A Harsh 0-3 Loss: Any Cause For Concern?
It took three ruthless, clinical and quality pieces of play by the Gunners to break a deadlock that had certainly given a good reflection of the way the game had gone after 60 minutes. Annoyingly and perhaps surprisingly it was actually an Arsenal counter attack that gave Arsene Wenger`s side the lead and ultimately the game after a sustained period of Watford pressure. Arsenal then ran away with the game as fatigue got the better of the Hornets.
Firstly, as I tweeted (@WatfordTweet), the game was one of the best losses I have ever witnessed as a Watford fan. Every single player from Sebastian Prodl to Odion Ighalo ran themselves into the ground, something which was undoubtedly recognised and appreciated by the fantastic Watford support inside The Vic. For me, Etienne Capoue was the stand out performer. If each of our starting XI had the Frenchman`s inexhaustible engine inside them then I feel we could have snatched a draw from the game. The former Spurs man was charging down every back-pass to Petr Cech ahead of Ighalo and Deeney all night, whilst also displaying that extra bit of quality required to overcome talented sides such as Arsenal.
The work ethic of the Golden Boys alongside how well they played was a massive positive and greatly encouraging ahead of a run of games against Stoke (A), West Ham (H) and Leicester (A) from which I`m sure we`d hope for at least five points.
Secondly, to a concern I have. We probably should have scored against Arsenal, and our inability to put the ball in the back of the net is a worrying and developing theme. To beat the best, you have to take every chance you get, and only one goal in our five home games is assuredly relegation material. An over-reliance on Ighalo to score goals is clear, but I actually link our goal drought more to the defensive efforts of Troy Deeney. It is fantastic that the big number 9 is willing to get back and do a great job for the team, something which is often needed. However, you have to feel it is having an adverse impact on his chances at goal. Whenever we do win the ball back, Deeney is invariably recovering from tracking back or just far too deep to be able to help an isolated Ighalo up front. When we have scored our goals this season, it is because Ighalo and Deeney have been side-by-side and able to feed off each other`s knock-downs. I still don`t get the impression we quite have the right balance. I appreciate it is incredibly difficult to achieve this 'balance` between attack and defence, but it`s definitely something that has so far hindered us this campaign.
Thirdly, another worry of mine! While singing the brilliant QSF chant at the back of the Rookery Stand during the Arsenal game, our relative lack of depth and shortage of impact substitutes was made profoundly clear. Bringing on the promising Dutchman Steven Berghuis did nothing to help our cause, and the seemingly over-hyped Victor Ibarbo brought little change either. I don`t want to be harsh, but Paredes is a Championship player, enough said. In short, I have to feel that we have a lack of depth and quality to come off the bench and make an impact if we're losing after 60 minutes or need to break the deadlock, putting huge pressure on the first XI to put us into a winning position. You have to think, what happens if Deeney or Ighalo get injured, are an aging Diamanti or exciting Obbi Oulare good enough replacements? And what if Allan Nyom gets injured, is Anya versatile enough to play at right-back for a longer stint, or does Flores pick an inadequate Paredes?
Almost enough of my moaning! My final negative point to take from the Arsenal game and probably the season so far as a whole would be our wing play and use of Nyom and Anya/Ake that, thus far, has been nothing short of ineffective and fruitless. One thing that has certainly been established is our inability to cross a ball that can get past the first man of the opposition. When we get it out wide in an attacking position, Nyom and Anya, let`s say, usually cut inside, either because only Ighalo is in the box, or because they know they cannot cross a ball very well. We always seem to waste goal-scoring opportunities when we get the ball in good positions down the flanks and this is also contributing to our so-called goal drought.
So, I realise I may be sounding all doom-and-gloom, and I apologise if I do because I, along with many other Watford fans, am very happy with our start to the season. However, there are certainly a few issues that have made themselves clear throughout our Premiership campaign so far, and heading into a congested and extremely tricky Christmas period in about a month`s time, there is some cause for concern.