Arsenal easy to bully

Watford's Tom Cleverley (centre) wheeling away in delight after his extra-time winner condemned Arsenal to their third loss of the campaign. The Gunners have registered only one league point on their travels so far this term.
Watford's Tom Cleverley (centre) wheeling away in delight after his extra-time winner condemned Arsenal to their third loss of the campaign. The Gunners have registered only one league point on their travels so far this term.PHOTO: REUTERS

Watford's Deeney lays into Wenger's side whose frailties were exposed in loss

LONDON • Watford's Troy Deeney has accused Arsenal's stars of lacking fight following the Gunners' shock 2-1 away defeat, and even manager Arsene Wenger admitted his men contributed to their own downfall though he was appalled by a "scandalous" penalty decision.

Deeney scored the second-half spot-kick to equalise and Tom Cleverley capped the hosts' comeback with a stoppage-time sting on Saturday. It was the first time since January 2012, when Bobby Zamora scored for Fulham, that Arsenal had lost to an extra-time winner in the Premier League.

Wenger was furious and insisted that there was no foul for Hector Bellerin's challenge on Richarlison.

But Deeney mocked his complaints and insisted he should be more concerned with the way his men were bullied into surrendering their 39th-minute lead by Watford's physical approach.

"I've heard Wenger's already blaming (the decision) as the reason why they lost," he said. "I'm not going to be the one to tell Mr Wenger about himself, but there's a reason why they lost and it wasn't because of one penalty.

"Whenever I play Arsenal, I'll go up and think, 'Let me whack the first one and see who wants it'.

"I came on and jumped with (Per) Mertesacker. I didn't even have to jump, actually - I nodded it down.

"The crowd gets up - 'Yeah, we've got somebody who can win it' - and they all just backed off.

"For me as a player I just think, 'Happy days'. That's my strength.

"I know I'm not technically gifted like they are, not as quick, but if you want to fight with me, I'm gonna beat you all day."

Mertesacker headed Arsenal in front with a goal in his first league start for 18 months. But substitute Mesut Ozil failed to double the lead when put through by Alex Iwobi in the second half on 70 minutes.

Within a minute, the spot-kick controversy came at the other end, one that Wenger was convinced was the result of a dive to deceive referee Neil Swarbrick.

Measures are in place this season for the authorities to punish simulation retrospectively and it remains to be seen if action would be taken against Richarlison.

The 20-year-old Brazilian could be handed a two-match ban if found guilty of diving, a decision that would be made by a three-man panel consisting of a former match official, a former manager and a former player, and would have to be unanimous.

"It's a scandalous decision but what can we do? Nothing," Wenger said. "I believe that we had many, many danger situations where we could have scored but didn't.

"We panicked. And we stand there with defeat. We dropped the level a bit in the second half. We lost our fluency a little. We had the chances to score two and three."

But Watford, who have already scored late goals this season against Liverpool, West Brom and Swansea, took theirs after a poor first half. Cleverley kept his cool to fire into the roof of the net following a few shots that ricocheted around the box and triggered panic.

Surprise side Watford have 15 points from eight matches and are enjoying their best start to a top-flight campaign since the late Graham Taylor led them to 16 points from eight games in 1982-83.

For the turnaround, Deeney credited Hornets boss Marco Silva, who joined from Hull City, where he earned widespread admiration despite being relegated last season.

He said: "Credit to the manager. We are building something really good here." Goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes added: "The manager said we were too shy in the first half."

Certainly not too shy to leapfrog champions Chelsea, their next opponents, into fourth place.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2017, with the headline 'Arsenal easy to bully'. Print Edition | Subscribe