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Eight things you need to know about Watford head coach Xisco Munoz

Watford Head Coach: Xisco Munoz
Watford Head Coach: Xisco Munoz

There were a number of impressive managerial displays upon the return of the Premier League.

Nuno Santo began life at Tottenham in style with a 1-0 win over Pep Guardiola’s defending champs, Thomas Frank orchestrated a superb 2-0 victory over Mikel Arteta’s sorry Arsenal, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer propelled Man Utd to the summit of the table after a five star performance against Leeds.

One manager who was expected to struggle on his Premier league managerial debut was Xisco Muñoz. Yet, over in Hertfordshire on Saturday afternoon, the Watford head coach conjured up a treat for the returning fans at Vicarage Road in the form of a 3-2 triumph over Dean Smith’s Aston Villa.

While Munoz is obviously well known to the Watford faithful, plus followers of the Championship and Spanish football fans, there remains a sense of mystery around him; a rare feat for a Premier League manager. 

For those of you who want to discover a little bit more about the Spanish coach, we bring you eight things you need to know...

1. Rafa Benitez influence

As a player Munoz sported the shirts of Recreativo, Tenerife, Valencia, Real Betis, Levante, Gimnàstic, and Dinamo Tbilisi who he went on to manage.

It was at Valencia where the winger won La Liga and the UEFA Cup under the tutorship of a certain Rafa Benitez.

"Rafa Benitez is a coach who doesn’t care who you are but only looks at what you can do. And I won’t forget that,” said Munoz. “Yeah, he was the one who taught me the most because he explained things and did it brilliantly. Rafa made me".

He’s since replicated the former Newcastle boss by leading a relegated side straight back into the Premier League.

Munoz won two trophies under Rafa Benitez at Valencia
Munoz won two trophies under Rafa Benitez at Valencia

2. Appointed after an 11 game stint in Georgia

Over the last decade we’ve become well accustomed to Watford changing managers. A whole host of gaffers have taken a seat in the Hornets hot seat since the Pozzo family took over, many of whom are now tiny footnotes in the club’s history. 

The owners aren’t exactly afraid to make a surprise appointment, none more so than last season when they replaced Vladimir Ivic with Munoz just before Christmas.

It was a bold call and led to some frantic Google searches which swiftly revealed that the Spaniard had all of 11 games under his managerial belt from a single stint in Georgia at Dinamo Tbilisi; a job he’s only started that summer; Munoz had previously worked as a coach at Spanish clubs Gimnàstic and Pobla Mafumet.

The Dinamo Tbilisi tenure may have been a short one but Munoz accumulated eight wins from those 11 games en route to securing the top-flight title, before the Hornets came calling and Munoz was rapidly appointed at Vicarage Road. It’s safe to say the gamble paid off.

3. Infectious personality and team spirit

“We play with passion. We play with ambition. We want our fans to feel 'this is my team, these are our warriors.' We will always give the best for this club.” - Xisco Munoz

While it goes without saying that Munoz inherited a strong squad who were 5th in the Championship and just four points off an automatic promotion spot, they were however failing to fulfill their potential back in the second-tier.

Their attitude needed adjusting, the mood needed lifting, and the style needed changing.

Munoz’s infectious enthusiasm, engaging personality, and passion combined to lift spirits and create a strong bond between the players and new coaching staff. He got key players playing to their potential, implemented an attacking philosophy - while keeping his side defensively solid - and made a tactical tweak to a front-three (4-4-2 to 4-3-3). 

His motivational, man-management, and communication skills really shone throughout the second-half of the campaign as he inspired an instant return to the Premier League courtesy of a second-placed finish, winning 18 of his 26 matches along the way, including 12 of his 13 home games.

Watford/Munoz Odds

4. Best win rate of any Watford manager

Yes, he’s only managed 28 games at Watford, but during that time he claimed promotion at the first time of asking and accumulated an impressive 67.86% win rate; that’s 19 wins and just the six defeats.

This figure surpasses that of any manager in the club’s history - including fellow promotion winner Slaviša Jokanović (60%) - so it's well worth shouting about. Although we do expect the above figure to decrease this season as Munoz does battle with some of the sport’s elite teams and managers.

Speaking of which…

5. Learning from the best

The always affable Munoz sounded like an excited fan when he was asked about managing in the Premier League: 

“When you check the names in the Premier League it is like ‘wow’! Guardiola, Klopp, Ancelotti [since switched Everton for Real Madrid] – we have some big, big coaches, so it’s amazing. It will be important to enjoy the situation and to fight, and I will learn a lot.” (via Watford’s magazine).

It’s refreshing that Munoz simply can’t wait to face-off against, and learn from, some of the best managers on the planet. But make no mistake about it, here’s not arrived in England’s top-flight simply to make up the numbers.

6. He was the favourite for the sack

Watford and sacking managers go hand-in-hand.

Munoz is the 13th permanent Hornets boss to work under the Pozzo family, who sacked three different managers last time the club were in the Premier League.

The trigger-happy owners coupled with Munoz’s CV being void of Premier League experience saw bookmakers install him as the ante-post 6/1 favourite to be the first manager to leave.

He's since drifted a little to 8/1 following Watford’s impressive opening day win, whereas Mikel Arteta has emerged as the new frontrunner for the chop.

First Premier League Manager to leave odds

7. Loves an emoji

We’re starting to see more and more managers take the plunge and create a Twitter account, although active managers tend to avoid the platform while they are employed.

Not Munoz.

The 40-year-old takes to twitter to enthuse about his club, particularly the youth sides, and he absolutely loves an emoji; whether it’s the strong bicep, bumble bee (hornet), or our personal favourite; the smiling face with tongue sticking out.

You can see for yourself right here: ​​@28xisco28

8. Didn’t see his family for six months

After sealing promotion to the Premier League Munoz revealed that he hadn’t seen his wife or kids for six months.

“I finished the game immediately and spoke to them,” he told the Watford Observer. “My daughter always asks me why her father never picks her up from school, so today I am very happy because although I have missed spending time with them I have a big dream in my life.”

Munoz described seeing his kids again over the summer as the “best moment”.

Outside of football, Munoz has previously revealed he has a huge passion for horses, padel, and Spanish music.

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