There wasn’t a great deal we learned from Arsenal’s 2-1 defeat at Watford, if we’re honest.
There were a number of familiar failings on display as Arsenal collapsed in the second half.
A first half lead thanks to a thumping header from Per Mertesacker was cancelled out by a Troy Deeney penalty, before Tom Cleverley scored a late winner.
It was Arsenal’s third defeat this season in just eight games, and an abrupt halt to a good run of form.
Here are five things we learned, or were reminded of, from the game.
1Wasteful Arsenal struggle on the road
Arsenal have played four games away from home in the Premier League and have failed to win any of them. It may still be too early to claim that this is a serious problem, but it’s one worth acknowledging, given the opponents Arsenal have struggled against.
Defeat at Liverpool and a draw at Chelsea are acceptable in any given season, but defeats at Stoke and now Watford suggest a worrying trend of profligacy is beginning to emerge.
For some reason, Arsenal are struggling to find the net on their travels: just a single goal from four games is nowhere near enough for a side that can’t keep the goals out.
2We still need Ozil and Alexis
You may have read a dozen or so pieces over the international break claiming that Arsenal were better off without Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. There were claims that Arsenal were weaning themselves off their Ozil and Alexis dependency and finding ways to win without them.
The Watford game suggests we’ve still a long way to go.
Arsenal missed the invention of their best players, and it was telling that Ozil created three chances as soon as he took to the pitch in the second half.
Welbeck and Iwobi are grafters, but the drop off in quality is simply too big for Arsenal to justify leaving out their two best attackers.
3Lacazette needs more time
If there’s one certainty this season, it’s that Wenger’s first substitution during a game will be Olivier Giroud for Alexandre Lacazette.
Our record signing has started every Premier League game but has only finished one of them. For all the talk of the two potentially playing together, it’s very clear it’ll only ever be one or the other.
It must be frustrating for Lacazette, who now knows that if he doesn’t score within 60-70 minutes, he’s going to be taken off.
It’s even tougher for him knowing that Arsenal haven’t quite adapted to his style of play, as they continually ignore his early runs and fail to carve out opportunities for him.
With Arsenal struggling for goals on the road, it’s becoming harder and harder for Wenger to justify taking him off.
4Arsenal lost their game plan
Wenger attributed Arsenal’s collapse to nerves and tiredness, but it was also painfully apparent that the team had no real plan for coping with the sudden change in the match’s direction.
There was a lack of clarity about how to approach the game should Watford equalise. Would they sit back and counter, or try to regain control of the ball?
They ended up doing neither, and it was only a matter of time before they conceded again.
5The Premier League needs VAR
It’s a more general issue but one keenly felt by Arsenal on Saturday.
It’ll be no consolation to them that Richarlison could receive a retrospective two-game ban for diving to win a penalty. The system punishes the crime of simulation but is unable to reverse the damage it causes during games.
VAR isn’t a perfect system either, but has been used to good effect in Serie A and the Bundesliga when it comes to sorting out contentious penalties.
A quick look at a replay would have been enough to rule that Watford should not get a penalty and Richarlison should be booked for diving. With VAR, the player wouldn’t be facing a ban and Arsenal would likely have kept the points.
As it stands, the only ones to benefit from a retroactive decision are Watford’s next opponents – Chelsea and Stoke – should Richarlison be banned.
There’s no excuse for the Premier League not allow VAR in the compeition.