Sporting their black and yellow halves, Borussia Watford were made to look more like Bundesliga titans rather than the Premier League minnows and relegation-fodder that they are.
Although there is undoubtedly talent in their team, in the shape of Deulofeu, who gave Ainsley Sublime-Ridiculous a torrid time defensively, it was totally against the run of play that Arsenal opened the scoring.
After a long spell under the cosh, with Leno being called upon to make a number of crucial saves, Arsenal broke away. Kolasinac supplied the pass and Aubameyang provided the finish on the turn to put the Gunners ahead.
Sublime-Ridiculous showed his attacking prowess by setting up the second, which was tapped in by Aubameyang.
When playing the division’s bottom side with a two-goal cushion, it could have been all over. However, that does not take into account Arsenal’s uncanny ability to shoot themselves in the foot. This time, the short goal kick, almost gifted Watford a half-time consolation, as Guendouzi was caught in possession.
Like a lot of Arsenal players, the great ‘hair bear’ was not as sharp as usual after the international break, so it was no real surprise that the Gunners were almost caught out by their own suicidal tactic to play from the back even in the first half.
Fans have written to me to tell me to be patient with Emery’s ‘tactic’ of playing out from the back. I wonder how those same fans feel now, after watching Sokratis provide an assist for Watford, passing the ball straight to the opposition from a goal kick.
Although I blame the player for his poor pass, the tactic doesn’t work. Surely, Emery can see that. Maybe it works in training, but it doesn’t on a football pitch when the other team are desperate for points, which is most weeks in the Premier League.
I’ve not seen one single decent attacking move develop from the employment of this suspect, ineffective tactic. The best case scenario is usually to concede possession in Arsenal’s half. It really doesn’t get better than that. At least, a ball pumped long gives the defence some respite.
What is concerning is the serious lack of work-rate. After Arsenal attacks broke down, only six outfield players decided to defend, with the rest cantering back in their own time. It was shocking.
It’s not as if Arsenal’s defence is rock solid. Aside from Leno, and perhaps Kolasinac, the backline were generally poor.
David Luiz played reasonably well, but this will go down as another dodgy performance after he conceded an unnecessary penalty. Chambers must be wondering what has to go wrong before he can get in team. Surely, the England international can’t do worse than Luiz and Sokratis, who were culpable for both Watford goals.
Meanwhile, Ozil, making his first appearance of the season, seemed largely disinterested, albeit classy. You couldn’t help have the feeling that the German would rather be playing Fortnite. When he finally got hooked off and subbed, it wasn’t before time. Moreover, you have to wonder why Ozil was selected for an away game, when everyone and his dog know that he rarely performs away from the Emirates.
Playing Ozil and Ceballos seems like one luxury player too many for me and I’d give the Spaniard the nod over the German, mainly because of his superior work rate. It was no wonder that the Arsenal fans booed Ceballos’s substitution. The Spaniard is lightweight, but he puts a shift in. Meanwhile, Ozil reminds me of a moth that turns to dust when smacked with a newspaper: he flies around beautifully, but there’s nothing to him really.
Taking off Guendouzi made sense, considering that he was on a yellow card. However, none of the substitutes really made an impact. Torreira had a shot on target and did little else. Willock ran around a bit and didn’t embarrass himself, while Nelson was robbed too often for him to be considered an effective substitute.
Based on this performance, you’d have to say the blame lies with the manager. In the end, Arsenal were lucky to get a draw.
If they didn’t have Aubameyang, Arsenal would be up the creek without a paddle, as Pepe (who’s apparently carrying an injury) has only been able to show potential.
All I can say for sure is if Emery persists with his ‘Russian roulette’ goal kicks, lots of unnecessary goals will be conceded and he’ll be out of a job before Christmas.
We’ve heard from various sources what a great tactician he is, but Emery has a lot to prove after today’s shocker.