It may just end up being a match of painful significance for Arsenal. With rivals Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham all dropping points last night, the Gunners' shock defeat to an organised and efficient Watford at a soaked Emirates could prove vital. With the gap to Chelsea back at nine points, and Saturday's crunch game looming between the two parties, Arsene Wenger may end up facing a 13th straight season without a Premier League crown if he and his side fail to buck their ideas up.
Without a league win since their triumph over Everton on 10 December, Walter Mazzarri's Hornets were due a turn in fortunes, and thanks to Younes Kaboul and Troy Deeney's strikes, they got just that - also recording Watford's first victory over Arsenal in 29 years.
What's more, it effectively took them 13 minutes to get the job done. Kaboul's driven free-kick from 25 yards out cannoned off the dire Aaron Ramsey, deceiving a rooted Petr Cech after 10 minutes. Moments later, another former Tottenham man helped pile on the misery for the hosts.
Etienne Capoue got ahead of Ramsey to a loose throw-in from Gabriel before beating both Francis Coquelin and an all at sea Shkodran Mustafi. His low drive may not have found the net, due to the left foot of Cech, but captain Deeney was first to the rebound.
In the second half, Arsenal tried to atone for their many first half errors, showing a visible urgency and zip to their play. At full-time, the stats revealed that they enjoyed 74% of the possession, with nothing to show for it. Alex Iwobi grabbed a goal back with just over a third of the game left, but it was all in vain with Watford defending stoically to hold on.
Let's have an overview of the Arsenal performances.
Goalkeeper and defence
Petr Cech - 6 - A frustrating night for the sometimes questioned 'keeper. Completely helpless for both the goals, he did little wrong, bar a few errors with his distribution - not for the first time this season. Cech could do nothing to prevent Kaboul's deflected free-kick from opening the scores and did well to deny Capoue, his defence lackadaisical on the rebound. Arsenal were indebted to him after making a few crucial saves before the break.
Gabriel - 3 - An off night for the Brazilian, who has been fairly dependable deputising at right-back in Hector Bellerin's absence this season. His wayward throw-in near halfway allowed Watford to break for the killer second goal, and he failed to track back to help Mustafi and co. His crossing was poor, understandable for a natural centre-back.
Shkodran Mustafi - 2 - His unbeaten record at Arsenal comes to a close, after an unusually woeful display. Made to look foolish by Capoue, unsure whether to commit or not, his emotions seemed to get the better of him, spending a lot of time complaining and sharing the blame. Gave away the foul for the free-kick goal.
Laurent Koscielny - 4 - Has been Mr.Reliable for Arsenal in recent years, but not yesterday. Caught unawares for the Deeney goal, but other than that he did little wrong defensively. Mainly because there was little threat posed by the visitors after the 13th minute. Collided with Mustafi when going for the same ball in Watford's box in the second half, potentially spurning a good opportunity.
Nacho Monreal - 4 - Again, another one who reacted slowly for the second. Had a quiet night, but almost made up for early error with blinding volley that nearly found the top corner in the second half.
Midfield and attack
Aaron Ramsey - 1 - Where do I start? His deflection carried Kaboul's free-kick past Cech, caught napping for the second and failed to track back sufficiently. Taken off after 19 minutes with calf strain. A liability in most games, his Arsenal career is under threat. Where has the Ramsey of 2013/14 gone?
Francis Coquelin - 4 - As was the norm last night, not his finest display. Many of his passes lacked verve, with most being either backwards or sideways; not what is needed at 0-2. Won just 25% of his tackles and was replaced by the much more attack minded Lucas Perez in the 67th minute.
Alex Iwobi - 6 - To his credit, Iwobi looked menacing when on the ball and got Arsenal's sole goal to boot. Piercing, strong run at the start of second half helped create chance for Theo Walcott and completed 94% of his passes - misplacing just three. Denied by Heurelho Gomes with his first shot, but made no mistake with his other attempt, a well guided finish into the far corner.
Mesut Özil - 5 - Another odd night for the languid German playmaker. Created five chances, but lacked a real presence in the game at points. Frustration seemed to get the better of him, with a few crosses into the box played with a notable tension, met by a roar from him when they failed to reach their intended target.
Alexis Sánchez - 6 - Where on Earth would Arsenal be without him? Since his arrival from Barcelona in the summer of 2014, no other Premier League forward has provided as many assists as the tireless Chilean. Number 20 came tonight, it was the 33rd goal scored by Arsenal this season that he'd had a crucial say in - either by scoring or setting it up.
Tried to do a little too much as Arsenal chased the game, seeing a few efforts blocked by a resilient wall of yellow, but worked typically hard and received a big cheer from the fans as his name was mentioned over the speakers pre-game. If the Gunners are to mount a charge in the next few years to put their name at the top of English or European football, he must stay in North London.
Olivier Giroud - 4 - A victim of poor team selection. When he starts, Arsenal can have a tendency to start slowly, and that was the case last night. Offered little, hauled off at half-time for Walcott. A rare off day this season for the otherwise reliable Frenchman.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - 5 - No start for the Englishman after a dominant performance in the deep-lying playmaker role at Southampton on Saturday, but brought on early for injured Ramsey. Attempted three dribbles and created one chance, but struggled against a deep Watford line. Should be trusted with that central role more often, and it will be interesting to see if Wenger feels the same way on Saturday.
Theo Walcott - 4 - Coming on at half-time for Giroud, he looked for goal number 100 of his Arsenal career, but endured a trying evening. Denied early on by an alert Gomes, but the finish was sub-par. Didn't have a huge impact on the game otherwise, but injected some much needed pace to the team.
Lucas Pérez - 6 - The Spaniard cannot seem to buy a Premier League start. Wenger's last roll of the dice, taking off Coquelin with around twenty minutes to play, Pérez looked dangerous, rattling the bar with a thunderous half-volley that rendered Gomes an onlooker. Also created two chances that went begging.
Arsene Wenger - 4 - Served the second game of his four match touchline ban, noting that although you get a better vantage point, "you feel more powerless than usual". The team selection looked poor tonight, with no one stand out performer from Southampton game (bar Sanchez) starting.
Slow start has to be blamed on Wenger, with fans asking why can the team only start to turn up once the game looks like a lost cause. Words were clearly said at the break, as a different Arsenal side turned up. Substitutions were made when needed, but it was too little, too late. Sums up Arsenal's last six seasons.