Sunday 15 September 2019 7:15 pm

Watford 2-2 Arsenal: Five things we learned as Sanchez Flores enjoys bounce

New manager bounce is not reserved for brand new managers, as Quique Sanchez Flores proved on Sunday when his second spell at Watford began with a rousing come-from-behind draw with Arsenal.

Trailing 2-0 against the run of play after two Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang goals in the first 32 minutes, it looked like being a bittersweet return to Vicarage Road for Sanchez Flores.

But if the Hornets had lost momentum with a run of 11 defeats in 15 Premier League games then this was a game to restore it. They may have only drawn and remain bottom of the table, but it felt like a win.

Deulofeu drives Watford

Watford had not managed more than three shots on target in a league game this season before this weekend. Against Arsenal, they had 31 attempts on goal, of which 10 were on target.

At the forefront of most of their attacking play was the manager’s fellow Spaniard, Gerard Deulofeu.

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The winger tormented Arsenal’s jittery back four and it was his alert interception of the visitors’ shambolic attempt to play a short goal kick that allowed Tom Cleverley to slam past Bernd Leno and ignite the comeback.

Arsenal dig own grave

For all of Watford’s improvement, however, Arsenal were architects of their own downfall with yet more suicidal defending.

Unai Emery’s team invited the hosts on to them all game and were fortunate to take the lead, let alone by two goals.

Matteo Guendouzi twice gave the ball away in dangerous areas when trying to play out before Sokratis restored a measure of justice to the scoreline with a weak excuse for a pass to the Frenchman that was pounced on by Deulofeu.

WATFORD, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 15:  Quique Sanchez Flores, Manager of Watford acknowledges the fans after the Premier League match between Watford FC and Arsenal FC at Vicarage Road on September 15, 2019 in Watford, United Kingdom. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
Sanchez Flores was taking charge of the first game of his second spell as Watford manager. Credit: Getty

David Luiz then handed Watford the penalty from which Roberto Pereyra equalised by dangling a leg in the way of the Argentina midfielder.

It is no coincidence that Arsenal have made more errors leading to goals than any other Premier League team since the start of last season. They have now conceded penalties in their last three games, too.

Emery tactics backfire

Emery’s tactical tinkering, meanwhile, continues to baffle.

Here he reheated the diamond midfield that fell flat in the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool and, again, those involved seemed incapable of exerting even a modicum of control on proceedings as the match flowed wildly from one end to the other.

If the point of adopting different tactics away from home is to be more compact, less cavalier, then this had the opposite effect. Like much of Emery’s thinking, it is hard to decipher.

He seems hell bent on switching formations from one game to the next. Arsenal might be better served devising one strategy that gets the best out of their key players and perfecting that first.

Reliant on Aubameyang

This marked Mesut Ozil’s first appearance of the season, having been eased back into action following a security scare and then illness, and he put in a typically enigmatic display.

Ozil’s chief contribution was a perfectly weighted pass inside the full-back for Ainsley Maitland-Niles to square for Aubameyang’s second goal.

WATFORD, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 15:  Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal (14) and team mates Granit Xhaka and David Luiz react during the Premier League match between Watford FC and Arsenal FC at Vicarage Road on September 15, 2019 in Watford, United Kingdom. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
Aubameyang’s good work was undone by incompetence behind him. Credit: Getty

Other than that, he struggled to make an impact, perhaps not helped by a lack of midfield support.

With Alexandre Lacazette injured and record signing Nicolas Pepe still peripheral, Arsenal remain ever-more dependent on Aubameyang, who showcased his singular talents with a smart spin and instant finish past Ben Foster for the opening goal.