Arsenal: Ospina, Chambers, Mertesacker, Gabriel Gibbs, Coquelin, Elneny, Ozil, Campbell, Alexis, Giroud
Subs: Macey, Bellerin, Monreal, Flamini, Iwobi, Walcott, Welbeck
A late goal from Danny Welbeck wasn’t enough to spark an Arsenal comeback, as the Gunners crashed out of the FA Cup, losing 2-1 to Watford at the Emirates today.
Arsene Wenger brought out his big guns, returning Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez to the starting XI, while Olivier Giroud kept his place up front.
The Gunners started brightly, dominating possession and an early Calum Chambers cross just evaded a clutch of Arsenal players in the Watford area. Another fantastic move involving Campbell and Alexis saw Giroud put the ball in the net but he was marginally offside and the goal was ruled out.
At the other end Per Mertesacker was called upon a couple of times to snuff out some potential danger, before a Gibbs cross was taken off Campbell’s toe by some excellent defending. The Costa Rican’s eye for a pass was obvious, again setting Chambers free down the right but his low cross ended up in Pantillimon’s hands.
Ighalo and Deeney should have done better with a quick break, again Mertesacker intercepted but it was a real chance for the visitors. And there was a huge stroke of luck in the 28th minute when Gabriel got away with a two footed tackle on Troy Deeney. It should have been a red card, but referee Andre Marriner didn’t even award a free kick.
Mohamed Elneny had a sight of goal on the half hour mark, but from close range slashed his shot wide, and once more Watford failed to make the most of a break which could have seen Deeney one on one with Ospina.
Superb skill from Ozil and Campbell set up another chance for the Egyptian but once again his finish was wayward, firing over the bar from the edge of the box. Campbell had an opportunity on the stretch but despie lifting the ball over Pantillimon, it cleared the crossbar. The Watford keeper then picked up a yellow card for time-wasting, and the game remained scoreless at the break.
There were no changes from either manager at half-time, and there was an early chance for Giroud when he headed an Ozil corner not far over the bar. Typically though, it was Watford who went ahead in tame circumstances. A throw from the far side was flicked on, Ighalo held off Gabriel far too easily and finished from close range to make it 0-1.
They might have doubled the lead shortly afterwards, Ighalo turning the ball over the bar from close range, and when he got behind Gabriel he had another chance but just couldn’t get the touch. Pantillimon made a save from Giroud that he knew nothing about, before Watford got their second goal.
After Ighalo held the ball up in our box, he laid it back for Guedioura who rocketed the ball into the top corner to make it 0-2. An amazing finish, it has to be said, but a depressing one from an Arsenal fan’s point of view.
It prompted Arsene Wenger into a triple change, with Elneny, Campbell and Giroud coming off, being replaced by Alex Iwobi, Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott. Not much changed, Arsenal still struggled to make chances, and Watford sat deep to deny us space.
Ozil picked up a yellow card for a frustrated tackle on some bloke, Gibbs headed straight at the keeper from an Alexis cross, and basically at this point we gave up the will to describe what was an absolute bag of shit from Arsenal.
Then we decided to start again because Danny Welbeck made it 2-1 in the 88th minute, a side-footed curler into the far corner. The England man could have equalised moments later. A Iwobi shot hit the post, came out to the number 23 who couldn’t get his foot around it to finish into an empty net.
Iwobi had another shot deflect wide of the post, but in the end the second goal wouldn’t come and Arsenal’s chance of a historic third successive FA Cup win was gone.
Sad times, but that was no less than we deserved on the day. A team without any cohesion or obvious gameplan fell short again.