Watford fought back from 2-0 down to claim a draw in an entertaining match against Arsenal.
The 2-2 result will please new Watford boss Quique Sanchez Flores who replaced the sacked Javi Gracia during the international break. The returning Spaniard witnessed his side drag themselves back level after Arsenal’s key man Pierre- Emerick Aubameyang hit a typically clinical double.
The first was taken expertly on the volley after good work in the Arsenal midfield meant Sead Kolasinac could drive forwards and present the former AC Milan man with half a chance. It was one he took as Aubameyang had one touch to swivel and then fire past the hapless Ben Foster. The Gabon international striker doubled his tally soon after with a back-post tap in presented on a plate by Ainsley Maitland-Niles who had been slid in behind expertly by the returning Mesut Ozil.
Arsenal’s downfall was one of their own making though, something all too familiar to Gunners fans. Sokratis’ pass was intercepted and then fired home by Tom Cleverley as Watford finally took advantage of Arsenal’s attempts to play out from the back via the goalkeeper.
Momentum swung and Watford took control of the match and deservedly found an equaliser via the spot. Roberto Pereyra picked himself up after being fouled by David Luiz and calmly slotted the ball home. Both sides will be happy with a draw after a game that swung from side to side but Watford will feel they could have nicked it at the death and will take a lot of momentum into their upcoming fixtures.
Here are five things we learned from today’s encounter…
Goals change games
It’s a classic saying in football, that goals change games and today’s fixture at Vicarage Road was a prime example. Flores’ Hornets came out of the blocks with a point to prove and started the match well, dominating the first 20 minutes. The game got turned on its head, however, after Will Hughes was dispossessed on the half-way line by Dani Ceballos, Kolasinac pounced, sprinting forward before releasing Aubameyang who finished expertly.The Gabon striker added a second soon after as the Gunners began to take control of proceedings and the North London club went into half-time 2-0 up and cruising.
Momentum swung again in this entertaining affair less than ten minutes after the restart though as Gerard Deulofeu intercepted a poor Sokratis pass, deflecting the ball into Tom Cleverley’s path who couldn’t turn down such a glorious opening. Watford slowly edged their way back into the match after finding their first goal and became the commanding force, finally getting an equaliser through Roberto Pereyra, who converted from the spot with 10 minutes remaining.
Last year’s FA Cup finalist finished this topsy turvy encounter on top and were unlucky not to take home all three points when Abdoulaye Doucoure led a late break away but couldn’t apply the finish.
Aubameyang the main man
Aubameyang was playing in his favourite position in the middle of the front-three against Watford and staked his claim for remaining there. His brace took him to five for the season and brought his overall tally up to 37 goals in his 54 Premier League game, an astonishing record considering he has played a number of those matches out wide.
When people talk about who is the best striker in England at the current time a few names spring to mind; Aguero, Kane, Firmino but Arsenal’s number 14 surely has to be considered amongst that illustrious list. His pace, movement, and finishing make him a threat against any opponent and his first goal today was an example of how little of a chance he needs to find the back of the net.
The former Dortmund striker may still be awaiting his first Premier League hat-trick but it is surely only a matter of time. A player of his quality needs to be competing for trophies or at the very least playing Champions League football, a fact that the Arsenal board must surely be aware of. At 30 years of age, time is not on Aubameyang’s side and if the Gunners cannot match his ambitions perhaps his days could be numbered at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal’s defensive issues cost them AGAIN
Arsenal just never seem to learn their lessons defensively, it must be so infuriating being a supporter of theirs. The Gunners gifted Watford both of their goals this afternoon as their insistence on playing out from goal-kicks finally caught them out. Matteo Guendouzi twice almost presented the Hornets with tap ins, as he took far too much time on the ball and then played a stray pass when receiving it in and around his own 18 yard-box from Bernd Leno.
It was third time lucky for Watford as Arsenal failed to change their routine up and Sokratis eventually presented a golden chance to the club propping the table up. That is now 14 errors leading to goals since the start of last season for Arsenal, more than any other club.
The second goal was equally as abysmal from Emery’s point of view as Watford broke with Pereya who jinked past David Luiz just into the Arsenal box and Brazilian’s dangling leg left the referee with no choice but to point to the spot. The Gunners have now conceded three penalties in their last three games, bringing the total up to 10 conceded in total since the start of last season.
Unai Emery’s men have only managed to keep nine clean sheets in 43 Premier League games since the Spaniard took over, something not helped by their poor penalty record but their issues are deep rooted. If Arsenal are finally going to regain their Champions League place there is far more work to be done at the back. They will be hoping the return of Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, and new signing Kieran Tierney can add some defensive stability.
New man, new hope for Watford
Watford may have extended their winless run to 17 games and are still looking for their 100th home win in the top division (a feat they have been trying to achieve since 2nd April) but there is certainly new hope surrounding Vicarage Road with the new man at the helm.
Javi Gracia was well liked by the Watford fans after last season’s run to the FA Cup final and 11th placed finish but the sluggish end to that campaign, including the record-breaking 6-0 loss to Manchester City in the final, combined with the poor beginning to 2019/20 left the fans feeling a bit flat and ready for change.
The Pozzo family who run Watford football club have turned to a man they know well in Quique Sanchez Flores, who was in charge of the club for the 2015/16 season. The Spaniard has since managed in his native country, as well as China, but his team seemed ready to fight for him once again.
He is known to be more defensive than his predecessor, a fact which may have been a key factor in his reappointment, as the Hornets have often been so vulnerable at the back in recent times. The determination shown from Flores’ men to fight back from two goals down and almost claim all three points will allow the new boss to sleep easy tonight. If he can get the most from talents like Doucoure, Deulofeu, and Pereya then Watford should have no problem climbing the table.
Arsenal lack strength in depth in attack
Aubameyang’s latest haul means that 17 of Arsenals last 20 goals have been scored by either Lacazette or the Gabonese hit-man: 12 for Aubameyang, five for Lacazette and three for all other players combined. Their over reliance on their star duo has meant they have now lost 16 of their last 30 away games, a very worrying statistic.
With Lacazette now out injured until October and no obvious replacement available, Gunners fans must be extremely worried about the weeks ahead. With the Europa League group stages about to begin there will be no let-up in games and Aubameyang may be expected to play in all of them as Emery and the Arsenal board failed to replace the released Danny Welbeck and the loaned out youngster Eddie Nkitiah to Leeds.
All of these decisions seem very unwise in hindsight as Emery was unable to affect the game with his substitutions, unlike Flores who helped his team turn the game on its head. With Pepe yet to be firing on all cylinders after his £72 million move, Reiss Nelson struggling for form and Ozil only making his first start of the campaign today, the pressure really is on Aubameyang to deliver – injury to him could end Arsenal’s hopes of success this season.