Watford 2-2 Arsenal: Eyebrow-Raising Statistics Highlight Gunners’ Defensive Fragilities

Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Watford struck a familiar chord for Arsenal, as a polarising performance saw a catastrophic defensive performance in the second half cancel out a productive first 45 minutes. 

A stray Sokratis pass in his own area allowed Tom Cleverley to cleverly stroke past Bernd Leno, before a rash challenge from David Luiz on substitute Roberto Pereyra allowed the Argentine to calmly convert a penalty, after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had given them a comfortable lead with two strikes of his own. 

The ​Hornets comeback was by no means a smash-and-grab effort either. In Quique Sanchez Flores’ first game back at the club, they attempted 31 shots – the highest tally Arsenal have faced in a Premier League fixture since ​Opta began collecting such data in the division in 2003-04. The away side, by contrast, had seven. 

Incidentally, Watford’s 31st shot – a close-range Abdoulaye Doucoure effort well-saved by Leno – was the 96th Unai Emery’s side have faced this season. That’s more than any team in any of Europe’s big five divisions this season. 

It was a harsh stroke of irony, then, that for all Watford’s efforts in front of goal, it was two individual Arsenal errors that led to the goals. But that’s nothing new as far as the Gunners are concerned either.

Since the start of last season, they have now made a combined 14 errors leading to opposition goals in the Premier League, at least two more than any other club in this time. 

Granit Xhaka,Anthony Taylor,Sokratis Papastathopoulos

The second goal in particular felt like deja vu, with ​Arsenal conceding a penalty for a third straight game. That’s now ten penalties they’ve conceded since the start of last season, with only Brighton matching that in the same period. 

Arsenal, then, may have come on leaps and bounds in the Emery era – but from a defensive perspective at least, they have plenty of improving left to do. 

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Watford 2-2 Arsenal: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Hornets Second Half Fightback Stings Gunners

A late Roberto Pereyra penalty gave Quique Sanchez Flores a near-perfect start to life as Watford manager once again in a stirring 2-2 draw with Arsenal at Vicarage Road.

The Hornets started the better of the two sides, and spurred on by a voracious Vicarage Road atmosphere, they twice went close to taking the lead early on – with Tom Cleverley and Gerard Delofeu testing Bernd Leno with speculative strikes – before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang opened the scoring with a fine finish on the turn. 

The Gunners’ lead was taken against the run of play, but it seemed to knock Watford out of their stride, and Unai Emery’s men took full advantage with a second goal on the half-hour mark. While the first was made by Sead Kolasinac’s tenacity on the left, the second came from the opposite flank as Ainsley Maitland-Niles burst forward and squared for Aubameyang, who tapped in to double his money.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

The hosts refused to lie down, however, and after starting the second half much like the first, they were gifted a route back into the game when Sokratis’ square ball to Matteo Guendouzi in his own area was intercepted by Gerard Deloufeu and swept home by Tom Cleverley. 

The Hornets took this as their queue to pile on the pressure, and the introduction of record-signing Ismaila Sarr seemed to add to the momentum that was already building. And after half-an-hour of relentlessly pressing, they got their just desserts for a tenacious performance as David Luiz foolishly brought down Pereyra in the area – and the Argentine stepped up to convert the resulting penalty. 

After a frantic end-to-end conclusion, 2-2 it would finish, as Unai Emery’s men are left rueing the defensive missteps that cost them a game that would have otherwise been comfortable.


Watford

Key Talking Point

Having parted company with Javi Gracia before the international break, this match represented the returning Quique Sanchez Flores’ first opportunity to make an impression on his side – albeit one against formidable opposition. 

But while it started well, with some forays into the Arsenal third and an effort or two on target, things very quickly fell back into a familiar pattern for the Hornets, who have now gone 17 straight games without keeping a clean sheet.

Aubameyang’s first half double quelled a raucous atmosphere and glaringly exposed the sort of defensive fragility that had seen the Hornets concede eight in their four previous league matches.

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While the ​Watford side we’ve so often seen this season would have succumbed to a hammering, however, Flores’ men stood up to the task and clawed their way back into the game. 

In the end, they were unlucky not to go away with all three points – but one will certainly go some way towards lifting the spirits of a side previously bereft of confidence. 


Player Ratings

Starting XI: Foster (6); Femenia (7), Dawson (6), Kabasele (6), Holebas (6); Hughes (6) Doucoure (6), Capoue (6), Deulofeu (8); Cleverley (7); Gray (5)

Subs: Sarr (7), Pereyra (7), Janmaat (6)


Star Man – Gerard Deulofeu

Questions were raised when the Spaniard started on the left of a midfield four as opposed to the false nine role that saw him flourish under Gracia last season, but the space and freedom in possession afforded by his new role saw him turn in one of his finest performances in a Watford shirt.

He was a constant menace drifting into the space between Sokratis and Maitland-Niles, and showed a tenacious edge to his game to win the ball back and gift Cleverley with his side’s first goal. 

It was a hugely encouraging display from the former Barcelona man, and Flores can get this sort of display out of Deulofeu on a consistent basis, then he may well be onto a winner. 


Arsenal

Key Talking Point

Unai Emery opted to freshen things up after a polarising performance against Tottenham in their last outing, with Mesut Ozil called in for his first start of the season in the place of the injured Alexander Lacazette. 

Dani Ceballos came in for Lucas Torreira in the other change, as the Spaniard reverted to the midfield diamond that heralded plenty of criticism in their trip to Anfield a few weeks ago. 

After a questionable start, however, the benefits of the new system became clear to see, as Ozil’s presence as an attacking pivot proved too much for Watford to handle on the counter. Kolasinac and Maitland-Niles provided the width that was so often missing in Merseyside, so it is perhaps a system that is best suited to games against teams who set up to frustrate. 

But it was the German’s welcome return in particular that made the difference, as his pass for Maitland-Niles in the build-up to Aubameyang’s second served as a welcome reminder of what he can bring to the table when he’s on his game. 

However, as is often the case with Arsenal, what looked like it was going to be a day to celebrate quickly gave way to a defensive disasterclass. Two horrific errors, one from each centre-back, needlessly gave Watford a route back into the game, and having taken their opponents to pieces in the first 45 minutes, they were forced to settle for what is a hugely disappointing point. 


Player Ratings

Starting XI: Leno (6); Maitland-Niles (6), Sokratis (5), Luiz (6); Kolasinac (7); Guendouzi (6), Xhaka (6), Ceballos (7); Ozil (7); Pepe (6), Aubameyang (8)

Subs: Willock (6), Torreira (6), Nelson (6)

Star Man – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

There are a couple of contenders for this one, but it’s hard to take it away from the man whose predatory goalscoring instincts once again proved the difference for his side. 

His first goal was one straight out of the Auba textbook, while his second – getting himself on the end of a Maitland-Niles cross – came as a result of his positional sense and desire to get there first. It was another formidable display from the striker, who has shown once again why starting him in a central position plays to his extensive list of strengths. 


Looking Ahead

Flores’ task gets no easier from here, as his men are tasked with the unenviable task of facing a stinging Manchester City at the Etihad next weekend, before a League Cup tie with Swansea gives the boss a welcome break from facing up against elite opposition. 

Arsenal, meanwhile, will travel to Germany on Thursday to kick off their Europa League campaign against Eintracht Frankfurt, before Sunday’s visit of Aston Villa.

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Analysing How Successful 10 Former Premier League Players Will Be After Moving to Serie A

This summer’s transfer window saw ​a flurry of players make the move from England to Italy, as Serie A welcomed a whole host of new and exciting faces to their shores. This well-trodden path has proven successful for many, the likes of Edin Dzeko and Wojciech Szczęsny excelling in their new surroundings. 

For others, it has proved less fruitful. Yes Nemanja Vidic, I’m talking about you. 

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The 2019/20 Serie A campaign welcomes 13 new additions from the English top-flight, some destined for greatness, and others destined for a hasty return to their parent clubs in the not-so-distant future. 

We’ve decided to rank ​the top ten new arrivals on how successful (or not) we think they’ll be for their new sides. 


10. Stefano Okaka – Watford > Udinese (Undisclosed)

Okaka is a hard-working, powerful striker who provides a chaotic, physical presence ​whenever he plays. Unfortunately, he just doesn’t score a lot of goals. That’s kind of a problem, especially when its your primary job. 

Stefano Okaka

Okaka certainly didn’t set the Premier League alight whilst at ​Watford, and the possibility of the Italian forward taking Serie A by storm is slim-to-none. 

It’s a no from me, Stefano. 


9. Matteo Darmian – Man Utd > Parma (€1.5m)

​The first of four Manchester United players to appear in this prestigious list, Matteo Darmian is the worst signing between him and his ex-teammates. Congrats Matteo! 

The 29-year-old arrived in Manchester in 2015 with high hopes of nailing down a regular full-back spot at Old Trafford, but his performances were often far from convincing. 

Matteo Darmian

After four years Darmian has finally returned to Italy and joined Parma, hoping to breathe life into his stuttering career. However, 60 league appearances in four years suggests the former Torino man will need a serious adjustment period to get back up to speed, and I Crociati are already well-equipped at the back.

It might be another season of struggle for Darmian. 


8. Danilo – Man City > Juventus (Swap Deal)

​It’s hard to judge this move fairly, knowing an exciting and talented full-back in Joao Cancelo has gone to ​Manchester City as part of the deal. It seems a peculiar decision by I Bianconeri to let Cancelo leave, but Danilo is an adequate replacement for the Portuguese starlet. 

Danilo

Over the season, there’s no doubt that the Brazilian defender will do a stellar job at the back for Maurizio Sarri’s side, but against a higher quality of opposition, particularly in the Champions League, the former Citizen will be found wanting. 

Not ​Juve’s best piece of business. 


7. Chris Smalling – Man Utd > Roma (Loan)

Chris Smalling is in at number seven, and not number ten. I know what you’re thinking. I’ve absolutely ​lost the plot. I can confirm I am still sane, for the time being. The fact is, Chris Smalling is not a completely terrible defender. 

He has his moments of comical stupidity, but there are worse centre-backs out there, even at​ Man Utd (Phil Jones, raising my coffee mug to you, pal). 

Chris Smalling

Roma desperately required a defender to add some experience and competition to their limited options, and Smalling fits the bill nicely. Roma boss Paulo Fonseca likes his backline to press and win the ball high up the pitch, and the England international is at his best when defending aggressively on the front foot. 

His Serie A career won’t be without its errors, but he may avoid his own comedy reel in the red and yellow of Roma. 


6. Davide Zappacosta – Chelsea > Roma (Loan)

A lovely bit of business, this. Davide Zappacosta struggled to anchor down a starting role during his time at ​Chelsea, and suffered without a string of consecutive matches to find his best form. 

Roma are crying out for a proper full-back who can bomb up and down the touchline, whilst also having excellent defensive ability and awareness (sorry Alessandro Florenzi, you’re not the one for me). 

Domenico Criscito,Davide Zappacosta

Zappacosta will slot straight into I Giallorossi’s backline and provide some much-needed defensive stability, whilst also whipping in some dangerous crosses for the forwards to put away. 

Time for Zappa to show why he Costa fortune back in 2017. 


5. Pedro Obiang – West Ham > Sassuolo (Undisclosed)

​Sassuolo are a team on the up, and with Roberto De Zerbi at the helm, they possess an exciting young manager with creative ideas who can propel his side up the table. I Neroverdi lost their talismanic midfielder Stefano Sensi to Inter this summer, but Obiang was brought in from ​West Ham to fill the Italian youngster’s boots. 

Pedro Obiang

Obiang is more defensively-minded than his predecessor, but he will provide a powerful shield for his backline, whilst releasing the likes of Manuel Locatelli to express themselves in the opponents’ final third. 

Although he may not be the flashiest of signings, he’ll certainly be an effective purchase for Sassuolo this season. 


4. Fernando Llorente – Tottenham > Napoli (Free)

​Who doesn’t love Fernando Llorente? Maybe some Man City fans I guess. The Spaniard proved to be an excellent battering ram for ​Tottenham last season, coming on late in the game to disrupt defences and to be a general pain in the backside. 

Dries Mertens,Fernando Llorente

Eventually, Spurs’ Champions League run came to a heartbreaking end, but Llorente leaves the Tottenham Hotspur stadium as a hero. He’ll probably do the exact same thing at ​Napoli, too. 

Losing a game with 15 minutes to go against a team defending deep in their own penalty area? Bring on the big man, and let chaos ensue. 

Form is temporary, the ability to smash a centre-back to the floor with a flying limb is permanent. 


3. Alexis Sanchez – Man Utd > Inter (Loan)

​Everything about this move screams ‘Sanchez reborn’. Antonio Conte has taken a punt with his transfers this summer, and ​Alexis Sanchez is without doubt the biggest risk of them all. The Chilean forward has suffered a wretched spell at Man Utd, and he’s looked terribly off the pace for some time. 

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His miserable 18 month period in Solskjaer’s side appears to be over, with critics suggesting he’s simply not got it in him anymore. For me, that’s not the case. 

The 30-year-old has plenty of miles left in those legs, and returning to a league he once tore apart can only help to recapture that scintillating form of old. 

It may take some time for Sanchez to get back up to speed, but a move to Inter was the perfect catalyst to kickstart the struggling frontman’s flat-lining career. 


2. Romelu Lukaku – Man Utd > Inter (€65m)

That’s right, Lukaku is in at number two. Man Utd fans celebrated his departure, laughing at his awful touch, his clumsy nature and the fact he’d appeared to have gained a few pounds. But they won’t be laughing for much longer. 

​Lukaku is a perfect fit for Serie A, and particularly for Conte’s Inter. The Italian boss has long desired to partner up with the big Belgian, and now it’s their chance to wreak havoc in the Italian top-flight together. 

Romelu Lukaku

One thing is for sure, Lukaku knows where the goal is. He’s a natural-born finisher who fell on hard times in Manchester, which appears to be a running theme for most stars who end up under the Old Trafford lights. 

The 26-year-old would take great pleasure in proving everyone in England wrong, especially Solskjaer. And I think he’ll do just that. 


1. Henrikh Mkhitaryan – Arsenal > Roma (Loan)

A shock in at number one! ​Arsenal fans may have been glad to see the back of ​Henrikh Mkhitaryan after he failed to live up to the hype at the Emirates stadium, but Roma have definitely snatched a gem of a player. 

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The Gunners’ squad is extremely top-heavy, littered with stars of a much similar pedigree to that of Mkhi. The Armenian forward struggled to make the desired impact during his time in the Premier League, but he’s undoubtedly got bags of talent and is just waiting for the right home to express himself to his devastating best. 

I Giallorossi are playing a new brand of attacking, dynamic football under Fonseca, and Mkhitaryan can shine in a team that plays for him and gives him the right service. 

Three words: Watch this space. 

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Unai Emery Doesn’t Know Injury That Ruled Nicolas Pepe Out of International Duty

​Arsenal boss Unai Emery has backed club-record signing Nicolas Pepe to be fit for Arsenal’s Premier League game at Watford on Sunday, despite an injury ruling the Ivorian out over the international break.

Pepe, who joined the Gunners from Lille in a deal worth an eventual £72m in the summer, missed the Ivory Coast’s recent friendlies against Tunisia and Benin.

Emery himself has admitted he’s not exactly sure what the issue is, but remains confident that the forward will be fit enough for the trip to Vicarage Road.

He said, as quoted by The Mirror: ​​“We decided to keep him here with us and we were working with him to have him ready for Sunday and we think he will be.

“It is a small problem. Where is it? I don’t know exactly,” he added.

Despite not yet being able to find the net at his new club, the early impressions have shown that the ex-Lille man could be a pivotal part of this Arsenal side in the coming seasons.

Nicolas Pepe,Christian Eriksen

However, the idea of slowly integrating Pepe into Arsenal’s starting XI may have to be abandoned after the recent injury news concerning Alexandre Lacazette.

Since arriving from Ligue 1 in the summer, Pepe has made four Premier League appearances and registered his first Arsenal assist in the north London derby prior to the international break.

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Wilfried Zaha: Super-Agent Mino Raiola Keen to Represent Wantaway Crystal Palace Star

​One of the world’s biggest football agents, Mino Raiola, is eyeing up the addition of Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha to his roster of big-name clients.

​Zaha wants to leave his management company USM, after a move to one of Arsenal or Everton didn’t materialise during the summer transfer window.

​The Daily Mail claims that the 26-year-old is still unhappy at Palace and is desperate for a move away from the club, and he blames USM entirely for the fact that he hasn’t left yet.

Arsenal and Everton both made significant bids for ​Zaha, but the Eagles refused to sell for anything less than £80m – despite the forward handing in a transfer request to leave Selhurst Park.

Mina Raiola is one of the most prolific and notorious agents around, with ​Paul Pogba, Matthijs de Ligt and Zlatan Ibrahimovic among his clients.

Carmine Raiola

According to the report, the Italian-born Dutch is also keen on signing another big client, especially after losing Romelu Lukaku at the beginning of the year.

However, the Ivory Coast international is apparently tied to USM until next summer, so should he break that contract to sign for Raiola, they will be entitled to a large compensation fee.

Speaking on Zaha’s desire to leave, Palace manager Roy Hodgson said (via ​The Mirror): “With Wilf, I don’t think anyone was thinking we definitely must block him because we want our best player still with us.

Roy Hodgson,Wilfried Zaha

“We understood that if a really big offer comes his way and a much bigger club than Crystal Palace want him, and he is desperate to go, we are going to have to try and do some kind of deal.”

“The unfortunate thing for Wilf is that offer did not come his way from the sort of club that he would want,” Hodgson added. “I think Steve Parish has made that clear to Wilf and they’ve thrashed that side of it out.”

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