Before I get into the review, I do want to thank Suj and James for having myself and Adam (ThreeFiveWho) on the Clash of the Correspondents ahead of the game week 5 fixture, where Arsenal was visiting Vicarage Road last Sunday. Always a great time with the hosts and Adam, is all class when it comes to his knowledge of the Gunners.
I’ll admit, my confidence was at an all season low ahead of the Gunners visit to Vicarage Road. Three losses in a row, not defending well and unable to muster that finishing ball, Watford came out of the break in 20th, looking up at 19 other Premier League teams. As a supporter, this is NOT our Watford. Call it complacency. Call it a hangover, but the Golden Boys have played some better football the last two weeks.
Headed into last Sunday’s game, Watford had lost three straight against Arsenal, include a 1-0 contest last April, as the Hornets had failed to score in the previous three games. This was also the first game with Quique Sanchez Flores in charge, as I see it a retread. A stop gap until they can find someone else to come in and take the reins of this Watford team. However, I don’t feel there is a “next level” to this squad. We saw the best last year, as we opened the season in fine form, but by all appearances, it was the same Watford with some down months and a manager who took us to new highest, ala Graham Taylor, but nothing more.
QSF did bits when he took over in 2015 after Watford gained promotion, finished 13th in the league table and got the team to the FA Cup semifinals. Can he change the losing, which has been too consistent since midway through last season? Based on his first game in charge, change could be on the horizon, unfortunately it’s a tough stretch of games leading up the second international break. Any other time of the season, I would be excited to be coming off a 2-2 draw with Arsenal, but its big brother knocking on the door, in the form of Manchester City. Regression to be commonplace in game week 6.
Based on the statistics last week, Watford was exceptional! James, at Planet FPL pointed out that Watford has the third most attempts on goal (86). That is third best in the league. The league! Behind Manchester City 102) and Liverpool (91) at the top of the chart with 16 and 15 goals respectively. That’s good company to be keeping, but as evidenced in Sunday’s game, Watford was only able to finish two balls on 10 shots on goal. That’s a 4.7% goal conversion rate, which needs to improve.
It looked as if the game was going to be “more of the same” after 21 minutes, when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored from a beautifully slotted pass from Sead Kolasinac. Aubameyang, the world-class forward he is, slotted the ball home, past the outstretch arms of Ben Foster and Watford was trailing, 1-0. Just 12 minutes late, it was Aubameyang hitting for the brace, as Mesut Ozil found Ainsley Maitland-Niles who hit a great pass across the box, with a one-timer into the net as Arsenal increased their lead, 2-0 ahead of the break. Both goals appeared to be somewhat lazy defending. “To concede the first goal was difficult for us. We were not ready to concede again and this kind of kicked in our brain and in our head. We were not ready, we were playing well, so I think we didn’t deserve to concede the first goal,” said Sanchez Flores after the game.
The second half of the game was all Watford, posting a 52.4% possession of the ball and constantly on the attack. Goalkeeper Bernd Leno noted, “It was very frustrating because we controlled the game but also in the first half, you could see that we made two easy mistakes and then at the end we conceded two goals from these kind of mistakes and we were lucky we didn’t lose this game.”
The Gunners unable to break the Watford press gave up the first goal after Gerard Deulofeu intercepted a Sokratis pass, found Tom Cleverley for the first Watford goal. QSF made three changes through the second half, bringing in Ismaila Sarr for Andre Gray, who was ineffective, followed by Roberto Pereyra in the 63rd minute for Will Hughes, playing in a more central role for the Hornets.
It was take time, but Pereyra attacking the 18-yard box picked up a foul from David Luiz that sent him to the penalty spot. Pereyra converted to draw the game level, 2-2. Would this be another come from behind victory like it was against Wolves in the FA Cup semifinal?