Arsene Wenger is not quite sure what happened to his Arsenal side against Watford, certain that they were prepared properly.
Speaking before the game, Wenger said, “The players are prepared and mentally focused to deal with the challenges we face.”
While speaking after it, he said, “We were not sharp enough. I thought from outside it looked more mentally
“You look at the facts and we were beaten in the duels. When you play at home, in our position, that is not normal. Everybody in the Premier League is strong physically and 90 per cent is not enough.
“It’s difficult to know [if my ban had an impact]. It’s an easy excuse,” he added.
“We prepared well. We were warned Watford would make it very physical. I have no basic regret in the way we prepared.
“Did we think subconsciously we could turn up and it would be OK, I don’t know?”
He also went into the side’s preparation in more detail in this interview with the BBC:
That final comment is telling. This has been a frequent problem for Arsenal over the past six years or so. We have often seen them struggle in games they should breeze through, mostly because they’ve turned up expecting to do just that.
While it’s easy to think that this is a pattern this season, it’s worth noting that before the game on Tuesday night Arsenal had not conceded a single goal in the first 15 minutes of a match in the Premier League. The debacle at Bournemouth recently also makes the game against Watford seem worse.
This isn’t an ongoing problem for Arsenal, at least not this season. Yet.