Javi Gracia’s incredible tenure at Watford has the Hornets fighting for a place in the Europa League next season.
The defeat against Manchester City meant that Watford fell a point behind 7th-placed Wolverhampton Wanderers but with 8 games still to play, the race for the final European spot is well and truly on.
Irrespective of where they finish this season, Watford need to address their ageing defensce. Christian Kabesele at 28 years old is the only centre-back in the Hornets’ side under 30 and a younger addition is absolutely vital in the summer.
One young defender that Javi Gracia should consider targeting is Hertha Berlin’s Niklas Stark.
The 23-year-old started out as a defensive midfielder at fellow Bundesliga side Nuremberg but has been converted into a solid centre-back since his move to Hertha in 2015.
One of Germany’s next set of incredible centre-backs along with the like of Jonathan Tah, Niklas Sule and Matthias Ginter, Stark has shown real promise over the last few seasons and has been a vital part of Hertha’s campaigns.
Thanks to his development as a midfielder, Stark is a calm and composed figure on the ball and rarely ever gives the ball away.
The German uses his 6ft 2in frame to brilliant effect and is a dominant figure in the air both inside and outside the box, having won 2.7 aerial duels per game this season.
Stark’s versatility of playing in defensive midfield will also prove to be a brilliant option to have for Javi Gracia. Stark’s good range of passing in the midfield will be highly beneficial, especially with the likes of Gerard Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyra thriving when supplied.
Irrespective of his position, Stark’s most important trait is his tackling. His ability to retrieve the ball from an opponent without conceding a foul will be a brilliant asset, especially against players of high technical ability in the Premier League.
Starke averages 1.3 tackles, 1.7 interceptions, 1.2 blocks and a staggering 6.6 clearances per 90 minutes while conceding just 0.9 fouls per game. The 23-year-old also averages 43.8 passes per game and 2.4 long balls with a healthy passing accuracy of over 82%. (WhoScored)
An investment on a central defender this summer is an absolute necessity for the Hornets and if Javi Gracia can convince Niklas Stark to make a switch to Vicarage road, Watford will be in brilliant shape next season.
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Stark’s versatility of being able to play in the midfield and in defence will open up a ton of different options for Gracia and his solid defensive ability will be a massive asset for the Hornets next season.
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