Troy Deeney missed a rare penalty and showed he is human after all as Watford were beaten, somewhat soundly in the end, by Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium this afternoon.
The Hornets were two goals down on the hour-mark when Deeney was presented with the chance to score for the third successive match and hand Watford a lifeline, but Petr Cech produced a fine save to deny the Watford captain from 12 yards. It was only Deeney's fourth penalty miss in 28 attempts for the club and his first since April 2016.
Had it gone in, it would have given Watford real hope of staging a comeback and having a real go at the vulnerable Gunners in the last half-hour, especially as Javi Gracia likes to go for broke and make attacking substitutions. But, the penalty turned out to be the Hornets' last real chance and Arsenal ended up winning with something to spare, Henrikh Mkhitaryan adding a third to go alongside earlier strikes from Shkodran Mustafi and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
While there can be no real complaints about the outcome of the match, and you won't find anyone in yellow saying the team deserved to win, the margin of victory was a touch harsh on the Golden Boys as they went toe-to-toe with the Gunners for two-thirds of the match and were never outclassed.
But you need to cash in during your best spells, particularly at venues like this, and Watford will wonder for some time how they failed to find the back of the net, particularly in the first 45 minutes. But things are just not falling for the team in front of goal on their travels at the minute and you have to go all the way back to January 2 for their last goal in the league on the road.
It was a real shame they didn't apply the finishing touch as they produced some of their best football of the season during the first-half at the Emirates. It was easily their best away showing under Gracia. They won the corner count five to one, attacked down both flanks with real purpose and had as many shots on target as the Gunners. They were certainly not overawed by the prospect of playing against a side who defeated Milan in midweek, that's for sure.
It looked initially like it might be a long afternoon when Mesut Özil picked out the arcing run of Aubameyang after just two minutes. Thankfully, Orestis Karnezis pulled off the first of several good first-half saves – the highlight being one with his legs to deny Özil — but the signs were there that Arsenal were in the mood.
But Watford showed they were not coming just to defend and fashioned their first chance after five minutes, Richarlison firing into the side-netting after some neat play by the lively Roberto Pereyra.
It appeared Watford had settled into the game and established a foothold, so it came as blow when Mustafi headed in a free-kick from Özil for the opener. You expect to get opened up from open play at Arsenal so it really sticks in the throat when you concede from set-pieces. This was a soft one to let in and one that won't make for pretty viewing in the analysis session next week. You can't gift Arsenal a goal like that.
Those expecting the floodgates to open were to be disappointed as Watford played with real spirit and no shortage of attacking flair thereafter. They opened up Arsenal down both sides, mixed their play up and looked threatening every time the ball went into the box. Arsenal had their work cut out defensively.
Cech had to produce a one-handed save to stop Abdoulaye Doucouré from a Richarlison cut-back, and was called into action again to stop Richarlison's free-kick nestling in the bottom corner. The Arsenal keeper would have been relieved to see Pereyra wildly smash over the rebound. That was probably the chance of the half right there for the Argentine.
The promising attacks didn't stop there. Later on, a deflected cross from Kiko Femenía had Cech back-pedalling and relieved the ball landed on the roof of the net and not in the back of the net. Then, in stoppage time, Richarlison craned his neck to send a header towards the bottom corner, but Cech made a sprawling save to send it for a corner. Watford ended the half in the ascendancy and no-one could have argued had they gone in at the break all-square.
They needed to score next to make their good play count, to give them something to hang their hat on but it was Arsenal who got the game-changing second goal on 59 minutes, Mkhitaryan threading a pass through for Aubameyang to pierce the defensive line, round Karnezis and slot into an empty net. It was a repeat of a goal they carved out time and time together at Dortmund.
It looked then like a question of how many the Gunners might get, but Watford were given a sniff of a chance on 62 minutes when Ainsley Maitland-Niles fouled Pereyra in the box. That gave Deeney the chance to ram home the spot-kick and a few chants down people's throats, but he showed he is human after all by failing to find the net. And bang went Watford's hopes of getting anything out of the game.
Mkhitaryan then rubbed salt into the wounds by adding a third and there could have been a fourth had Karnezis not saved well from substitute Danny Welbeck. That really would have been harsh.
HORNETS | Karnezis (GK); Janmaat (Britos 83), Mariappa, Prödl, Holebas; Capoue, Doucouré; Femenía (Hughes 62), Pereyra (Okaka 67), Richarlison; Deeney (c).
Subs not used | Bachmann (GK), Carrillo, Sinclair, Gray.