Result: Watford 2-2 Arsenal
Competition: Premier League
Date: 15 September 2019
Venue: Vicarage Road
Arsenal: Leno, Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Luiz, Kolasinac, Ceballos, Guendouzi, Xhaka, Ozil, Aubameyang, Pepe
Subs: Martinez, Chambers, Torreira, Willock, Nelson, Saka, Martinelli
Arsenal squandered a two-goal half time advantage as errors by Sokratis and David Luiz allowed a dominant Watford to grab their first home point of the season in a 2-2 draw.
We appeared to be cruising when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice with our first two efforts on target, however, we pressed the self-destruct button with gusto after the break.
We gifted the Hornets a goal from our own goal-kick, Tom Cleverley scoring after a Sokratis pass was intercepted, before Roberto Pereyra, upended by Luiz with nine minutes remaining, tucked home a penalty.
The home side really should have secured all three points but despite 31 efforts on goal, they couldn’t snatch a win on Quique Sanches Flores’ first game back in charge.
In the absence of the injured Alex Lacazette, Unai Emery opted to select Mesut Ozil for the first time this season. The German sat at the head of a midfield diamond that also included Dani Ceballos playing off the right. Lucas Torreira had to settle for a place on the bench.
We were utter garbage in the opening 15 minutes. There’s no other way of describing it. Time and again our passes went awry, we dawdled on the ball and we seemed to conscientious object to the idea of making tackles.
The home side couldn’t believe their luck. Forward they came. Deulofeu set the tone with a curler inside five minutes, Cleverly forced an acrobatic save from Leno five minutes later and Holebas skied over when the goal was gaping. Before the 15 minute mark, the Hornets had mustered five efforts on goal. In contrast, we’d barely been in their half.
Thankfully, we have Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. He’s ruthless. In the space of 11 minutes, he swung the game in our favour. Two efforts. Two goals. His fourth and fifth of the season.
On 21 minutes, Ceballos snapped into a challenge on Hughes on the halfway line, Kolasinac picked up the loose ball, charged towards the box, flicked a pass to Auba who swivelled and fired past Foster at the near post. (1-0). The home crowd were incensed that a foul wasn’t given against Ceballos but despite a VAR check, the goal stood.
We doubled our lead with a lovely 20-pass move. Ozil brought things to a head with a beauty of a threaded pass that freed Maitland-Niles behind Holebas. The right-back looked up and slid a ball to Auba who tapped into an empty net. (2-0)
The goals took the steam out of Watford but we still caused ourselves a few problems.
First, Guendouzi had a brain fart on the edge of our box that resulted in two efforts from the Hornets. Not long after, Maitland-Niles gave away the ball allowing Deulofeu to go at Luiz – the Brazilian resisted the temptation to have a nibble – and Kolasinac gave away a stupid free-kick going to ground unnecessarily.
The half closed with a few handbags as Pepe wound up Holebas who ended up getting a shove from Guendouzi. A few other players piled in. Yellows went to the Frenchman and Greek.
Having been man of the match against Sp*rs, it’s fair to say that Guendouzi did not have his best match here. A suicidal pass across our box – not dissimilar to that played by Ceballos at Anfield – raised pulses. Again Watford failed to capitalise.
On 54 minutes we finally made it too easy for them to miss. Leno played a three-yard goal kick to Sokratis who tried to find Guendouzi on the edge of the box. His pass was intercepted by Deulofeu, fell to Cleverley and the ex-Manchester United man fired past Leno. It was idiotic. The type of mistake that costs you points. And it did. (2-1)
Sensing blood, Watford went for it. Deulofeu flashed wide. Femenia thrashed over. In response, and much to the annoyance of the travelling Gooners, Emery replaced Ceballos with Joe Willock. The pressure kept mounting. Sarr turned in the box and dragged just past Leno’s post. Substitute Pereyra came similarly close with a backheel. Deulofeu cut in and again had Leno scrabbling.
By the 70-minute mark, we’d not added to our shots on target; just the two that hit the back of the net. Pepe and Auba looked very isolated. Emery switched things up taking off Guendouzi and Ozil and putting on Torreira and Nelson. The latter’s first touch was a low shot that Foster got down to save. Further positivity was provided by a Torreira effort. But that was as good as it got.
Once again, abject defending proved our undoing. With 10 minutes left Luiz, struggling to cope with Pereyra dribbling at him, stuck out a foot and tripped the Argentine on the edge of the box. Referee Anthony Taylor had no qualms about pointing to the spot; the third conceded in three games, the 10th since the start of last season. Pereyra dusted himself down and tucked home the penalty. (2-2)
Only one team looked like winning the game. And it wasn’t the team in the attractive red shirts. Deulofeu, Cleverley, Janmaat all had chances before Doucoure, deep into stoppage time, had the best of the lot. His shot was low and true but Leno got down to protect the point. The final whistle came as a relief.
We may have scored two goals but that shouldn’t hide the fact that this was one of the worst performances of Emery’s time in charge. We were awful. Individual mistakes once again cost us the points, but you have to look at the manager and ask, what type of football is this team supposed to be playing. The players don’t seem to have a clue.