Quique Sanchez Flores conceded Jose Manuel Jurado “was not ready” to be thrown straight back in the thick of a Premier League match following a two-month injury layoff.
Sanchez Flores gambled that Jurado, his summer signing from Spartak Moscow, would be able to hit the ground running after hamstring and calf injuries but he looked off the pace against Manchester United and was hooked at half time.
Sanchez Flores usually forensically studies the form, fitness, game understanding and emotional well being of a player before he even contemplates picking him in his squad. Jurado, on the evidence of the first half, failed to tick at least one of those boxes. He was, however, pitched straight into the starting XI at Dundee United just days after arriving from Moscow. Others have had to undergo a more protracted acclimatisation period.
“Jurado’s morale in the week was very good but in the match he was not ready,” Sanchez Flores said. “In the dressing room, I sent him out and he played really well. He has been training with us for ten days because as we saw in the Arsenal game after the international break players are coming back very tired.”
Ake played last week against Belarus and then again for Holland Under-21s in Slovakia on Tuesday.
“Ake understood the decision and when he got to the pitch he played really well,” said the head coach. “He helps a lot in the second half, very, very well.”
Ake was warming up at half time but admitted his swift introduction caught him cold as Sanchez Flores rarely makes a half-time substitution.
“It was really quick when I came on,” he told Hornets Player. “I didn’t know. There weren’t a lot of instructions [as it was so quick]. I tried to give a positive impact to go forward. It was OK, I could have done better sometimes but I tried to show I want to play.”
Watford looked more balanced with a naturally left-footed player in the side and he was quickly into the action, combining with Odion Ighalo to set up Troy Deeney for a piledriver.”
Sanchez Flores revealed Valon Behrami was absence because of “a kick in the knee” and that he’s struggling to find opportunities for Adlene Guedioura to add to the eight minutes of action he’s had since he joined, on a permanent basis from Crystal Palace.
“The situation with Guedioura is that at the moment I don’t find space for him in the starting XI,” said Sanchez Flores. “There is maybe four or five players who deserve to play but the problem is the first XI that has been playing with us since the very beginning is playing really well. We are in good position we are usually very competitive so it doesn’t give me opportunities to change players.”
Obbi Oulare was named on the bench for the first time, mainly because they were not sure how Ighalo would hold up after his late return from Africa. “Before the corner kick in the second half I wanted to put Oulare on to say you deserve your chance for four or five minutes,” he said.
The head coach said he would go home to his residence in Hampstead, digest the result and watch El Clasico.
“I try not to punish myself too much because results like this are very clear sometimes you play some matches and you have to watch over them but this match is very clear,” he said. “We had a bad first half, the passes and everything else was bad. The second half is good and tomorrow I will probably watch the match again.”
* Additional reporting by Charlie Doris