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Matchday review

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Mon 24 Sep At 20.09 PM

Highlights | Watford 2-1 Arsenal

  • The Hornets rise to fourth after a last-ditch goal defeats Arsenal
  • Mertesacker's first-half header had the Gunners ahead at the break
  • Deeney converted from the spot to equalise with his first goal of the season
  • Cleverley scored Watford's third successive stoppage time goal to clinch all three points

Watford are up to fourth (yes, fourth) in the best league in the world after another late, late show, this time one that floored Arsenal. 
 
This thrilling come-from-behind win, hot on the heels of the dramatic showings at Swansea and West Bromwich Albion, left Vicarage Road bouncing and added further credence to the belief that something truly special is happening under Marco Silva.
 
Just what is the Head Coach feeding this mountainous group of players, what is he telling the players for them to believe that no position is unrecoverable? 
 
Down and almost certainly out of this one had Heurelho Gomes not made reflex second-half saves to deny Alex Iwobi and then Mesut Ozil, Watford staged a remarkable comeback to recover from Per Mertesaker’s first-half goal to firstly level through Troy Deeney and then win it, so thrillingly again, in stoppage time through Tom Cleverley.

The joy was unconfined. It was the third time the Hornets had plundered points from losing positions this season. Just how do they keep doing it?
 
While the late shows against Liverpool, Swansea and West Brom had largely been inspired by Richarlison, this one was squarely orchestrated by the Head Coach. Recognising things were not working with a remodelled back-three, he cleverly replaced Andre Gray with Troy Deeney, brought on Andrè Carrillo for Adrian Mariappa, switched to a back-four and got more bodies and balls in the opposition. The result was transformative.
 
Deeney crashed in a penalty won by Richarlison and then, with the momentum building, Cleverley slammed a loose ball into the roof of the net. Cue bedlam as Watford celebrated their first top-flight home win over the Gunners since 1987.
 
The exhilarating finish was in stark contrast to the first-half. Watford never grabbed the game by the collar and perhaps didn’t believe they could beat an Arsenal side with Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey left at home, and with Mesut Ozil on the bench. They just didn’t ask enough questions in the first-half. 
 
Both teams jabbed and jousted for most of the opening 45 minutes without ever really threatening. 
 
The Golden Boys figured their best chance of hurting Arsenal was down the flanks and it was from a penetrating run down the left from Abdoulaye Doucouré that led to their first real chance on 19 minutes, his flashing left-footed centre across goal having too much pace for Roberto Pereyra to direct on target with his head.

Then a ball from the other side, from Kiko Femenía, almost picked out Richarlison.
 
Defensively, Watford were looking pretty solid, opting to get everyone behind the ball except Gray and inviting the Gunners to break them down. When the visitors did break the defensive line, Adrian Mariappa made several immaculately timed interceptions and he was easily the home side’s best player in the first-half. 
 
With Watford looking comfortable it therefore came as a shock when Arsenal took the lead on 39 minutes. From an inswinging corner from Granit Xhaka, Mertesacker got a run on Cleverley and powered in a header from six yards out. It was a soft goal, his first in 1,400 days, and one that will have hugely disappointed Silva. 
 
Buoyed by the opening goal, Arsenal threatened to get a second soon after and kill the game but Gomes made two saves in quick succession from Xhaka. Half-time came at a good time for the Golden Boys, who needed to regroup and refocus. 
 
Whatever was said at half-time, and Deeney suggested a few choice words were communicated, had the desired effect as Watford were a different proposition in the second period. They took a while to get fully into their stride but once they did, and fuelled by the introduction of the talismanic Deeney, they begun to cause Arsenal far more problems than they did in the first, with Richarlison becoming increasingly to the fore.
 
Thirty two seconds after Gomes had saved at point-blank range from Ozil, in what turned out to be the game’s turning point - it would have been all over at 2-0 - Richarlison went down under the challenge of Hector Bellerin and Deeney did not need to be asked twice to ram in his 107th Watford goal, and his first in 14 games. 
 
Now with their tails up, Watford kept knocking on the door and almost prised it open when Etienne Capoue’s deflected shot struck the outside of the post. But there was to be one more chance, one more sight of goal, and Cleverley made the most of it. What a game, what a comeback. Bring on Chelsea.
 
HORNETS | Gomes (GK) (C); Mariappa (Carrillo, 63), Kabasele, Britos; Femenía, Doucouré, Cleverley, Holebas; Pereyra (Capoue, 80), Gray (Deeney, 63), Richarlison.

Subs not used | Karnezis (GK), Wagué, Janmaat, Watson.

Attendance | 20,384

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