Quique Sanchez Flores was unfortunate not to get his second stint in charge of Watford off to the best possible start as the Hornets recovered from 2-0 down to take a point against Arsenal.
The Gunners looked in control as a brace from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the first-half saw the Gunners head into the break with a comfortable advantage. However, Tom Cleverley scored his first Premier League goal since January as he punished the Gunners for sloppy defensive play. Substitute Roberto Pereyra then took advantage of Arsenal’s poor second-half as he struck the equaliser from the penalty spot with only ten minutes left on the clock.
The hosts looked the most likely to steal the three points but could not quite find the winning goal despite a handful of chances.
Early impact made by new boss?
Following an underwhelming start to the season, home supporters would have been hoping for a reaction following the appointment of Sanchez Flores and that is initially what they got. The Hornets enjoyed a positive start to the game with Bernd Leno twice tested early on – Cleverley forcing the stopper into an impressive stop with a long-range effort.
Defender Jose Holebas then had a great chance as he got on the end of Gerard Deulofeu’s centre but could only lift the ball over the crossbar.
Aubameyang as clinical as ever
That good start did not last long though as the Gunners seized the lead in somewhat controversial circumstances. Will Hughes looked like he was fouled by Dani Ceballos but play continued as Sead Kolasinac tore down the pitch. The left-back played the ball into Aubamayeng and the Gabon forward swivelled delightfully in the box to finish coolly past Ben Foster.
He was on the scoresheet again only ten minutes later following a wonderful move as Mesut Ozil and Ainsley Maitland-Niles exchanged passes before the ball was pulled across the face of goal for a simple tap-in.
Defensive mistakes from Arsenal yet again
With Unai Emery’s men cruising, a silly mistake just after the break saw Watford handed a huge lifeline. Sloppy play at the back allowed Deulofeu to cut out Sokratis’ pass and Cleverley was on hand to hammer the ball home to halve the deficit.
The Spaniard also went close himself as he cut inside and sent an effort whistling past the post as the hosts found considerable momentum. Substitute Ismaila Sarr was the next to have an opportunity as he rolled David Luiz in the penalty area but his low shot also squirmed off target.
It was the visitors who were severely under the cosh throughout the majority of the half but Lucas Torreira almost put the game to bed as his powerful first time effort was batted away by Foster.
More penalty woes for the Gunners
They were to rue their lacklustre second-half as the Hornets equalised from the penalty spot. David Luiz tripped Roberto Pereyra in the box and the Argentine was successful from 12 yards to hit a deserved leveller.
Deulofeu, who performed excellently throughout the match should have put the hosts ahead for the first time in the match but once again could not hit the target. Cleverley was the next to go close as his swerving shot look destined for the top corner only for David Luiz to nod the ball away. Abdoulaye Doucoure should have claimed victory from a lethal counter-attack but could only find the body of Leno only yards from goal.
Watford weren’t quite able to complete the turnaround though as they claimed a positive point in Sanchez Flores’ first game back at Vicarage Road.
This match really was the Premier League at its very best and its very worst. Some of the attacking football, especially from Watford, was brilliant to watch. However, there was a huge amount of errors throughout the 90 minutes. The Gunners were severely disappointing following the break and will feel somewhat fortunate to have escaped with a draw.
Watford: Foster (6); Holebas (6) (Janmaat (N/A), 78′), Kabasele (6), Dawson (6), Femenia (6); Capoue (7), Doucoure (8); Deulofeu (7), Cleverley (7), Hughes (6) (Pereyra (7), 63′); Gray (5) (Sarr (7), 54′).
Arsenal: Leno (6); Kolasinac (6), Luiz (5), Sokratis (5), Maitland-Niles (6); Xhaka (5), Guendouzi (6) (Torreira (5), 67′), Ceballos (6) (Willock (5), 60′); Ozil (7) (Nelson (6), 71′), Pepe (5), Aubameyang (8).
Goals: Aubameyang (21′, 32′), Cleverley (53′), Pereyra PEN (81′)
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Yellow Cards: Kolasinac (43′), Guendouzi (45+2′), Holebas (45+2′), Femenia (56′), Leno (77′), Capoue (90+1′)
Red Cards: N/A
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