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

No more further signings before the transfer window closes says Wenger

Arsene Wenger has ruled out the possibility of Arsenal making any signings before the January transfer window closes.

The Gunners have spent just £40,000 this month on Cohen Bramall from Hednesford Town as they have focused instead on renegotiating contracts for existing players.

Although the futures of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez remain uncertain, the club have announced fresh agreements for Francis Coquelin, Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny. Danny Welbeck marked his first start since April by netting a brace in Saturday’s 5-0 FA Cup win at Southampton and with Santi Cazorla now the only first-team player suffering a lengthy injury absence, Wenger believes there is no need to make further acquisitions before tomorrow’s 11pm deadline.

“On our front, we have a big squad,” said the Gunners boss.

“We are not in need of buying. On a general front it has been very quiet.

That shows that there are not many players available who can strengthen English teams.

It also shows that all the teams in England, especially the big teams, have big squads. That’s why not a lot happened.

“I believe that number-wise and quality-wise, we have what is required to do well. Now it’s down to us to perform and to produce with the quality of our focus, the quality of our ambition and desire to produce the performance in every single game.

“Danny’s return, the quality of all our players… on the offensive front we played at Southampton with Lucas Perez, Theo Walcott and Welbeck. 

Olivier Giroud was not involved, Alexis Sanchez was on the bench, Mesut Ozil did not play, so offensively we have a very strong squad.”

Arsenal v Watford Match Preview

With Liverpool and Chelsea facing off on Tuesday night, Arsenal will be looking to capitalise on any potential slip-ups from their Premier League rivals as they welcome Watford.

Arsene Wenger's Gunners sit eight points behind Chelsea with 16 games remaining, and need Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool to do them a favour and beat Antonio Conte's league leaders to open up the title race.

Arsenal must overcome Walter Mazzarri's Watford in a London derby at Emirates Stadium to put pressure on the Blues, and the Hornets are winless in seven league games.

Wenger will be serving the second game of his four-match touchline ban against Watford, but with a trip to Stamford Bridge up next for the Gunners, Arsenal do not their coach on the sidelines to remind them that Tuesday's encounter could be an important stepping stone to a potentially decisive title clash this weekend. 


Santi Cazorla is now the only absentee for Arsenal, though the Spanish midfielder may be out for the rest of the season with his achilles injury. Danny Welbeck returned in style in the FA Cup, scoring the first two goals in a 5-0 away win against Southampton on Saturday to hand Wenger a striking dilemma regarding his front line.

The manager must decide whether to stick with the likes of Welbeck and Walcott - who scored a hat-trick against the Saints - or restore Olivier Giroud to the starting line-up against Watford.

With Mohamed Elneny still at the African Cup of Nations, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could continue in central midfield after an excellent showing at St Mary's.

Mazzarri will almost certainly be without Costel Pantilimon after the goalkeeper was injured in the FA cup exit at Millwall, but Heurelho Gomes was likely to start at the Emirates anyway. 

Christian Kabasele may return from injury, while Valon Behrami (hamstring), Nordin Amrabat (ankle) and Isaac Success (hamstring) are all doubts. Roberto Pereyra remains out with a serious knee injury.

New forwards Mauro Zarate and M'Baye Niang will both be pushing for a start at the Emirates, but may well be used off the bench in the second half.


Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey; Walcott, Ozil, Sanchez; welbeck

Watford: Gomes, Kaboul, Prodl, Britos, Janmaat, Capoue, Doucoure, Holebas, Cleverley, Okaka, Deeney

Arsenal draw Sutton Utd away in 5th round of the FA Cup

Non-league outfit Sutton United have been drawn at home against Premier League giants Arsenal in the fifth round of the FA Cup. 

The lowest-ranked side in the competition continued their dream run with a 1-0 victory over Leeds United on Sunday, a Jamie Collins penalty edging them into the last 16 of the competition. 

Their reward is a tie at Gander Green Lane against the 12-time winners, who share the record for clinching the most FA Cup trophies with Manchester United.

Lincoln City, the other non-league side left in the tournament, have also been given a Premier League opponent in round five, coming up against Burnley - who won the cup in 1914 - at Turf Moor.

None of the top-flight sides have been drawn against each other, and the five top-ranked sides in the competition are all away, meaning that each tie has the possibility of an upset.

Tottenham Hotspur have a London derby as they visit Fulham, Man United are at Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea travel to Wolverhampton Wanderers, and Manchester City are away at Huddersfield Town. 

Finally, Oxford United travel to the Riverside Stadium for a tie against Middlesbrough, while Millwall will host either Derby County or Leicester City.

FA Cup fifth-round draw in full:

Burnley vs. Lincoln City
Fulham vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Blackburn vs. Manchester United
Sutton United vs. Arsenal
Middlesbrough vs. Oxford United
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Chelsea
Huddersfield Town vs. Manchester City
Millwall vs. Derby County/Leicester City