Arsenal beaten by late winner at Watford
'We can only kick ourselves,' says Gunners boss Wenger, after seeing his side lose a match that they looked in control of
15 October, 2017 — By Paul Cowling
Arsene Wenger: ‘We had many chances to kill the game. At 1-1 there was no need to panic, so we can only kick ourselves’
WATFORD 2 (Deeney, 71, Cleverley, 90+2)
ARSENAL 1 ( Mertesacker, 39)
ARSENE Wenger and his players felt the wrath of Arsenal’s travelling fans after Watford came from behind to snatch an injury-time winner.
The Gunners were coasting at 1-0 thanks to a rare goal from defender Per Mertesacker, but a controversial penalty and a last-gasp Hornets winner from Tom Cleverley stung Arsenal badly as their away day woes continued.
Following the 2-1 defeat, a stern-looking Wenger expressed his disappointment at the setback, after some encouraging results in recent weeks.
“We should have had the game wrapped up,” said the Gunners boss. “We played very well in the first half, but dropped off in the second.
“We had many chances to kill the game. At 1-1 there was no need to panic, so we can only kick ourselves.”
Wenger brought Mertesacker back for his first Premier League start in more than 18 months. But just days after their World Cup qualifying woes, the “fatigued” pair of Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey were left out of the Arsenal squad entirely.
Fatigue seemed to be infecting the match, too. The opening period was a largely dull affair before, in the 39th minute, from an Arsenal corner, Mertesacker popped up to head home from close range.
It was the Gunners’ first away goal of the season and Mertesacker’s first in the league since December 2013.
The second half was certainly an improvement on the opening period. On the hour mark, the ineffectual Danny Welbeck limped off with a hamstring injury and was replaced by Mesut Ozil.
Ozil immediately looked to make an impact on the game, sliding a perfect pass to Alex Iwobi, whose goal-bound curler was saved by former Spurs keeper Heurelho Gomes.
Wenger introduced Olivier Giroud for the lacklustre Alexandre Lacazette, as the Gunners looked for a second goal to kill off the game.
That goal should have come in the 70th minute. Instead it proved to be the game’s turning point.
Ozil, with time to place his shot, aimed meekly at Gomes.
Then, at the other end, Watford broke forward and were awarded a penalty when Hector Bellerin was adjudged to have brought down Brazilian danger man Richarlison – replays suggested it was a dive.
Substitute Troy Deeney easily converted to make it 1-0, and the game had finally come to life.
“It was not a penalty. We had a raw deal, and the decision was wrong,” fumed Wenger.
Watford rallied, and Arsenal were hanging on.
Gunners fans told Wenger “you don’t know what you’re doing” when he summoned Jack Wilshere from the bench to replace Iwobi, only to change his mind and replace Laurent Koscielny with Rob Holding.
Wenger later explained his thinking.
“I wanted to bring on Jack, but it was not possible,” he said. “I was told Koscielny had a muscular problem.”
With Wilshere frustrated, Arsenal fans feared the worst, as Watford buzzed forward sensing victory. Former Spurs player Etienne Capoue saw his shot cannon off Mertesacker and onto the post.
The home side had garnered four league goals this season in second-half injury-time, so it was no surprise when it became five.
A game of goalmouth pinball eventually saw the ball fall to Cleverley, who blasted into an inviting, unguarded net.
Two minutes of injury-time later, Arsenal players sank to their knees as a comfortable three points was snatched from the Gunners’ grasp.
ARSENAL: Cech, Monreal, Mertesacker, Koscielny (Holding, 85); Xhaka, Elneny, Kolasinac, Bellerin, Iwobi, Welbeck (Ozil, 60); Lacazette (Giroud, 67).
Subs not used: Ospina, Walcott, Wilshere, Coquelin.