Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Arsenal's title hopes fade after shock home defeat

Arsenal were undone in all too familiar fashion at the Emirates as Watford snatched a 2-1 win in north London.

Younes Kaboul and Troy Deeny struck inside the first 13 minutes to leave Arsenal rocking and though Alex Iwobi struck early in the second half Arsene Wenger’s luck ran dry as his side were not able to conjure up another late goal to get some reward from an exceptionally poor performance.

Watford repeated a well-established trick against Arsenal in the first 45 minutes, hitting them hard high up the pitch from the off, and it paid dividends almost immediately.

Capoue, Deeney and Niang gave Arsenal’s backline not a moment to settle into possession and within the first 10 minute the hosts had given away a string of free-kicks in advanced areas.

It was former Tottenham captain Younes Kaboul who would make the lacklustre Gunners pay, hammering a low free-kick at goal.

A deflection off Aaron Ramsey unsighted Petr Cech as once more the Arsenal goalkeeper was beaten by a low effort down to his left.  

Rather than shut up shop after the opener Arsenal’s ‘midfield’ threw the doors wide open to their goal. Ramsey, who would go off soon after with a calf injury, allowed a free-kick to overrun and scarcely offered to track back as Capoue burst forward.

Francis Coquelin was bamboozled by a simple stepover, Shkodran Mustafi offered no challenge and Cech was forced to parry a low effort.

Deeney was on hand to tap home as crisis gripped Arsenal yet again. As if it couldn’t get any worse Ramsey was soon heading down the tunnel, though his latest injury did at least break up a midfield that once more proved itself to, at best, highlight the flaws in both players’ games.

Watford could have had more as Cech saved smartly from a Sebastian Prodl header and a Daryl Janmaat effort.

Arsenal, their touch heavy and their passing ponderous, created nothing of note before the interval though Nacho Monreal would be entitled to feel aggrieved after he fell under contact from Craig Cathcart and was handed a booking for diving.

Just as against Bournemouth earlier this month, when Wenger’s men rallied from an even greater deficit in less time, the Gunners looked a renewed force under pressure.

Heurelho Gomes kept Arsenal at bay for 13 minutes, saving superbly from Theo Walcott, on for Olivier Giroud at half-time, and Iwobi, but he could not stem the tide.

Alexis Sanchez burst along the byline and spotted the youngster in space. A perfect cross picked Iwobi out and his sidefooted shot trickled into the net.

Arsenal set up camp on the edge of the area but Watford’s wall would not be breached and the hosts rarely caught another glimpse of Gomes’ goal until the final 10 minutes.

Then substitute Lucas Perez saw a thumping volley hammer back off the bar but for once they couldn’t find an escape route at the death.

If Arsenal achieve anything less than victory at Chelsea on Saturday they will surely be out of the title race. Even that may not be enough after Wenger’s men threw away yet more points

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