Yet Watford’s Domingos Quina made it look simple.
Replacing the injured Will Hughes with 52 minutes on the clock and with his team trailing the champions 2-0, Quina looked more than comfortable up against a midfield featuring Bernardo Silva, David Silva and Fernandinho. The teenager had taken his chance.
Quina’s form should come as little surprise after early season Carabao Cup outings displayed the talents at the 19-year-old’s disposal; most notably when finding the very top corner from all of 30 yards in a 2-0 defeat of Reading.
Such has been the quality shown by Quina, he has leapfrogged England international Nathaniel Chalobah in the central midfield pecking order and given Gracia a headache when Étienne Capoue returns from suspension.
The Frenchman should be available for the trip to London Stadium this weekend, but Quina has done more than enough to warrant selection against Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham United.
Quina’s tenacious nature is perhaps the most impressive feature of his first few Premier League showings, as evidenced by his 1.65 tackles and 0.82 interceptions per 90. Chalobah, meanwhile, makes 0.93 tackles and 1.87 interceptions.
Capoue does, however, sit out on his own in both respects with 3.23 interceptions per 90 minutes and three tackles, although he has played far more minutes than the aforementioned pair.
There is far more to Quina’s game than simply breaking up play and his passing accuracy of 85.5 per cent is better than both Capoue (83.1) and Chalobah (70.8).
It is not Capoue who Quina will be competing for a place with when the former Tottenham Hotspur man returns, though. He will instead look to remain a prefered choice ahead of Chalobah.
The former Chelsea star has been impacted by having to find his full fitness after spending the best part of a year out after fracturing his kneecap, a situation which has seen him play only 192 Premier League minutes this season – a figure Quina has already outstripped with 217
Chalobah is yet to register an assist, goal or key pass in his six Premier League outings and has had just two shots at goal compared to Quina’s four.
He is also yet to complete a successful take-on, while Quina does so 1.65 times per 90 minutes. The former Chelsea man can, however, lay claim to creating more big chances than Quina, having done so on one occasion.
Nonetheless, Quina will fancy his chances of keeping Chalobah out of the team even if Capoue returns to the Watford XI. With Abdoulaye Doucouré, a scorer of two goals in his last three games, in form, Gracia may be forced to change shape to accommodate all three players.
Again Quina has an extra string to his bow in this regard and the summer signing, who joined from West Ham United in search of regular game time, can play as both a central midfielder or No.10.
Indeed, the youngster has himself gone public with his belief he is better suited to a more attacking role which Hornets fans are yet to see him in.
If he can keep up the standards he has set in his first three league outings, there is little to suggest we won’t get that chance in the not too distant future.