Roberto Pereyra gives Watford hope in mixed display against Arsenal
Going into this fixture Watford had failed to take so much as a point from any of their six previous Premier League meetings with Arsenal, and this wretched run continued at Vicarage Road. The Hornets' chances of taking anything from the game disappeared on the stroke of half-time when an unmarked Mesut Ozil headed home the Gunners decisive third, with the match ultimately finishing 3-1.
After a nigh on disastrous first half, the Hornets deserve credit for salvaging some pride with a vastly improved second-half performance. After impressive debutant Roberto Pereyra slammed in a 58th-minute goal, the Vicarage Road crowd sensed a comeback. The Hornets carved out a number of chances that on another day could have resulted in an astonishing recovery, but the deficit remained intact. Five new signings made their first appearance in a yellow shirt, with each of them turning in encouraging displays. Christian Kabasele and Younes Kaboul did a good job in a reshuffled back three, while striker Isaac Success delivered an entertaining and exciting cameo. The International break will give the newly bolstered squad a chance to bond further and, on this showing, the new additions will make Watford a much-improved proposition.
Watford weren't helped by an erratic performance form the officials, but in truth the Hornets only had themselves to blame for the three first-half goals that put the game out of reach. Conceding an early penalty will have been pretty high on the list of things not to do, but while Nordin Amrabat's challenge was ungainly and ill-advised, questions have to be asked as to why it wasn't one of the three centre-backs attempting to deal with Alexis Sanchez. If the first goal was damaging, the third was decisive. Sanchez, a thorn in Watford's side throughout, had time to tee up a measured cross for Ozil who headed home completely unchallenged. While the cross and run were perfectly measured and timed, the lack of a challenge from anyone in yellow was bordering on the embarrassing.
Manager rating out of 10
7 - - It would be unfair to blame Walter Mazzarri for the first-half performance which unravelled due to a series of defensive errors. For the third league game in a row he took a talking to from the match officials -- a particularly stern ticking off being carried out with the use of a translator. The Italian switched formation just before the hour mark, switching to a flat back four and the change helped facilitate a much improved second-half performance. His willingness to adapt during a game will have pleased Watford supporters and despite remaining winless, most feel positive about the beginning of his reign.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Heurelho Gomes, 6 -- The Brazilian doesn't seem to have fully recaptured his excellent form of last term and currently has a tendency to look slightly hesitant and nervy. Could have been lobbed twice by Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but wasn't to blame for any of the goals and prevented a heavier defeat with a number of smart saves.
DF Younes Kaboul, 6 -- A largely satisfactory display from the new recruit, but looked off the pace at times and almost played himself into trouble late on. Faced a difficult task alongside another debutant in the back three, all of whom will be disappointed with the three Arsenal goals.
DF Sebastian Prodl, 6 -- An early booking made life difficult for the big Austrian and questions will be asked as to where he and his defensive colleagues were for Ozil's unchallenged headed goal.
DF Christian Kabasele, 7 -- The Belgium International acquitted himself well in his league debut, winning header after header at both ends of the pitch. Will have been disappointed not to have tested Petr Cech with a first-half attempt. Despite being part of a defence that conceded three bad goals and being substituted in the second half, he will have done his chances of keeping his place the power of good.
MF Jose Holebas, 7 -- Put in a full-blooded and committed performance as he continues to make the left wing-back place his own. Made several marauding runs, putting the Arsenal defence on the back foot with pace and power. His evident commitment to the cause will have been a welcome sight for Hornets fans after an indifferent 2015-16 campaign.
MF Adlene Guedioura, 5 -- Being withdrawn at half-time will have told Guedioura all he needed to know about his contribution. Squandered possession too often and was laboured in his passing meaning Watford were rarely able to build up a head of steam. Another disappointing outing after starting the first three league games of the season and it would be a major surprise to see him in the starting line up next time out.
MF Etienne Capoue, 7 -- Not quite the majestic performances of previous weeks, but was once again one of Watford's best performers. Occasional misplaced passes clearly frustrated the Frenchman, but overall he turned in another good showing.
MF Valon Behrami, 6 -- One of Behrami's quieter games, but carried out his duties with impressive efficiency. Broke up play and snapped into tackles without drawing the eye of an incredibly fussy referee. Picked up a late booking but this was a controlled display that showed how important he'll be as the season progresses.
MF Nordin Amrabat, 7 -- Gave away the early penalty with a clumsy challenge, but made amends with another excellent display at right wing-back. Was frustrated by a number of bizarre decisions from the officials, but his all action performance was exactly what was required with the Hornets up against it.
FW Odion Ighalo, 6 -- An encouraging second-half performance from Ighalo who found himself involved in a number of good attacking moves. Again showed that passing and delivery is far from his strong suite, but gave the Arsenal defence headaches on a number of occasions. A display that suggested the Nigerian is finding his feet.
FW Troy Deeney, 5 -- Endured a difficult afternoon and finished a distant second in his battle with Laurent Koscielny, who marshalled him out of the game almost completely. Looked frustrated with the way things unfolded and will have been disappointed not to have had an impact in such a big game.
MF Roberto Pereyra, 7 -- Introduced at half-time and quickly announced his arrival with a debut goal. Buzzed around the midfield and looked comfortable and composed when on the ball, giving Watford a much needed bit of impetus in midfield. Seems to have settled quickly and will surely start the next game. An exciting debut.
DF Daryl Janmaat, 6 -- Replaced Kabasele as Mazzarri switched to a back four. Made an immediate impact with his attacking down the right and carried out his defensive duties with no problems. Looks to be an excellent addition to the defensive ranks.
FW Isaac Success, NR -- Replaced Amrabat and immediately made an impact with a beautiful pass to set up a Watford attack. An exhilarating cameo, he moved the ball quickly and with purpose and will surely have impressed Mazzarri and supporters alike.
Mike is ESPN FC's Watford blogger.