watford in September 2019 after a poor start to the season.

Having been appointed in January 2018, he led the Hornets to an 11th-place finish in the Premier League and a first FA Cup final in 35 years in his only full season in charge.

He won 18 of his 56 matches as a manager in the Premier League, taking an average of 1.18 points per match.

Leeds have won just four league games this season, their last coming against Bournemouth on 5 November.

On Saturday, they failed to register a shot on target in a 1-0 defeat by fellow strugglers Everton.

Analysis – ‘Gracia knows what is required’

Spanish football expert Guillem Balague

He is a manager that doesn’t have just one style, he adapts to the types of players he has.

That is why he will work very well for Watford or Leeds. Because if they have to become more defensive, he will be able to adjust that, if they need more goals, he will also be able to do it in training. I have been to see him a few times in old jobs and he develops a very close relationship with players, he was a player himself at the top level.

And he knows what is required. He is quiet when he has to be, raises his voice when he has to. He convinces players by working with them, not imposing his personality. He is a great reader of games.

‘Staying up is the key priority for Gracia’

BBC Radio Leeds’ Adam Pope says Gracia’s most important objective is keeping Leeds in the top flight.

“Firstly, staying in the division has to be it [the priority],” said Pope. “Let’s forget any long-termism.

“He has to keep them up, like he did with Watford. Leeds are in a far worse position that Watford were then though.

“Since the white smoke tweet went out from the Leeds chairman, suggesting they were going to make an appointment about a week or so ago, fans have been thinking, ‘what’s going on?’

“It has been a bit of a farce and it got to the stage, after a dire performance against Everton, where it was just relief.

“There is credibility here because he has done well at Watford in the past. He has Premier League credentials. As well as relief, there is the feeling he knows what he is doing.

“I think as soon as it got to this stage, they have left it too late. Any long-term appointment has gone beyond them, hence the flexible nature. We can see his mission is to keep them in the division.”

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, former England forward Alan Shearer said: “They had to do something and they had to do it quickly because they were hopeless at the weekend. Devoid of ideas, no goal threat, they had to appoint someone.

“He has Premier League experience and he is available. He doesn’t demand a long contract. He has one job and that is to keep them up, it is going to be very, very difficult.”

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