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Arsenal stung by the Hornets in a gutless performance at vicarage road

Arsenal, Saliba, football

Sometimes looking for positives in something is like trying to fashion diamonds from pig shit and that performance from Arsenal certainly required a level of optimism and imagination to draw any positives from an extremely disappointing result. 2-0 up and against the run, the advantage was purely down to the ability of a world class striker and last years joint golden boot winner, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang.

Watford looked hungry and showed plenty of pace, skill and desire and even with a two goal advantage, the game was far from a foregone conclusion and there was a suspicion in the back of my mind that Arsenal might even be fortunate to grab a draw.

The catalyst for Unai Emery’s problems was the all consuming obsession with playing out from the back with a series of poor passes that could be intercepted at will.

The established plan of short passes played out from the back would be fine with a solid back four but Arsenal don’t possess that and as a result, they made life constantly difficult for themselves.

Gunners fans had to literally hold their breath on occasion and I will freely admit to a nervous stomach rumble every time Arsenal insisted on plan A. Emery will soon have options with Holding, Bellerin and Tierney returning to full fitness but in the meantime the fundamental flaw is still in place and it’s going to cost points even at this early stage.

One senses that those returns can’t come quick enough to prevent the clamour for Emery’s dismissal from a section of half wits but Emery, who was touted as a tactician has failed on occasions where it was felt an Arsenal win should have been a formality.

If supporters thought that a few slick acquisitions would suddenly turn Arsenal into title contenders, this match added some perspective. There’s a lot of work to be done still and time won’t always be on the Spanish coaches side once he has assembled his final version of Arsenal.

However, with so much depending on results in the premier league, there is no such thing as a free lunch in the form of three points and if anyone can show Arsenal a thing or two, it’s a Watford side that have had a poor start and with a new/old manager.

Watford were ready to raid Arsenal’s box at every opportunity and there were plenty of chances to capitalise on. You could feel the nerves spread from the pitch to the stands and it didn’t improve even after Aubameyang dished out the punishment with his usual aplomb.

Arsenal were nearly caught out early on in the first half with a short suicidal ball to Guendouzi. The French youngster lost it on the edge of the area and Watford nearly opened their account but the gunners refused to alter their tactics and would eventually pay the price for a Sunday style kickabout.

In the 21st minute, Kolasinac picked the ball up and sprinted a good 25/39 yards to find Aubameyang, who took a pass, turned and fired in a ballistic shot. Some indifferent Watford defending in the 32nd minute saw Ozil deliver a perfect ball through a swath of players to Maitland Niles, who in turn found Aubameyang to slam the ball home for his second.

Arsenal were in cruise control at this point but they would soon demonstrate the same old lapses to hand the Hornets a lifeline. Watford came out a different team in the second half, pressing the defence and opening up large spaces on the left, the right and in the middle. Arsenal seemed fearful and incapable of working as a unit to offer Leno protection but it was the short pass out from the back that did the damage.

Sokratis was insistent on playing the ball to Guendouzi but in the 53rd minute he only managed to find Deulofeu. Tom Cleverley gratefully received the ball and slotted home, how he enjoys playing against a sloppy, amateurish Arsenal.

It was another duff performance for Arsenal from David Luiz, who is looking like another Chelsea landmine in the same vain as Petr Cech. With each sticky appearance, the defender seems to suffer a catastrophic failure in self belief. He’s like a man playing in butter boots on a glass surface and Watford exposed his overriding weakness.

When back peddling in a contest with Watford substitute Roberto Pereyra. It seemed almost inevitable that the Brazilian would upend him with a poorly placed leg. An act of desperation or incompetence when under pressure ? It was hard to know which but the result was the same, a clear penalty.

Arsenal’s luck was due to run out and if the first half was deemed a shoddy affair which yielded a two goal advantage, then the second 45 was far worse.

READ MORE: Retrospective Part One | Could Arsene Wenger Have Been Saved ?

It was a distinctly spiritless and gutless display where Arsenal allowed themselves to be dominated and contained. At times it was pitiful to watch and one assumed that Emery had handed out sedatives at halftime to lower the anxiety of the players. If he did, he should have handed them out to the supporters, it was dire !

When Watford turned up the heat and came forward in numbers, it overwhelmed Arsenal’s midfield and defence.

At times, Arsenal seemed dazzled by the Hornets endeavours, almost admiring their work whilst ignoring their own duties. Watford were desperately unlucky not to grab all three points and the score could easily have been 5-2 in their favour. Aubameyang and Leno apart, the rest of the team need to look long and hard at themselves in the mirror.

Emery will need to resolve his team issues for the next Arsenal game to relieve the increasing pressure but apart from the loss to Liverpool, they haven’t lost a game. It’s intensely frustrating for all concerned but Manchester City’s loss to Norwich underlines the openness of the premier league.

Liverpool have found their stride and are already 5 points clear of the competition. Arsenal need to string a run of results together if they are genuinely going to be considered as contenders for a Champions league slot.


  • It’s the third game this season where the team selection hasn’t been right in my opinion and the International break appears to have made Arsenal appear sluggish and ill prepared.Emery needs to get his front line firing together, find a combative but creative midfield and somehow stop the side from conceding.
  • Ozil showed a few flashes of his magic but not enough to suggest a run of games.
  • Cabellos spluttered to get into the game but was he probably deeply frustrated by his dysfunctional team mates. Xhaka as Arsenal captain showed a million reasons why he shouldn’t be, mainly due to lack of inspiration and leadership.

  • Willock and Nelson never really got going but let’s not blame the youngsters for this travesty of a display. Guendouzi’s performance was a complete contrast to his heroics in the NLD. He looked flat footed, lacked quickness of thought and managed to get himself booked in a handbags incident but at least he showed some sort of passion.

READ MORE: Incredible, Gary Neville- The Underminer Doesn’t Trust Key Arsenal Player

The Highbury Flyer
Anti Kroenke , anti Gazidis but always a gooner. Still wishes he could watch from the stands at the Highbury library.

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