Marco Silva has explained that he left club-record signing Andre Gray out of Watford’s starting XI to face Liverpool on Saturday because the striker is still getting used to the club’s style of football.
Eyebrows were raised on Saturday when Silva, who was taking charge of his first Premier League match as Watford manager, selected Stefano Okaka to start against Liverpool rather than £18.5m summer signing Gray.
But Silva’s team selection was almost immediately vindicated, as Okaka opened the scoring with a powerful header beyond Simon Mignolet after just eight minutes. Liverpool fought back to lead 3-2, but Miguel Britos snatched a point for Silva’s side with another header in the third minute of injury time.
Gray was introduced after an hour of play with Watford chasing the game, but only touched the ball nine times and looked short of match fitness. And Silva later explained that the 26-year-old would take time to adjust to the style of football he is attempting to implement at Vicarage Road.
“We have been working for the last five weeks and he has only come to our team in the last five days. It is a normal thing in football and of course I want to put across my ideas,” Silva said.
“Andre Gray has the skills – I know his skills – but now is the moment for him to understand our expectations of him. The positions I want him to be in on the pitch in some moment of the game and the moves I want for the team, all these things are important.”
One new signing that Silva did select in his starting line-up was Nathaniel Chalobah, who joined the club from Chelsea in a five-year deal worth an initial £5m.
And the 22-year-old, who was making his first ever Premier League start having found himself restricted to appearances from off the bench at Stamford Bridge, hit the ground running with an assured performance in the middle of the park.
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Silva used his new midfielder in a withdrawn position alongside Abdoulaye Doucouré, with the youngster impressing on his return to Vicarage Road after a loan spell at the club five seasons ago. And Silva is confident that – with time – Chalobah will get even better.
“He’s a young boy with very good skills, that is why we signed him,” Silva said. “He’s a boy who was very happy here the last time he played with Watford, and he wants to work which is important.
“I am sure he will improve with more experience, and when he understands better what I want from him. It’s normal that more games will do this for him.”
Watford have been one of the more active clubs in the summer transfer market, recruiting Gray, Chalobah and nine others. But Silva has refused to rule out making any more signings before the transfer window shuts later this month.
“We’ll see,” he added. “We need to work hard, and our board knows as well, we need to do something until the end of the market.”