Watford 2-1 Arsenal: Wenger’s team lose to more determined Hornets side
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Arsenal lost to a more determined Watford side 2-1 at Vicarage Road.
A first half goal from Per Mertesacker put Arsene Wenger’s men 1-0 up but a penalty from Troy Deeney before a late winner from Tom Cleverely won the game for a Hornets side who refused to be beaten.
Arsenal started the match at Vicarage Road without Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey – who were said to be ‘fatigued’ by a club source before kick off.
In-form Jack Wilshere was left on the bench again, despite Wenger praising him this week. Mesut Ozil remained with the substitutes after the boss appeared to have lost patience with the gifted but mercurial playmaker.
The Gunners went into the match without a goal in their opening three league matches. If they had made it four it would have been the first time since 1936. As it was the last sequence of four away matches without making the net bulge was in 1992.
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The opening half hour was open if scrappy as Watford looked to make inroads. Mohamed Elneny fired narrowly over from distance but the main talking point was whether Per Mertesacker’s alarming lack of pace and mobility would be punished by the lively Watford forwards.
It was good to see Alexandre Lacazette work so hard outside the box, linking well and showing great movement. The value of a true team man cannot be underestimated and the former Lyon forward deserves great credit for the way he has slotted so well into the fabric of the team – while also grabbing four league goals prior to kick-off.
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Arsenal went 1-0 up six minutes before the break after Mertesacker showed an unexpected turn of pace – in the opponent’s box. The big German with the cult song raced away from his marker Tom Cleverly to connect with a Granit Xhaka inswinger to thud the ball past former Spurs keeper Gomes.
The players celebrated with their popular captain as the away fans massed at the other end of the ground did so too. It was a nice moment for the centre-half who grabbed his first competitive goal for Arsenal since the 2015 FA Cup Final.
It was also proof that whatever your views on Arsenal not being particularly efficient in the air the headed goal made it five already this term for the club – the most in the division. On top of the highest Premier League total last season of 17.
Danny Welbeck limped off to be replaced by Mesut Ozil on the hour mark while Lacazette was replaced by Olivier Giroud eight minutes later.
Ozil nearly made an immediate impact, releasing Alex Iwobi, who fired across Gomes’ goal as the Brazilian turned the ball round the post.
But it was Watford who scored after that old warhorse Troy Deeney slotted home a penalty on 71 minutes to make it 1-1.
Deeney, who had come on for Andre Gray on 63 minutes made no mistake, sending Cech the wrong way.
The penalty came after Richarlison went down in the box after a Hector Bellerin challenge. On first sight the decision seemed harsh as there was minimal contact. It was all the more galling as Ozil had been denied by Gomes moments earlier when he was one-on-one to make it 2-0.
It was to prove a pivotal moment.
The momentum was with Watford as Deeney played the ball to Etienne Capoue whose shot deflected off Mertesacker’s chest and low onto the post.
Wenger made two late substitutions that were not to everyone’s liking in the away end as fans sang ‘You Don’t Know What You’re Doing’ after he replaced Alex Iwobi, who worked hard, with Jack Wilshere, who should have started – and moments taking off Laurent Koscielny for Rob Holding.
The change unsettled Arsenal if anything and moments after the PA announced four minutes injury time.
Watford’s tails were up as they pushed into the box for a winner. After a scramble the ball fell to Cleverley in space who emphatically fired the ball home to win the game for Watford.
Most in the Vicarage Road attendance of 20,384 were rightly jumping for joy after the late winner as their team went fourth in the league. For Arsenal the result was more proof that the team simply cannot cope with a team that is far more determined than them to win a game.