Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger expressed despair after his side failed to pounce on the falterings of their title rivals and slumped to a shock home defeat to Watford.
Early goals from Younes Kaboul and skipper Troy Deeney propelled Watford into a commanding lead, while a second-half strike from Alex Iwobi was not enough to mask Arsenal’s first period horror show.
The Gunners dropped to third in the table, leapfrogged by Tottenham following their draw at Sunderland, as Chelsea’s point at Anfield meant Arsenal slipped nine points adrift of the runaway Blues. A first win in eight top-flight matches eased 13th placed Watford’s lingering relegation fears.
“We play at home and had a great opportunity,” said Wenger, who confirmed that midfielder Aaron Ramsey had suffered a calf strain. “What we want to do is win the games and I am very frustrated that we did not win the game
“Did we think subconsciously that we would turn up and it would work? I don’t know. We weren’t mentally ready and you have to switch it on at 100 per cent in the Premier League. That is what it is about.”
Watford took a surprise 10th minute lead when Tom Cleverley tapped a free-kick to Kaboul and the former Tottenham centre-half’s lashed effort took a deflection off Aaron Ramsey and sailed past helpless Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech,
The Hornets doubled their advantage moments later as Deeney forced the ball home from close range after Etienne Capoue’s shot following a slaloming, penetrative run was repelled by Cech.
The Gunners lay siege to the Watford goal in the opening stages of the second period and Iwobi’s precise finish across goal from a dinked Alexis Sanchez centre halved their arrears shortly before the hour mark.
Substitute Lucas Perez thumped the Watford crossbar with five minutes remaining, although there was to be no salvage operation as the Spaniard’s tame attempt in the dying stages was easily clutched by Watford stopper Heurelho Gomes.