Arsenal’s title hopes took a significant dent as they suffered a 2-1 loss to Watford at Emirates Stadium. Watford took a surprise lead in the 10th minute when Younes Kaboul’s free kick deflected off Aaron Ramsey to leave goalkeeper Petr Cech wrong-footed.
And it was 2-0 just three minutes later when Troy Deeney pounced after Etienne Capoue’s initial shot was saved by Cech. The Gunners pulled a goal back through Alexi Iwobi, who guided home at the back post from Alexis Sanchez’s chip.
There was plenty to ruminate on in this game, but here are five lessons Arsenal must learn from this game
Coquelin and Ramsey do not work together still
Coquelin was hooked early, and that speaks volumes. It may be due to putting in extra attacking resources with Lucas, but Coquelin had a rare off-day where he didn’t do what he normally does, and that is to provide an extra line of defence. Then there is the partnership with Ramsey. It was devoid of pace, and the duo does not take it in tandem to attack and defend. The chemistry just isn’t there. Ramsey needs the right partner to allow his best play – but more often than not he is found wanting. Coquelin does the defensive work well – normally – but is severely limited everywhere else. He is a great squad option, but in terms of central midfield – we need an overhaul.
Gabriel has not evolved
The Brazilian is still the athletic but slow to react defender that we bought two years ago. He was rash then and he still is which is a massive weakness in this league. He can duke it out with the most physical strikers in the Premiership, but when it comes to defensive nous, positioning and using your head? Gabriel is found wanting.
Lucas and Theo need to start
The Spaniard has capitalised on every rare occasion he has taken to the field. Theo offers us something no one else does in our team. It is clear our attack needs a bit of a lift, and these two deserve a run in the side.
Bench Ozil and Alexis
These two players are capable of destroying anyone in European football almost single-handedly. So when they put in performances of which we have just witnessed, it is clear something is missing. Both were rested in the weekend, so fatigue is not an issue. It may have been just a bad game, but when Lucas, Theo and Welbeck are pushing for games as hard as they are right now, then maybe a wake-up call is needed. If a starting berth is guaranteed, then maybe displays will dip every now and then by 5%. Alexis has done more than most this season, so this latest game and his efforts really do seem far worse by comparison. Mesut Ozil flitted and passed and looked for openings, but where is that player that eviscerates defences with a single pass? Where have his goals gone? It is time to play players on form.
Cech back on form
Cech kept the scoreline in the first half to a level where thousands of Gooners did not spontaneously combust. If it weren’t for the Gunners keeper, Watford would have strolled to the dressing room leading by four goals. Can you imagine? Cech’s save from Sebastian Prodl’s header was spectacular, and his denial of Daryl Janmaat was vital. He may be awful at stopping spot kicks, but Cech’s mastery in between the sticks should not be ignored. He never lost it.
There was more to dwell on, but we lost and I feel it is best to not focus too much. There is need for change in the team though. With Ramsey injured, it means Oxlade-Chamberlain will be in the centre of midfield. He has shown massive improvement this season, and his dynamism may prove to be the shot in the arm we need.