Arsenal boss Unai Emery has revealed how a chance encounter with Javi Gracia in Spain coincided with his former team-mate’s dismissal from Watford.
Gracia lost his job following a run of one draw and three defeats to start the Premier League season.
The ex-Osasuna, Malaga and Rubin Kazan head coach had travelled to his homeland during the international break and bumped into Emery in the Basque region.
The pair were discussing the forthcoming fixture between their teams when news of Watford’s decision came through.
“It’s amazing,” Emery said. “I met him, we found each other last week in my town, in Hondarribia, when I was there with my family.
“I was walking and in front of us was Javi Gracia.
“And in the moment we started speaking about our match, and we finished it knowing he was sacked. It’s a good story, yes?”
Look who’s back pic.twitter.com/txrFDx6lL8
— Watford Football Club (@WatfordFC) September 9, 2019
Gracia and Emery shared the Real Sociedad dressing room as players in the mid-1990s and their relationship played a part in the latter’s appointment at Arsenal in 2018.
“When the possibility opened up to sign here, the first coach, the first person in the football world I called was him,” Emery said.
“I asked him some questions about the football here, the clubs, Arsenal and he recommended to me that I come here.”
Emery added: “He is a very good coach, as he showed last year in Watford. The club decided [to part company with him] and I have to respect that.
“He is going to work and he is going to continue his career like he is, like a great coach.”
Watford, FA Cup finalists last season, immediately turned to Quique Sanchez Flores to fill the post.
Flores coached the club during the 2015-16 season and commences his second stint in charge at home to Arsenal on Sunday.