Why Arsenal’s recent record away at Watford offers encouragement
The first international break is almost over, which means Arsenal’s next Premier League game is fast approaching. The Gunners travel to Watford this Sunday and will be hoping to capitalise on their poor start to the season. However, with Quique Sanchez Flores returning to replace Javi Gracia that could prove to be a difficult task. Vicarage Road is a ground that favours Arsenal, so let’s see how their last five visits have transpired.
Watford 1-2 Arsenal – 26th December 2006
Watford were promoted to the Premier League back in 2006 after a six-year absence via the Championship playoffs. However, they had a difficult season and were already facing an uphill task to avoid relegation. Despite this, they gave Arsenal a tough Boxing Day test at Vicarage Road.
Gilberto Silva gave the Gunners the lead after 19 minutes when he headed home at the far post. Tommy Smith grabbed a deserved equaliser for Watford less than five minutes later with a powerful shot past Jens Lehmann. Despite the difference in quality, the hosts were creating the better chances and should’ve been ahead at half-time.
Both teams had their fair share of chances in the second half, with Julio Baptista and Emmanuel Adebayor coming closest for the Gunners. Watford hearts would be broken in the 83rd minute as Robin van Persie was released by Theo Walcott and curled a shot from the right-hand side past Ben Foster.
This would prove to be the last Premier League encounter at Vicarage Road for nine years as Watford finished rock bottom with 28 points. Arsenal meanwhile finished fourth for the second consecutive year, with many more years of ‘Arsenal finishing in fourth’ jokes to come.
Watford 0-3 Arsenal – 17th October 2015
In their first league meeting since the 2006/07 season, Arsenal were comfortable winners over a Watford side managed by Quique Sanchez Flores in his first spell in charge.
A superb second half display was enough for Arsenal to win 3-0 against the struggling hosts. Alexis Sanchez opened the scoring in the 62nd minute, pouncing on a loose ball after Watford’s defenders were distracted by an apparent foul on Mesut Ozil.
Olivier Giroud made an impact off the bench to score Arsenal’s second just six minutes later with a powerful drive. Aaron Ramsey sealed the victory at 74 minutes as his deflected effort fooled goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes.
Arsenal would finish as runners-up behind Leicester City while Watford finished 13th. Avoiding relegation wasn’t enough as Flores would lose his job, only to now return three years later.
Watford 1-3 Arsenal – 27th August 2016
The 2016/17 campaign saw Arsenal miss out on Champions League football by a single point. This victory in the third game of the season was their first win after a slow start that proved costly.
A scintillating first half performance was enough for Arsenal to claim yet another win at Vicarage Road. Santi Cazorla converted a ninth-minute penalty after Alexis Sanchez was brought down by Nordin Amrabat.
Sanchez would double Arsenal’s lead at 40 minutes after he was picked out at the far post by Theo Walcott. Mesut Ozil then added a third with a close-range header to cement Arsenal’s first half dominance in added time.
Watford battled back in the second half, and Roberto Pereyra reduced the deficit on his debut after 57 minutes. It proved to only be a consolation as Arsenal would hold on for the comfortable victory.
A measure of revenge would be dealt in the reverse fixture at the Emirates Stadium with Watford surprisingly winning 2-1. A result that proved costly in Arsenal’s battle with Liverpool for the final Champions League place. After claiming their first-ever Premier League victory over Arsenal in unlikely circumstances, it was time for Watford to do the same at Vicarage Road.
Watford 2-1 Arsenal – 14th October 2017
The only Watford victory in the Premier League came in Arsene Wenger’s final season in charge. This was the game that sparked the infamous ‘cojones’ line from Troy Deeney in the post-match interviews.
Deeney told BT Sport: “I’ve heard Wenger’s already saying the penalty is the reason they lost. Well, I’m not going to be one to tell Mr Wenger about himself, but there’s a reason they lost, and it wasn’t because of one penalty. It’s having a bit of cojones. Whenever I play against Arsenal, I’ll go up and think ‘let me whack the first one and see who wants it’ “.
The game itself was what you’d expect with an Arsenal away performance. Per Mertesacker’s header gave the Gunners the lead on 39 minutes, but the second half told a different story.
Deeney converted a penalty in the 71st minute after Hector Bellerin fouled Richarlison. A controversial moment, and one that changed the momentum of the game. Tom Cleverley scored the goal to make Watford history in added time converting from close range.
Watford 0-1 Arsenal – 15th April 2019
Unai Emery’s first visit to Vicarage Road last season was a difficult test in the latter stages of last season. In a season of struggle away from home, Arsenal snatched their only away clean sheet of the campaign in a hard-fought victory.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the only goal after 10 minutes when he capitalised on a poor clearance from goalkeeper Ben Foster. Watford’s nightmare start continued as captain Troy Deeney was shown a red card less than 60 seconds later for a late tackle on Lucas Torreira. However, that didn’t stop Watford from dominating the large majority of the game.
Adam Masina hit the crossbar in the second half with Craig Cathcart and Etienne Capoue also coming close. Goalkeeper Bernd Leno was key to Arsenal holding on for the victory despite having the numerical advantage. The result moved the Gunners into the top four with five games remaining, a quest that proved to be unsuccessful.
Each of the last five games at Vicarage Road has seen Arsenal face a different manager: Aidy Boothroyd in 2006, Quique Sanchez Flores in 2015, Walter Mazzarri in 2016, Marco Silva in 2017 and Javi Gracia in April.
A poor start to the season saw Gracia lose his job last week, with Flores announced as his replacement 30 minutes later. A victory on Sunday would be their first of the season. It’ll be interesting to see what reaction Flores gets in his second spell in charge, so this could be the worst time to play Watford. History suggests that Arsenal will take the three points, but with their mixed away record, it’s never a formality.