Hornets horror show

Final score: Watford 2 Arsenal 2. I was angry at the end of the game, but I try not to hit the keyboard immediately as it often helps to simmer down a bit. But ... if anything, time has given me a worse perspective on the game than the one I had at 90 minutes. So what have we got?


Firstly, I'd like to thank my good friend Danny for enabling my Arsenal-centric blog onto a new platform. Thanks, DC, and I hope that it goes down well with your readers. And that's about the only good thing I've got to say this week...

Back to that game. Best to start with team selection. Emery doesn't do things by halves, does he? Let's face it, who didn't think that selecting both Ozil and Ceballos might just be asking for trouble (against a backdrop of having selected three defensive midfielders - at home! - in the previous game). And as anticipated it was only in relatively small patches in the game that Arsenal managed to impose themselves on distinctly limited opposition. I questioned the team selection before the start, and I am still questioning it now.

Secondly, tactics. And this centres on Granit Xhaka, the supposed lynch-pin/pivot of the side. I, along with a large majority of Arsenal fans, totally fail to see what he brings to the party. He can't shield the defence, he can't tackle properly, and he lacks pace and athleticism. Last week saw stats going round noting him as 'dribbled past most often' at Arsenal; 'most fouls committed' by an Arsenal player; and 'most tackles lost'. As if we needed that proved by numbers!

So when Guendouzi is trying to do the work of two players, it's no wonder that the defence is exposed again and again. I'm not quite sure what Emery has got against Torreira - either he is unconvinced by his stature, or Xhaka has incriminating photos of him! But to allow the team in the worst form in the division 31 scoring opportunities in a game indicates that something is horribly wrong.

Thirdly, individual errors. And here I've gone back to the beginning of the season and all goals conceded by Arsenal so far.

Burnley - Ceballos fails to track back

Liverpool 1 - blown coverage at a corner

Liverpool 2 - Luiz switches off; gets caught wrong side of Salah

Liverpool 3 - not taking anything away from Salah, but without the previous yellow card perhaps Luiz does things differently

Spurs 1 - cut apart on a breakaway. Two separate major mistakes on this goal by Sokratis

Spurs 2 - brainless, moronic challenge by Xhaka

Watford 1 - It's been coming. I've been saying it for over a year. If anything, the change to the goal kick rule has made it even more likely. Quite possibly the most embarrassing goal I have ever seen Arsenal give away

Watford 2 - Luiz tackle poor. But left exposed by lack of midfield cover

Each and every goal preventable, and three penalties conceded in successive matches. Not forgetting the extra self-imposed pressure brought about by continually playing out short from the back.

Lets take this back to tactics and personnel. We're now a month into Emery's second season, he's essentially got the players he wanted due to recent culls and considerably larger than expected sums of money spent, and yet I cannot see that he knows his best XI, and we are yet to see any discernable system/way of playing. There is a lack of identity which surely comes down to a failure to communicate properly to his players what he wants. And that's if he knows what he wants. There are rumours of player unrest, and I can well believe them. Crucially, if one is forever reactive, how does one ever impose oneself on the opposition?

Going back to playing out from the back; these are clear instructions from the Manager, but when the opposition know exactly what Arsenal are going to do, then they're going to devise plans to deal with it. Mix it up a bit, surely - it's not suddenly against the Laws of the game to go long. And also - and this is crucial; Emery said post-game that we are more likely to lose the ball from long goal kicks than short. All well and good, but I'd rather be looking for knockdowns and second balls on the halfway line than gifting the opposition the ball 10 yards out!

And this was Watford, for goodness' sake. The team in the worst form in the entire division. Devoid of confidence and belief (new Manager bounce notwithstanding) and yet our esteemed Captain, Granit Xhaka, announces post-game that we were 'scared' of them. Having gone in at half time 2-0 up ... yes, two horrendous defensive errors cost the game, but the way the team is set up and asked to play is a recipe for disaster.

When Walcott said in 2016 that Crystal Palace 'wanted it more than us', he hardly played for Arsenal again. And that ought to be Xhaka's fate, because that sort of comment compounds another weak performance from the man who is supposed to be setting the tempo for the side. Our captain ...

I'm querying almost everything Arsenal from this game, but I'll make a couple of exceptions. Aubameyang brilliant as usual and took his difficult first goal beautifully. And Leno, goal-kick decisions notwithstanding, had an exceptional game. But didn't he have to!

As for the rest: AMN continually exposed by Delofeu - should have been showing him outside, but got no help from his central defender or midfield. Kolasinac as per usual good going forward; inadequate defensively. Centre-backs an utter shambles. Xhaka another 3/10 performance, leaving too much on Guendouzi, whose work suffered. Ceballos unable to impose himself (of course it was a 'hot day', so the man who is used to playing in Spain is the one who comes off less than an hour into the game).

Ozil peripheral - although gave a sublime pre-assist for the second goal. Pepe needs more time, and some confidence instilled. Substitutions insubstantial, bar one great driving run by Willock late on - and, of course, there's nobody to change things up front at the moment with Nketiah out on loan (and tearing it up) at Leeds.

On the personnel side, getting the missing defenders back can't come soon enough. And one has to feel sorry for Calum Chambers, who helped keep a clean sheet in game one and yet has not featured since. He certainly cannot have done any worse than the Chuckle brothers have done since. In midfield, I'd drop Xhaka immediately and bring in Torreira. And I'd like to see more of Joe Willock. In Lacazette's absence, I'd give Nelson a run in the side. And Arsenal have one or two extremely promising forwards (John-Jules, Balogun) who ought to now be sitting on the bench for league games.

We are at a watershed with this Manager, very early into season two. And people are already calling for his head. Certainly, bar that fortunate long undefeated run last autumn, it's been difficult to note any real progess from the team. In a season when a top four spot is there for the taking, Arsenal are already contriving to make a pig's ear of it. We are seeing a lot of the latter Wenger era issues, but now a few more thrown in. And I'll add to the bandwagon here; if Emery cannot or will not impose a discernable style on his team then the message is clear - at this level, he is out of his depth.

It's a way off yet, because Arsenal's heirarchy are not Chelsea's, but should there be any consideration of a change of Manager I'd like to throw this in: please, Please, PLEASE not Mourinho. Yes, he's reinvented himself into something of a nice guy on tv this season, but this is Jose Mourinho; surely anathema to a club with the class of Arsenal FC. Please no. But as I say, that's some way off. Although should Emery fail to deliver Champions League football for next season (if he gets the whole of this one) that will be enough for me and many others. Much as I want to get behind him, I can't work out what I'm getting behind.

On to Europa League on Thursday. I can't wait ... 

David Marks is our new resident Arsenal blogger. Visit his blog at

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