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Gianfranco Zola admits some foreign signings need to adapt to pace of English football
Gianfranco Zola believes some of his foreign signings need to adapt to the pace of English football.
The Hornets head coach was speaking after this afternoon’s 3-3 draw with Reading, who took the lead after just eight minutes.
Watford underperformed for most of the opening hour of the contest and were 2-0 and 3-1 behind during the match.
Zola said: “At half-time I just said this isn’t enough. I had the feeling that we were just playing at the back and they were punishing us. We were playing nicely but not creating problems and when you play like that the opposition will take advantage.
“On top of that we were very distracted at the back and you can’t afford to do that in the Championship.
“One of the reasons for that is that in my team there are a lot of players, many of them are foreign, and maybe they think in this Championship it is like their Championship (Italy} where the game builds up slowly.
“Here you start with high intensity and you then find higher intensity. That is something we need to learn quickly.”
He continued: “This is the second time [this season] we have started slowly.
“In the first half I felt like Ikechi Anya and Davide Faraoni were not creating enough. The space was only in the wide areas and if you don’t affect the game in the wide areas then it is difficult.
“The two midfielders (Lewis McGugan and Almen Abdi) and the two strikers (Troy Deeney and Fernando Forestieri) couldn’t find the space and you end up being flat – which is what happened.
“So we changed that. Diego Fabbrini made a big difference but also Ikechi was fantastic and Faraoni was better as well [in the second half].
“But I am expecting much more from Faraoni. I know he can give much more than that.”
Fabbrini came on for defensive midfielder Iriney just before the hour mark and he made a huge difference to the match; winning a penalty and scoring the equaliser in the final minute of normal time.
Zola said: “I thought Fabbrini, along with Javier Acuna, did very well and made a big difference.”
When Zola brought on Fabbrini, he moved Abdi and McGugan into deeper positions and asked Fabbrini to play in the hole behind the front two.
However Zola said: “No I won’t take any of the credit – I would love to but I can’t.
“It was just that the players changed their attitude completely and they started to create problems for Reading.
“We did take off a defensive midfield (Iriney) and put on a striker (Fabbrini) but you can’t do that if you are not supported by everyone trying to do more.”
Watford struggled to cope defensively for much of the game as Reading continuously picked out a man at the far post, which contributed to two of the goals.
Zola said: “It is not because we didn’t have enough height because in terms of height we had more.
“They had the two centre halves (Alex) Pearce and (Sean) Morrison who are very tall but we have (Gabriele) Angella, (Joel) Ekstrand, Lloydy (Doyley) and we had enough to match them but again the attention wasn’t there.
“I could have scored [with a header at the far post today] - well maybe not,” the relatively short Italian joked.
Watford’s second goal came from the penalty spell after Fabbrini was brought down in the box.
Reading’s Danny Guthrie said after the match that he believed it was a penalty and Zola agreed, although he hadn’t seen a definitive replay when he addressed the media.
“I just saw it quickly now [on the TV in the press room]. I don’t know [if it was a penalty],” Zola said.
“But the second one on Acuna was a bigger penalty appeal I believe.”
“I thought the first one and the second one was a penalty,” he added.
Zola was honest in the assessment of his side’s performance and was critical of certain areas of their game.
But he was also happy with the result and praised his team’s character.
“I don’t know if the draw feels like a win but it certainly feels good,” Zola said.
“It was difficult to see us coming back after the first 45 minutes, especially the way we were playing, but we came back strong and deserved the point.
“It was a fantastic game to watch and it was another game for me to enjoy.”
He added: “It pleased me that we didn’t give up. That is the good thing with this team; you can score one or two goals against us but the game is not finished. I am delighted to see that.”
Zola also confirmed Ekstrand was taken off at half-time due to the ankle problem which has hampered his pre-season and meant today was his first league start.
The Hornets head coach said: “Joel wasn’t feeling good; he struggled the whole of the first half. He has a problem with his ankle.
“It is exactly the same thing [as pre-season]. He has a weak ankle and he still has a problem with that.”
You can read a report from today’s match here.
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