Watford Preview: Sting in the Tail and Contract Warnings

I was quite looking forward to this evening’s match until the Guardian popped in with this reminder of back-to-back defeats to Watford in the 80s. Couldn’t bring us a reminder of the 4 – 3 win in September 1984.

Mind you, thank god we beat the Hornets 3 – 1 in October ’86 or we’d be talking about a run of four consecutive defeats in a year which culminated in an FA Cup Quarter-final exit in March ’87. Now that was a massively poor performance.

One for the history books as well. This afternoon, we’re going to be a lean, mean footballing machine. The run which took us seven games unbeaten needs to be reignited; the next six games are emminiently winnable on current form.

That means we’ll lose at least one; it’s Arsenal and that’s the way we roll.

Arsène finds himself in the unusual position of having a strong squad available but with key players causing problems. Shkodran Mustafi is out for six weeks while Kolasinac is so hip, it’s painful. Sorry, his hip is painful.

And Laurent Koscielny. His Achilles is once again a problem. It’s heading toward some tough love for the French international. If fitness is an issue, at 32 a ‘younger model’ is on the cards.

The back three, instead of being entirely makeshift, seems to be falling into place with just Rob Holding slotting in with Per Mertesacker. I wonder who has doubts about the pair and Nacho Monreal after their performances in the FA Cup final.

Quite a few probably.

Back in training were Özil, Welbeck and Coquelin; none should start today in my view and probably won’t. I’d expect Wenger to keep faith with the XI which has got us this far. It leaves the line-up:

Cech; Holding, Koscielny (Mertesacker), Monreal (Mertesacker); Bellerin, Ramsey, Xhaka, Kolasinac (Monreal); Sanchez, Lacazette, Iwobi

A Sting In The Tail?

Watford are a point behind us and without a home win this season. They also have a nasty habit from the point of view, of conceding wilfully. Liverpool put three past them on the opening day, so too Bristol City while Manchester City’s profligacy kept it to just the six. The opportunity to smash and grab is there this evening, we just have to be willing to take it.

The question is how the international break affects our rhythm. The first match back is usually a patchy performance so being away from home might help us. Not needing to make the running, that’s down to Watford; we’ll hit them on the counter.

Football’s simple on the page. I do believe that so long as we don’t under-estimate Watford, don’t walk onto the Vicarage Road pitch thinking it’s going to be a piece of cake. However, they are far from a side to be feared and we know from experience how an early goal undermines them. Equally, obdurate defending just requires patience on our part.

We have options on the bench. Wilshere in midfield, Welbeck for Iwobi and of course, Giroud. Could Ollie start? It’s tempting given his goalscoring form and certainly he offers the physical presence to unsettle Watford. However, the Hornets defence has proven vulnerable to pace – Theo Walcott on at some point perhaps – which would suit Lacazette more.

Changes in defence put more emphasis on the XI defending from the front. With a trip to Belgrade on Thursday, gaining confidence as a defensive unit is important. Red Star will, I think, offer a sterner test than BATE and Köln, in a more hostile environment. We should win of course, but developing good habits in the Premier League is no bad thing, particularly if it serves us well elsewhere.

That’s Another Fine Mesut You’ve Got Us Into

Özil’s agent claims the club is once more in talks over a new deal. Not at anywhere near the financial levels being thrown around. A player whose reputation is built on statistics saw a horrible one thrown out yesterday in this piece. One assist away from the Emirates since December 2016 – the goal stat is wrong; he scored twice in May – is damning.

Like Sanchez, we can point to good games and bad but with Sanchez, there is a redemption in goals scored. Özil is a provider but a provider who isn’t doing that, isn’t contributing to the team in the manner expected, is a luxury we can ill-afford.

As brutal as that sounds – and it is – that is Arsenal’s reality. We need players who will dig in and work; we’re more effective with a ‘direct’ style. Principally that’s down to the investment in the squad being misdirected over a number of years. A player like Özil needs physically strong technicians – both Germany and Real were built that way – which we are not.

If we can extract £20m for Sanchez in January, it’s money we should be taking but not to invest in Özil’s paypacket. There’s talk of an in-demand player but none are queueing up to sign the German. They admire but not that much.

Put it this way, there is a genuine belief across the fanbase that Santi Cazorla would improve this side. The same can’t be said of the German.

The Price You Pay For All Your Weaknesses

Over the next twelve months we’re going to see more of these decisions needing to be taken. Theo Walcott is another whose time at the club is all but over; each of us has a ‘hit list’ of players who can be improved upon in their positions. The next eighteen months will see a big turnover in the squad and during that time the manager’s future will be clarified.

That aspect of the equation underlines the folly of the two-year contract extension. The board lacked the courage last year to call time on Wenger’s reign and they will be as spineless next time around as well. If they are to offer the manager a deal then it has to be for a minimum of three years otherwise we’re in a cycle where long-term planning can’t happen. Yes, three years is a long time in football.

When will Le Boss’s future become a point for discussion? My guess is post-January when Sanchez has left and Özil has won his new deal.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

191 thoughts on “Watford Preview: Sting in the Tail and Contract Warnings

  1. Orson Kaert says:

    Giroud for Lacazette, he has been disappointing tonight.

  2. andy1886 says:

    Poor attempt from Ozil with just the keeper to beat and they go straight to the other end and get a pen!

  3. Orson Kaert says:

    Bellerin gives away a penalty

  4. C says:

    Ozil should have scored. He over-thought that cause he looked to the corner but hit it centrally.

    Bellerin gives away the penalty and I have to say, that was really soft especially since he didn’t give Welbeck the penalty for the same challenge.

    Cech continues to fucking suck at penalties and 1-1.

  5. andy1886 says:

    And it’s 1-1.

    Very dodgy pen award though, Bellerin didn’t touch him.

  6. C says:

    HenryB,

    Completely agree especially since Welbeck didn’t get a penalty. They keep showing the replay and Bellerin didn’t even make contact with him!

  7. Woolwich Freddie says:

    Absolute joke decision.

  8. HenryB says:

    If ever we needed a definition of a dive — that’s it!!!

  9. Woolwich Freddie says:

    Didn’t think Welbeck’s was one either. Looked like shoulder to shoulder on the replay.

  10. andy1886 says:

    Was surprised to see Lacazette come off for Giroud, would have taken off Iwobi and played Giroud and Lacazette as a front two.

  11. C says:

    I would bring on Theo for Iwobi.

    Richaldson has been superb in the 2nd half just running at anybody and everybody from Bellerin to Kos.

  12. C says:

    We really are shit at defending a lead especially when we drop off.

  13. C says:

    Ozil doing his defensive work and then winning a free kick.

  14. Wavey says:

    At the moment it’s looking like the home team are more likely to take all of the points.

    Very poor decision on the pen, but Hector gave the ref the option. Easy to give when it’s clear he stuck a leg out and didn’t get the ball.

  15. andy1886 says:

    Not sure where we will get another goal from, that’s a pretty toothless looking line up on the pitch right now.

  16. C says:

    Wavey,

    He didn’t stick a leg out, have to disagree with you on that

  17. C says:

    Ozil plays a superb ball to Xhaka and he should have taken the shot and not pass it.

  18. Woolwich Freddie says:

    I think Nacho wanted that one on his other foot!

  19. andy1886 says:

    C,

    It certainly looked like he just ran normally, no challenge and no contact. Can’t blame him for that bad decision.

  20. C says:

    Jack coming on for Iwobi. Why not bring on Theo?!?

  21. andy1886 says:

    Wilshere coming on for Iwobi…

    And they nearly get a second!

  22. HenryB says:

    How I dislike it when Giro does his stranded whale and does sod all but cry for free kicks.

    We do not seem to have a defence anymore.

  23. andy1886 says:

    We’ve gone to pieces, hanging on at the moment.

  24. C says:

    Goal post saves Cech after a massive deflection.

    Giroud coming on suits Watford because there is no threat to get behind them so they can squeeze the game. Theo needs to come on to stretch but no more subs with Jack coming on for Iwobi.

  25. C says:

    andy1886,

    Exactly, it was just to players running and and Richalson losses the ball and Bellerin is just running. Soft penalty and absolutely TERRIBLE defending.

  26. C says:

    Kos is hurt again and instead of Jack its holding that comes on.

  27. Orson Kaert says:

    This is fucking ridiculous, we have no shape defensively, the midfielders have given up. Now Koscielny is coming off for Holding.

  28. andy1886 says:

    WTF??! Holding coming on now for Kos, JW sits back down. Surely we can’t think that a point is a good result? Must be an injury.

  29. HenryB says:

    We will be lucky to save a point,

  30. C says:

    Giroud is limping around rubbing the back of his leg.

  31. C says:

    Iwobi with a terrible pass straight to the Watford players.

  32. Orson Kaert says:

    Koscielny injured yet again, selling Gabriel looks like one of Wenger’s worst ever decisions.

  33. andy1886 says:

    Going back to that comment earlier, how anyone still in charge of their mental faculties could watch this and still believe that we are realistically competing with the two Manchester clubs for the title I have no idea. Top six, maybe, top four, possible, title? not in a million years.

  34. Orson Kaert says:

    Monreal with a hit and hope from outside the box.

  35. Bill says:

    That corner kick is probably counted as a chance created for Ozil.

  36. C says:

    Orson Kaert,

    Yup, it was a terrible decision especially when you consider that Chambers was already injured, it was already announced that Mert was retiring at the end of the season , Nacho isn’t getting younger.

    Yup, Gabriel being sold because he didn’t learn English quick enough seems crazy then and even crazier now.

  37. andy1886 says:

    I’m afraid that Giroud has been totally ineffectual since coming on.

    And we’re fucked….

  38. Orson Kaert says:

    That fucking does it for me! Good night.

  39. Bill says:

    Mo Elneny is a nice squad player but I just don’t see that he is good enough to be a regular starter.

  40. HenryB says:

    I cannot believe that second half. Sickened.

  41. C says:

    We all knew that was coming. WTF but knew that was coming, Holding didn’t react to the rebound nor did any of the players.

    The away drought continues. Watford up to fourth and Arsenal stuck mid-table.

    The biggest problem I have is that we dropped off so much to start the 2nd half and allowed Watford to attack and attack and it’s been clear for the past 10 years that we are a shit side when it comes to dropping off and not pressuring the other team even if we are playing on the counter. You could tell that the message was to drop off because we were pressuring in the first half and dropped much much deeper in the 2nd half.

  42. Wavey says:

    C,

    Yes he did. He was on the stretch trying to get the ball. Didn’t connect with the player, but that stretch must have made the ref think he had caught Richarlson.

  43. SV says:

    Weakened by Wenger’s poor second half plan and sustitutions. Wasteful when needing a second. Wenger out. Ozil out.

  44. C says:

    Bill,

    I knew you were going to either bring up Elneny or Ozil. The fact that Watford’s WHOLE attack came down the flanks speaks volumes. Richarldson was MOTM coming down the right flank in the 2nd half and Iwobi should have helped out Bellerin more but he didn’t.

  45. andy1886 says:

    Fair play to Watford, making the most of limited resources. Goes to show that you need effort as well as ability in this league. Not incisive enough and mentally fragile when under pressure. Nothing really changes.

  46. Colts says:

    “They’re the same people who refuse to accept the truth that Arsene Wenger is the only reason Arsenal have not been mired in midtable mediocrity since the age of the oligarch started”.

    Gave me a chuckle in the past, not so funny moving forwards. Or is that backwards.

  47. SV says:

    You knew droped points were coming when Wenger started taking a victory lap after a few wins.

  48. C says:

    Silva out coached Arsene plain and simple. He made those 2 early subs and they kept the pressure on and I’m sorry, Giroud should only be brought on when we are chasing a game, not when we are tied or in the lead because for all the talk of his hold up play being his strength, everytime he tried to hold it up he didn’t so back down our throat it goes.

  49. Wavey says:

    Giroud sent on to be a target man and hold up play. Not one ball up to him stuck.
    Bellerin is a shocking defender and cannot cross, let Barcelona have him.
    Not sure what happened to Ozil after he missed his chance, seemed to disappear.
    Commentators suggested the player could be penalised if they review the incident and decide he dived. How does that help us?
    It was a really bad performance though. We have a major fire power issue.

  50. SV says:

    Some of decision making in front of goal was disappointing for a self proclaimed attacking side. The midfield lost control in the second, and the back four gave up when under pressure. Wenger’s game management made everything worse, not better.

  51. G4E says:

    The Usual Arsene ad Arsenal Saga continues…..

    Maybe not a penalty and maybe an offside goal but we have no one to blame but ourselves for all the missed chances.

    Nothing new here folks, same old same old Arsene Wenger and the kind of games him and his teams are producing on a regular basis.

    Chelsea lose, Liverpool and Man United draw….So guess what? Arsenal lose too…..Surprised?

    I’m sick of this and seriously have no more sympathy for the club owner, manager, or players.

    This current owner and manger together divided the fans and they are winning by keeping the status quo. Nothing will change until they are moved on.

    **** Arsenal fans all over the world, your best bet is Fantasy Football or if you’re really desperate Football Manger?

  52. Bill says:

    Wavey

    I agree with your comment about a major firepower shortfall. If Sanchez couldn’t play then I think Theo should have started as one of the wide forwards instead of either Iwobe or Welbeck. Theo often disappears for long stretches but at least he is a threat to score a goal.

  53. Bill says:

    We had our world class ball possession team in the second half with Xhaka, Elneny, Ozil and Iwobe all on the pitch but Watford still had a lot more of the ball in the last 30 minutes.

  54. Wavey says:

    Haven’t a clue who the Geordie commentating on the ATM/Barca on BEIN is, but he’s nuts.

    Squirrel on a telephone wire

    Griez is the word

    WTF?

    He’s crazy.

  55. C says:

    I know Bellerin is going to take a slaughtering but where was his help one has to wonder? Where was Kos or Iwobi to double Richarldson since it was clear Silva wanted to go down our right flank?

    So currently we have Kos injured, Chambers injured, Mustafi injured and I know hindsight is 20/20 but 2 of those players have been injured since summer….so why again was Gabriel sold? Here’s the other thing, who are our back-up wingbacks because if Sead and Bellerin are expected to play the whole season then I would imagine we will struggle given they will tire and more than likely that will cause an injury.

  56. C says:

    Positive from the game, we scored an away goal

  57. Wavey says:

    Messi, the neck of an owl.

    This guy is completely crackers.

    Hilarious!

  58. Wavey says:

    C,

    He didn’t have any help, but he was also fairly poor. And he cannot cross to save his life. Can’t see how we can have a wing back who can’t add much at either end of the pitch.

    Lovely goal for ATM.

  59. Wavey says:

    He strikes this one quicker than a Chinese delivery.

    A finish as smooth as a trombone slide and as accurate as a dart thrower.

    Can’t stop laughing.

  60. Wavey says:

    A tremendable goal with absolute micron perfection.

    Haven’t a clue what he’s on about.

  61. Wavey says:

    Looking sharper than a porcupine’s backside.

  62. Wavey says:

    It’s a better stroke than Michael Phelps.

  63. C says:

    Wavey,

    He might have been okay, but if their whole attack came down one side, you would think at some point Arsene would demand Iwobi to help or something.

  64. Bill says:

    Bellerins side of the defense has been our weaker side since he became a regular. Its analogous to the weakness on our left side for all those years of Clichy and Gibbs. Its partly an unfair comparison because nacho’s defense on the left is so much better so naturally teams are going to gravitate towards our right but no matter how you slice it, defense has never been Hectors strong suit.

  65. Freddo says:

    All of Arsene’s chickens coming home to roost right now. The peleton is zooming away and he’s still riding a tricycle. Will someone tell me what the hell Xhaka brings to the party. Tectonically slow, one-footed, unable to protect the ball. Arsene has a habit of persisting with players who basically wreck his teams (though there were other culprits out there)

  66. Wavey says:

    Bill,

    He used to be good at using his pace to get the last ditch tackle in, but he doesn’t seem to ever be back to do that anymore. His decision making and crossing up front does explain why Wenger preferred to use Ox on that side. It is a bit worrying that this great young find doesn’t actually do his job very well.

  67. Bill says:

    If covering the right side of our defense because Bellerin needs help is a necessary part of the job description of our right sided forward then we certainly can’t use Özil in that position.

  68. JonJon says:

    very naive of wenger
    weve been solid last few games then he goes an throws ozil on and we lose all shape and we concede 2 in 30 minutes.

    corners are never turned at this club..

  69. YW says:

    So, tell me again. How are Manchester City our direct rivals?

  70. Wavey says:

    It is worrying that we regularly look poor against fairly average sides. We have now lost in the league to Liverpool, Stoke and Watford. Teams that don’t pose much of a threat to teams above us. If we were just unlucky against a dogged performance, fair enough, but we were shown up in the second half today. When Ozil missed the chance when he was through on goal we disappeared collectively and Watford were the better team from then on. They may have been helped by a poor decision, but they took full advantage of that and made the substitutions that changed the game. I’m sure that Wenger would have focused on the penalty incident rather than admit that there are some serious issues. Wenger won’t sell Sanchez in January because he has to rely on him to get the goals that could get a know the top 4. Without Sanchez we do not have enough goal scorers and we will have to spend serious money to replace him next summer. All of the other teams in the top six have a more dynamic attack than Arsenal.

  71. JonJon says:

    if we take the 4 teams out that are between us and the 25+ GD then that only leaves 9 points behind

    indirect rivals.

  72. Freddo says:

    andy1886: Giroud

    Giroud just comes on to loaf around and try to snag a cheap goal. Just what you need when you’re defending a lead.

  73. Freddo says:

    I’d love to know what Arsene sees in his minds eye when he visualises a successful team. Klopp yesterday showed that he is addicted to pace and mobility. Does Arsene really think he has a team that can live with that sort of team, particularly in midfield?

  74. Freddo says:

    In any event, the season is already all over. Just a question of counting the dead and bayoneting the wounded.

  75. C says:

    I know Ozil missed his chance but Iwobi should have buried his and what was going on literally with everybody after we scored?

    I know Theo isn’t everybody or really anybody but my cup of tea but at least he poses a goal threat, whats the point of bringing on Giroud if he isn’t going to hold the ball up. The fact that we were going for the win and Arsene was set to bring on Jack says everything.

  76. Bill says:

    C

    You can’t really blame Ozil or Iwobe for missing good chances because neither of them are goal scorers. Ozil has been playing for more then a decade and never scored much and nor has Iwobe. We can’t expect them to take their chances when they have never been playing their entire careers and never been very good at it. I agree we should have used Walcott today if Sanchez was not available because at least Theo is pretty good at scoring goals.

  77. Bill says:

    C

    We have been talking about this for a long time but goals don’t just take care of themselves no matter how many great passers and technical players you have. You need a critical mass of goal scoring players on the pitch.

  78. Bill says:

    C

    I also don’t think you can expect quality defensive help on the right wing from Ozil or Iwobe since neither of them have ever been very good at that. If strong defensive help from the right forward is critical to the team then we should not use either player at that position. We have a huge sample size of of data that tells you what you can and can’t expect from certain players.

  79. Damon says:

    C,

    Sorry mate but I don’t think that’s completely fair. It was a great pass from Ozil to give Iwobi the chance to shoot. It it was a tight angle and he had a lot to do to score from there. He might of scored but not a nailed on goal that he blew.

    Ozil’s chance was different. He was central, had time and space and really should’ve scored from there with just the keeper to beat.

    With that said, your point on Theo is valid. I didn’t hate the starting line up but I did hate the subs yesterday. I thought Lacazette movement yesterday was first rate. He’s the player I would always leave on as he gets in the right places. He might look quiet but only needs a sniff for half a second and BANG.

    I didn’t understand bring Giroud on. As they chased the game I would’ve liked to see us set up for more of a quick counter as they left space. Ozil and Giroud are neither blessed with mobility over the turf. I think Andy said it would’ve been better to take Play Laca AND Giroud, not either or. Theo would’ve been a better replacement for Welbeck IMO and that’s not just hindsight talking. As an aside, I’m not sure what more Elneny has to do to get a bit of praise. I thought he had a solid game in midfield yesterday. I’d like to see him and Jack have a few games as the midfield pair and see how that goes. I think it could be what we’re missing

    So, in summary, Arsene gambled that he could shut up shop with a one goal lead, made stream of horrid subs, was factually inept and it blew up in his face. Beaten by Tom Cleverley

  80. Damon says:

    Factually should be tactically

    I was suggesting to sub Iwobi for Giroud instead of Lacazette

    Morning, by the way

  81. Noon Gunner says:

    Damon</
    I wonder if Aresene is subbing Giroud for Lacazette as a strategy to persuade Giroud to stay. Yes – I am clutching at explanatory straws here, because by that stage of yesterday's game we were no longer pressing Watford and our only hope was going to be a counter attack, in which situation we all know which CF we would rather have on the pitch.
    I too see Elneny as less of a liability than Granit, and I think he would/will combine well with Jack.
    I'm really disappointed with Bellerin. He's starting to remind me of Theo in his inability to take on and pass his man, and his consequent reluctance to try, meaning we go backwards when we could (at slightly greater risk) go forward and at least unsettle their LB. And he's unconvincing one-on-one in defense, too, often standing off and letting smart wingers make their cross. I'm starting to imagine that by end of season we might have found more joy from one of the new crop down that right side, like Maitland-Niles – he always looks calm and focused. Hector just makes me nervous these days.

  82. Noon Gunner says:

    Ha! Sorry for the early morning bold type – a bit early for anything that loud, I agree.

    Thinking about Xhaka and Bellerin and how they’ve plateaued and started to lose their edge of value to the team, it strikes me they are probably not getting much actual coaching. In a high-performance organisation the star talent get nurtured and are provided with some sort of map for self development so they can move through their personal and professional gears as they rise through the ranks. This involves mentoring and help to overcome successive levels of personal challenge, to peel away those subtle but obstructive layers of self-limitation so that the quality that’s clearly lying within can be liberated and come to maturity.

    I don’t see much evidence of this at AFC. I suspect Arsene’s ‘leadership model’ is different, less demanding and ultimately less supportive of his charges’ real potential. One doesn’t know what strategies he works through with all his players but I do know that a surprising number of very talented players track through the Arsenal ‘family atmosphere’ for years and fall frustratingly short of their promise.

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