It was a familiar tale from Arsenal at Vicarage Road after the team led 2-0 at half-time only to draw 2-2 at full-time. Watford played some good football over the 90 minutes, but they were ultimately gifted the two goals by the Gunners team that has showed an affinity for capitulation on multiple occasions.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang came up with two goals to put Arsenal in a commanding position going into halftime. However, Arsenal’s persistence to play out from the back even when the opposition are pressing with numbers once again reared its ugly head. Papastathopoulos’ poor pass – just yards in front of goal – led to the first ball from Tom Cleverley. It is a mistake that simply should not have happened given the experience in this Arsenal back four. Yet, the experience disintegrated over time – partly with Unai Emery bringing on a couple of youngsters – and the capitulation was complete late in the game when David Luiz made a silly mistake inside the box to give away a penalty.
A string of disappointing results on the road does not give out a good sign for a team that has aspirations of finishing in the top four. It is now three successive games in which Arsenal have conceded two or more goals. Emery’s approach also has a serious problem when it comes to away games. A return of just four wins in the last 15 away trips is not the sign of a team that can finish in the top four.
The misery was compounded in the post-match press conferences when Granit Xhaka admitted that Arsenal were scared of the opposition. Even with a lot of respect to Watford, the opposition just have a new manager after making a poor start to the season. The Hornets finished outside the top 10 in the previous campaign. Should Arsenal players ideally be looking to dominate such an opposition instead of being scared?
One of the few positives for Arsenal from the game was the finishing skills of Aubameyang, who showed that he does not need an invitation to score. Mesut Ozil also came up with brilliant passes to highlight his importance in the team once again. A point happens to be quite a lucky result for Arsenal simply because the stats do not lie. Watford ended the game with a whopping 31 shots at goal – a club record in the Premier League. Meanwhile, the Gunners only had seven shots at goal. The hosts were comprehensive in almost every area of the pitch.
Emery has to sort out the defence and fast. Arsenal have conceded the most number of shots (96) over the last five games than any other team in Europe’s top five leagues. Yes, there have been individually mistakes, but it should not be an excuse for such poor numbers. The team has to start accepting the blame for such figures.
Things do not look great with the Europa League kicking off from Thursday and games against Manchester United around the corner.