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Three talking points as Watford stunned Arsenal at Vicarage Road

Rob Meech



Tom Cleverley’s injury-time strike helped Watford climb into the top four and condemned Arsenal to a first Premier League defeat since August. The former Manchester United and Everton midfielder lashed home in the dying second to send Vicarage Road into raptures and continue their remarkable start to the season.

Per Mertesacker, making a rare start, had earlier headed the Gunners in front before Troy Deeney equalised from the penalty spot after Hector Bellerin had controversially been adjudged to have fouled Richarlison. Replays suggested the Brazilian had made the most of any contact, much to the annoyance of Arsene Wenger. Here are three talking points from an incident-packed evening.

Arsenal lack leadership and heart 

It is an accusation often labelled against the Gunners and for all Wenger’s insistence to the contrary, the capitulation against Watford was another example that they are not mentally strong enough. Arsenal had dominated the first half but their one-goal advantage was tenuous and the Hornets capitalised with two late efforts to leapfrog their opponents in the table.

Wenger’s post-match comments focused on the penalty decision, but he needs to look at his own side’s failings. They should have had the game wrapped up long before Deeney equalised and it was their soft underbelly which was once again exposed in the closing moments. When the going gets tough, Arsenal continually show their true colours.

Watford look at home under Silva

The Hornets’ first victory of the season at Vicarage Road rubber-stamped their best ever start in England’s top-flight, with 15 points from eight games. They are currently in illustrious company, sandwiched between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea in the table. Nobody is expecting Watford to finish so highly, but they are there on merit – not by luck.

Boss Marco Silva made some astute summer signings that have greatly added to the squad and the Hornets are much more attractive to watch than under the Portuguese’s predecessor, Walter Mazzarri. There will still be the odd hiccup, such as their demolition by Manchester City, but Watford are a progressive club that now look established in the Premier League.

Wenger preparing for life after Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez

Neither Alexis Sanchez nor Mesut Ozil were in Arsenal’s starting line-up against Watford. It is a sight Gunners fans may have to get used to, with both players looking increasingly likely to be on their way out of the Emirates. Arsenal turned down a transfer deadline-day bid from Manchester City for Sanchez, instead allowing both the Chilean and Ozil to enter the final 12 months of their contracts.

Wenger’s stance has softened in recent weeks as he accepts that his two most high-profile assets cannot be permitted to leave for nothing next summer. The enigmatic Ozil, a second-half substitute against Watford, looks disinterested and his miss, which happened seconds before the hosts equalised, proved very costly.

Rob is a freelance writer, specialising in football, who previously worked as a sports journalist at the Dorset Echo. A long-standing AFC Bournemouth supporter, Rob can often be found on the terraces at the Vitality Stadium. Follow him on Twitter - @RobMeech


Eye-catching performance from Aleksandr Golovin shows why Arsenal were interested

The 22-year-old impressed in Russia’s World Cup opener.

Jake Jackman



Aleksandr Golovin
Photo: Getty Images

The World Cup has kicked off and the host nation Russia have got their campaign off to the perfect start.

There were doubts about their quality and they will persist, but they managed to convincingly beat Saudi Arabia 5-0.

Although it won’t be their toughest test, it will give the squad confidence and they will now to be a more difficult proposition in their remaining group matches.

Alan Dzagoev has been the star player for Russia in recent years, but he suffered an injury in the first-half and that provided a platform for the next big hope of the nation to star.

Aleksandr Golovin has previously been linked with the likes of Arsenal in the past and he showed why he is highly regarded with a man-of-the-match performance against Saudi Arabia.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

The 22-year-old looked a cut above on the pitch and was the player that the world was talking about when the match ended. He contributed a goal and two assists in an all-action midfield display.

Every time he got onto the ball, he looked comfortable and wanted to play positive passes to move Russia up the pitch. It would have been easy for Golovin to hide, but he stepped up and at his age, that should be praised.

During the match, he made five key passes underlining the creativity that he offered on the pitch.

His pass success rate of 71% is a little disappointing considering the quality of the opposition, but it does show that he was looking to be positive when he had the ball. Golovin will be looking to be less wasteful with possession in the final two group games.

His free-kick goal was nicely struck, but a better goalkeeper would have been able to stop it from going in. The goal and two assists will take the headlines, but Golovin’s work rate and tenacity stood out on Thursday. The 22-year-old midfielder won four tackles and made a further three interceptions.

(Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

It is becoming more important for midfielders to be able to thrive in both halves of the pitch and the Russian international showed that he can.

It is too soon to get too excited about Golovin, as the opposition were weak. Saudi Arabia didn’t offer much in possession and often overplayed when they had the ball.

Despite Russia being considered one of the weaker nations, they were far superior to their Group A opposition and a better assessment of the midfielder can be made during the next two group games.

That said, Golovin caught the attention on Thursday and clubs that have previously registered an interest will have taken notice. Arsenal are one of those clubs and they are undergoing a period of transition under Unai Emery.

If the Russian midfielder can deliver similar performances against Egypt and Uruguay, the interest in him will quickly pick up. He will be the main man for the hosts over the next couple of weeks and if he does the business, the Gunners could be ready to reignite their interest.

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Arsenal fans call for Aleksandr Golovin signing after dazzling World Cup display

Arsenal fans are calling for an impulse signing after the World Cup opener yesterday.

Jamie Watts



Arsenal already possess any array of creative forwards, but Gooners are extremely keen on CSKA Moscow maestro Aleksandr Golovin, after seeing the midfielder dazzle in Russia’s World Cup debut againt Saudi Arabia yesterday evening.

The 22-year-old already had links to north London spanning back to January (the Sun), with Arsene Wenger revealing his admiration for the player’s talent ahead of the Europa League quarter-final clash against the Russian heavyweights in March.

And Golovin highlighted his obvious ability last night, as Russia routed Saudi Arabia 5-1 in Moscow, creating two goals for teammates, before rounding an impressive display off with a sumptuous free-kick in added time.

Photo: Getty Images

His vision and technical ability led the hosts to a comfortable victory, with a superbly placed cross finding Denis Cheryshev in the box to open the scoring in the 12th minute. Before he again showed his class to pick-out Artem Dzyuba with a floated cross, which the striker converted comfortably 20 minutes from time.

And Arsenal fans have taken to Twitter to demand that Unai Emery should re-ignite interest in the player this summer.

Here’s the reaction:

Arsenal’s recent focus has been on landing Sampdoria’s industrious midfielder Lucas Torreira, as the manager looks to add balance to the team, according to the Guardian. 

But it seems fans want Emery to keep a close eye on the World Cup this summer, as it has become something of a shop window in recent years. And Golovin could earn himself a high-profile move if he continues performing at such a high level.

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Everton should prioritise landing Borussia Dortmund star Mario Gotze

Marco Silva should go all out to make this deal happen.

Jamie Watts



Marco Silva is aiming to make a statement of intent in the market this summer, as Everton owner Farhad Moshiri targets a return to European football in the near future. And the club has now been linked with a sensational move for Borussia Dortmund maestro Mario Gotze, according to Sky Sports.

The 2014 World Cup Golden Boy has struggled to nail down a regular starting position, since returning to Dortmund from Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich in 2016. And is struggling to get back to the form that saw him widely recognised as one of the finest play-makers in world football.

However, despite his modest return of two goals and seven assists in 32 appearances, he began showing glimpses of his best form for the Bundesliga giants, and if Marco Silva can bring the best out of him, he could instantly elevate Everton to higher levels next season.

Photo: Getty Images

Toffees fans bemoaned the pragmatic style of football under Sam Allardyce last term, having finished 19th for number of shots registered, shots on target and chances created in England’s top tier, highlighting the need for creative players this summer and Gotze certainly fits the bracket.

However, the player has garnered a reputation for being injury prone in recent years – having missed 13 games last season (tranfermarkt) – and the investment would be something of a risk for the Portuguese manager.

Photo: Getty Images

If Everton are to return to European football, Gotze is the calibre of player that needs to be targeted though, and he is certainly worth the risk. The 26-year-old was arguably the most influential player in Dortmund’s recent ascendancy, alongside Marco Reus, as the club won back-to-back Bundesliga titles and the DFB Cup in 2012 – ironically under the tenure of the now Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.

Gotze has two years remaining on his contract at the Westfalenstadion and will likely cost  a hefty price, having returned to Dortmund for around £22 million in his last move.

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