Arsenal: Cech, Gabriel, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis, Iwobi, Giroud
Subs: Ospina, Gibbs, Bellerin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Maitland-Niles, Lucas, Walcott
Arsenal’s title hopes were dealt an almost fatal blow as a shocking first half performance saw them ship two goals, and ultimately go down 2-1 in the Premier League against Watford this evening.
Arsene Wenger made a series of changes from the team that beat Southampton 5-0, with Petr Cech, Gabriel, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, Francis Coquelin, Alexis, Alex Iwobi, Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud all coming back into the starting XI, while Danny Welbeck was not in the squad at all.
Arsenal began in sloppy style, giving the ball away too easily, and conceding free kicks trying to make up for the carelessness in possession. Aaron Ramsey had the first attempt on goal in the 7th minute, but couldn’t get over the ball and saw it fly way too high.
The Welshman was then involved in the opening goal but once again it was down to a free kick conceded by Mustafi. Younes Kaboul hit a goal-bound shot which deflected off the midfielder and beyond the despairing dive of Petr Cech. 0-1.
It went from bad to worse just a minute later when the visitors doubled the lead. It came from a poor throw from Gabriel which saw us lose the ball in midfield, Capoue drove on, took a shot, it ran across goal and Deeney was there to put it in from close range. 0-2.
That was followed by yet another injury for Ramsey, lasting just 18 minutes before going off with what looked like a hamstring strain. He was replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, before Gabriel was the first name in the book picking up a 21st minute yellow card.
He was followed into it by Nacho Monreal four minutes later when the Spaniard took a dive in the box looking for a penalty, and he can have no complaints about it.
Cech had to tip a header over the bar as the Hornets looked more likely to extend their lead than Arsenal get themselves back into it, and the Arsenal keeper was forced into action again as he denied Janmaat.
Alexis saw a 40th minute effort blocked with the Gunners still to have a shot on target, and the half ended with a chorus of boos from the stands after what was a dreadful first 45 minutes.
Unusually, Arsene Wenger made a half-time change, bringing on Theo Walcott for Olivier Giroud, and the England was involved quickly with a shot wide of the post – although he might have been better advised squaring it for the waiting Alexis.
Walcott had an even better chance minutes later, with just Gomes to beat after Ozil put him clear, his shot was saved by the feet of the Watford keeper. Iwobi combined with Oxlade-Chamberlain to fire a shot at goal but he too was denied by the Brazilian stopper, who pulled off a brilliant reaction save.
Ozil had a go and again Gomes saved, and there were shouts for a spot-kick when Alexis was brought down in the box but the referee waved play on. Alexis wasn’t sulking though and seconds later picked it up, drove into the box, crossed it to the back post and Iwobi was there to cushion it back across goal and into the far corner of the net. 1-2 on 58 minutes.
Arsenal continued to pressure and in the 67th minute Wenger played his final card, bringing on Lucas Perez for Coquelin, leaving a midfield of Iwobi and Oxlade-Chamberlain as the Spaniard took up his place on the left.
The Ox saw a 73rd minute shot blocked by the head of a defender, but the midfielder seemed to injure himself in the process. Gabriel shot over after being set up by Lucas, and in the 81st minute the Gunners were awarded a free kick just outside the D but the wall denied Alexis.
From the corner Monreal volleyed a shot not far wide from 25 yards, and as hard as Arsenal tried they couldn’t quite find the final ball and the goal that would bring the scores level.
The equaliser almost came via Lucas Perez, who smashed a shot off the bar with Gomes beaten all ends up. There gaps at the back as we pushed everything forward to try and find a way through.
Ozil almost found Monreal at the back post but the full-back was caught on his heels slightly as the game moved into 5 minutes of added time. Lucas saw another shot saved by the keeper, but in the end Arsenal paid the price for a dreadful first 45 minutes, and on that basis got what they deserved from the game.
Which was nothing.