Arsenal v Watford

Hurelho Gomes jumps for joy; credits 101 great goals.com

Arsenal’s Premier League title hopes suffered a huge blow with a shock home defeat as Watford secured their first top-flight win over the Gunners since 1988.

Former Tottenham defender Younes Kaboul lashed in the opener within 10 minutes for Watford with a shot from outside the area which deflected off Aaron Ramsey.

Just two minutes and 57 seconds later, the visitors doubled their lead as Troy Deeney tapped in the rebound after Etienne Capoue’s fine run ended with his shot being saved by Petr Cech.

The Arsenal goalkeeper was called into action again as he tipped Sebastian Prodl’s header over the crossbar and pushed away Daryl Janmaat’s curling strike.

The hosts improved significantly in the second half and Alex Iwobi pulled a goal back by steering Alexis Sanchez’s cross home.

Lucas Perez struck the crossbar with a powerful drive, but they could not find the equaliser.

Gunners failed to fire

Arsenal here lack width and depth with full backs and midfielders too compact in possession

Arsene Wenger chose a much changed team after the demolition of Southampton in The FA Cup, which may not have been much of a surprise, however his tactics were.

Lining up in a 4-2-3-1 with Oliver Giroud as a lone striker supported by Ozil behind, the two pivots and cautious nature of their play seemed to play into Watford’s hands.

I cannot see why Arsenal need to play with two pivots, and a more expansive 4-3-3 would surely serve Arsenal better?

All the pace and penetration on show at St Mary’s a few days ago had been taken out of the team with Giroud and Ozil rarely penetrating beyond the Watford defence.

The pace out wide against the Saints provided by full backs Hector Bellerin and Keiran Gibbs was much missed.

Watford’s back three played a high line to begin, with Arsenal posing little threat through the middle.

The hornets were able to be very aggressive in the early exchanges and Oliver Giroud was largely anonymous, in contrast to the effective Troy Deeney.

With no threat centrally I expected Arsenal to attack wide, however, their full backs were never advanced enough, allowing the Watford midfield to crowd around the Arsenal players when they did receive.

The Ox is no Carthorse

Alex Iwobi takes on his man as Oxlade-Chamberlain watches on.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain began the game on the bench, despite a scintillating display against his old club Southampton in the FA Cup match on Saturday, although how Arsene Wenger is utilising his talents is puzzling to me.

Oxlade-Chamberlain is an out and out winger and it was his displays for Southampton out wide that convinced Arsene Wenger to shell out £15m for his talents originally.

The Ox made his debut whilst with me at Southampton and he was always destined for the top with his wonderful talents, although I can’t help but feel that he has spent large parts of his career at Arsenal playing in the wrong position.

The Ox is being used presently as a supplier, someone who feeds others and supports behind the ball in a role many players could manage but not many have his talents when he has the ball wide, in space and is running at people.

Against Southampton and Watford he rarely received ahead of the ball, got turned or ran at defenders, all traits you would associate with his talents.

Against a weak Southampton side his range of passing was imperious but against a much better Watford team, his skills were needed higher up the pitch to break down a well organised defence.

Often, Arsenal’s most attacking threat came from their full backs but who would you rather receive in the final third, Gabriel or Oxlade-Chamberlain?

Gabriel cannot go past a player the way the Ox can and in games such as these, that Arsenal need to win, a change was needed.

I think at half-time or when Ramsay was forced off injured, Wenger could have sacrificed a midfielder and played 4-4-2 with Oxlade-Chamberlain positioned out wide in a full back or wide position, to supply a front two of Oliver Giroud and Alexis Sanchez.

The Ox is more than capable of playing two games in succession and you have to remember being a player who sits and serves, is vastly different physically, to one who attacks up and down the wings for 90 minutes.

He would have barely broke a sweat against the Saints and could have started this game to provide more penetration where Arsenal needed it most, in the final third.

Arsenal fail to cope with Troy Deeney


Deeney wins another flick on, with Arsenal providing no screen in front and Watford’s M’Baye Niang is ready to pick up the second ball

One thing Arsene Wenger would have known from Watford’s much changed team against Millwall in the FA Cup Fourth Round tie, was that Troy Deeney would start, so there can be no excuses for how they failed to neutralise his strengths.

From the first kick by Heurelho Gomes, it was clear Troy Deeney was going to position himself against the weaker of the two Arsenal centre backs, Shkodran Mustafi.

Gomes is not renowned for his kicking and his kicks are often punted high with height, which would help Arsenal in trying to screen Deeney in front.

Once it appeared Watford weren’t going to play out, Ramsay or Coquelin could have quickly retreated to screen in front of Deeney, although not once did Arsenal show any inkling to do this to prevent Watford winning the first ball up.

Once Deeney challenged for the ball, Watford had runners going in behind for the second ball and this theme continued until the second half.

At 1-2 up Watford seemed to abandon this idea to adopt a more defensive approach, where they did not commit any players beyond Deeney.

Wide players need work

Arsenal again failed to prevent balls into the box, like the Southampton game previously, and the Arsenal wingers need to improve their defensive skills.

Against Southampton in their previous match, the only time Arsenal looked in trouble out of possession was when their wide players were tasked with defending the ball.

Danny Welbeck in that game was especially slow to press the full back Cuco Martino, who was able to deliver too many crosses into the Arsenal box.

Although, as Southampton only had one up front the threat was minimal, against this giant Watford side however, any ball allowed into the box was a danger.

For Arsenal to tighten up at the back they need wingers who are willing and able to defend, particularly against sides that play in a more direct fashion or with two strikers, for example.

What next?

Arsenal face a crucial trip to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday (kick-off 12:30 GMT), while Watford host Burnley the same day at 15:00 GMT.