Emery reveals learning of Gracia's Watford sacking during bizarre chance encounter in Spain

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A unexpected meeting in the Spanish town of Hondarribia quickly turned to shock as the Arsenal boss learned of his counterpart's firing

Arsenal boss Unai Emery has revealed that he found out about Javi Gracia's sacking at the same time as the former Watford boss, with the managerial pair having randomly bumped into each other whilst in Spain.

Gracia was let go by the Hornets last week, with the club sitting bottom of the Premier League having failed to win any of their first four matches of the season. The Spaniard had, however, led the club to an 11th-place finish last term, as well as reaching the FA Cup final.

The manager has since expressed his surprise at his abrupt dismissal, especially after losing out on silverware to eventual league and cup champions Man City – and having been handed a four-and-a-half-year deal in November of last year.

And Emery, who would have been lining up against Gracia this weekend had he not been shown the exit door at Vicarage Road, revealed a rather strange story about how he found about his countryman's sacking.

“It's amazing,” the Gunners boss began. “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 that moment we started speaking about our match [on Saturday]. We finished [our conversation] knowing that he was sacked. It's a good story, yes?

“He's a very good coach as he showed last year with Watford. The club made a decision and I have to respect that. He is going to work and he is going to continue his career like the great coach that he is.”

Watford's hierarchy have since re-hired Quique Sanchez Florez as Gracia's replacement, a figure that Emery knows well from previous encounters when the former was coaching Atletico Madrid.

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Having lost to Flores in the Europa League over two legs, the Arsenal boss will be looking to get one over on his opposite number after learning some valuable lessons.

“I remember [playing against Flores],” he said. “Every coach, every player, every person in football remembers things. I remember we drew 2-2 at home and we drew 0-0 away. In the last minute, the referee did not give us an amazing penalty for the opportunity to win.

“In my way, everything that happened to me is something to learn from, for experience. Sometimes it's positive, sometimes it's negative – but I learned from it all.”

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