This was revelatory. Watford have been excellent this season apart from that thrashing by Man City and even that seems less shocking in retrospect What would they do against a team like Arsenal? To be honest, I thought a win was on the cards.
The team news was a bit bizarre. I expected Deeney to get reinstated but Gray was on his own up front again in splendid isolation. I still rate him but Deeney would have fitted better for this game. And a back five? Including Britos? Seriously? I spent most of the first hour trying to work what formation the rest of the team were supposed to be playing. To be fair, they seemed similarly confused. And it showed in their performance.
Arsenal’s performance in that first half was pretty decent. The front three of Welbeck, Iwobi & Lacazette were very mobile & continually twisted us out of shape. The goal when it came was frustrating. Mertesacker, un-marked & barely challenged by Cleverley, smashed the ball in from an excellent corner by Xhaka. That felt like the end to be honest. Watford looked stunned. As half time came & went the game had an air of last season about it, when the team had a setback & consequently lost heart & faded away.
Not this time. It took Deeney’s entrance, a reversion to a back four & a traditional, cojones-less collapse from Arsenal but the balance of the game changed dramatically in Watford’s favour. Richarlison attacked in front of us & went down after contact from Bellerin. Of course it was a penalty, the later allegations of simulation were ludicrous. The heroic, epitomy of calm, Deeney, stepped up to score a perfect penalty. The Rookery exploded.
It was actually pretty simple after that. Watford’s momentum after that was irrepressible & we all sort of thought yet another last minute goal was possible. And so it came, from an unlikely source. Cleverley has had a brilliant season so far, working tremendously hard & using the ball intelligently. But you don’t expect goals. The Roookery exploded again when he smashed this one in. It was hugs all around. Not celebrated like that in the Rookery since that Leicester play off semi-final. Wow.
A quick word on the 1881 Movement. What a bunch of amazing, passionate people. I’m proud to have been one of the 129 fans who contributed to that new surfer & what an impressive sight it was. They have to be the most impressive fan group in the country. More to come I think.
Anyway. Stamford Bridge is next. Not been there for 17 years. This will be my fourth visit (while supporting 3 different clubs). It’ll be an experience.