Watford have always been wily opponents, particularly for the Arsenal. Maybe it’s the close proximity of both teams’ training grounds (they share a fence) or maybe it feels like a derby, so there is added incentive for the team from just outside London.
Whatever the case may be, one doesn’t have to go that far into history for evidence of the Hornets discomfiting Arsenal. They had even won their last two away matches against Arsenal; one in the league and one in the FA Cup.
Moreso this season as Watford have particularly impressive since the season began, yet to lose away in the league; the brilliant Marco Silva having an immediate impact on the team, despite the turnover in playing and coaching staff.
Both teams started the game playing three centre backs at the back; Arsenal electing to go with club captain, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal at the back. There were also curious absentees from the squad altogether; Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey didn’t make the team bus, suffering from World Cup non-qualification-itis or maybe from genuine injuries. Who knows. Anyway, Mohammed Elneny and Danny Welbeck replaced them in the lineup.
The inclusion of the club captain in the starting lineup attracted the most criticism and groaning from the Arsenal faithful online. What is an Arsenal match without the fans up in arms about the manager’s team selections?
Initially it seemed like both teams were suffering from interlull hangovers, content to just pass the ball around and be cagey. And when each team ventured into the opponent’s final third, the final pass or cross was missing.
It all changed about ten minutes to the end of the second half. Arsenal won a corner on the right wing, Xhaka took it, swung the ball in. Per was being marked by Tom Cleverly in the box, shrugged him off and nodded the ball past Gomes. Suddenly, Arsenal began to find spaces amongst the Wartford backline. Hector was presented with a very presentable chance with only the keeper to beat when the ball was crossed in from the left. Somehow he contrived to screw the ball wide.
At that point it seemed like only one team was going to win it and it was only a matter of time before Arsenal doubled their lead. Even as the second half began, Arsenal still seemed like the likely winner. Particularly impressive was how the Arsenal team defended against a pacy Watford attack, even the much maligned Per was well involved in clearing away the ball from the Arsenal box, especially from long throws.
Danny Welbeck had been absent for a few matches from the Arsenal team because of injury and it was surprising that he was thrown in from the start. What was not surprising was he went down injured after having a chance thwarted by a Watford defender after being through on goal. The sight of Welbeck going off because of a muscular injury is an all too familiar one for Arsenal fans.
Also surprising for some was the manager’s decision to bring in Mesut Özil for the injured Welbeck. But almost immediately, the manager’s plan seemed to work. Özil soon found space at the edge of the Watford box and played a delightful through pass to Alex Iwobi whose low shot was expertly turned away by the Watford keeper.
Soon it was Iwobi’s turn to be the provider on the counter and when he played the ball to Mesut with only the keeper to beat, the German looked sure to score. Somehow he contrived to play the ball straight at Gomes.
A minute later the game turned on its head; Watford winger, Richarlison broke through the Arsenal box and feeling Bellerin’s breath on him, went down cheaply. Of course, seeing as it was against Arsenal, the referee pointed to the spot. No one really expected Petr Cech to save the penalty and Tory Deeney planted the ball almost straight down the middle. 1-1.
Forget what the commentators and post-match analysts say; that should never have been a penalty. Except when it’s against the Arsenal.
The winning goal for the home team was a comedy performance by the Arsenal backline. Somehow Watford players were able to have three shots at goal while the Arsenal defenders gawped and looked helpless. And so Watford stole all three points at the end for like the third time this season.
Forget what you heard from commentators and post-match analysts; Watford did not deserve to win this match. Arsenal had enough chances and control for the match to have had a different outcome.
Now we have seen this all before; Arsenal go on a winning run after a devastating defeat only to be stopped in their tracks by a team they are expected to beat handsomely. Whether its the manager or player’s fault is irrelevant and not really helpful. It is only October and there is a lot of the season to play for. But it is surely depressing for an Arsenal fan that this keeps happening again and again.