Arsenal were once again undone by poor defending at the weekend as they succumbed a 2-0 lead against bottom of the table Watford.
The Hornets had been in torrid form in the opening four games, causing a change of management through the return of Quique Flores, but showed plenty of fight to engineer a second-half turnaround against the Gunners.
Gunners made to rue defensive errors once more
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang put Unai Emery’s side in the ascendancy with two goals in eleven minutes inside the first half.
The first was an expertly taken goal; picking up possession, the forward swivelled to evade the onrushing Watford defender, releasing a low-drilled shot beyond Ben Foster.
His second just after the half-hour mark was equally illustrative of his killer instinct in front of goal, rounding off a well worked team move after Mesut Ozil found Ainsley Maitland-Niles on the right-hand flank. The youngsters resulting cross left Aubameyang with the easy task of tapping the ball home, as the visitors looked to be on course for a routine win to close the gap on the top-four.
However, an inspired second half performance would turn the game on its head, ensuring Watford picked up a valuable point while leaving Arsenal rueing their defensive Achilles heel.
Both Watford goals were entirely self-inflicted, underlining the lack of discipline and structure within Arsenal’s current defence. Just eight minutes after the interval, Bernd Leno attempted to play a goalkick inside their box, as allowed under the new rule. His pass to Sokratis acted as the instigator for Watford to press high up inside Arsenal’s penalty area, subsequently forcing an error as the centre-half looked to find Matteo Guendouzi.
Gerard Deulefeu was on hand to prod the ball into the path of the onrushing Tom Cleverley, whose strike would act as the catalyst for a second-half turnaround. From then, Arsenal were entirely on the back foot. Indeed, Watford accumulated a total of 31 shots on Sunday afternoon – the most Arsenal have faced in a Premier League fixture since records began in 2003/04.
An unnecessary lunging challenge from David Luiz in the 81stminute would ensure Watford were awarded a penalty and a chance to level the score, with Ricardo Pereyra making him pay from the spot. It means that Emery’s side have now conceded eight goals this season – more than any of the current top six.
'I feel like we are literally giving goals to the opposition', Aubameyang admits
Reflecting on the match, Aubameyang expressed his frustration at their second half collapse, but refused to place blame solely on the defence.
“Obviously we didn’t expect that. We knew that they were going to try and come back with good intentions, of the kind they demonstrated in the second half”, the 30-year-old told Canal Plus, as per Goal.
“Sadly, we were not able to deal with them well. I feel like we are literally giving goals to the opposition, it is up to us to progress in that respect.”
The Gabonese international didn’t highlight particular individuals for their defensive errors, despite a public apology from Sokratis emerging after the match, with the centre-back assuming responsibility for a poor day at the office.
“I don’t want to accuse anyone, you could say that us, the attackers, could have killed the game off and scored a third goal, so I am not going to say it is someone’s fault.”
“It is a shame to concede goals like we did.”
Albeit only five games in, Arsenal have already faced 96 shots this season – more than any other side in the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga. Should they bounce back and get into a good rhythm of form, they’ll need to ensure they hold a much tighter defensive unit than at Vicarage Road.