Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struck twice at Vicarage Road, but the Gunners threw away a two-goal lead in the second half
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang stood hands on hips at the full-time whistle, clearly wondering what he had just witnessed.
Arsenal’s star striker scored twice in the first half against rock-bottom Watford, taking his tally for the season to five already in the Premier League.
A second away win of the season looked a certainty for Unai Emery’s side, even if they had been far from their fluent best.
But a second half capitulation at Vicarage Road gifted Watford two goals of their own and in the end Arsenal were left hanging on and grateful to escape with a point.
This really was as bad as it gets defensively.
Arsenal should have been cruising to the victory they needed to move up to third in the table after Aubameyang’s double.
The game had looked done and dusted at the break, but familiar chaotic scenes at the back gifted Watford only their second point of the season.
Arsenal had been threatening to give away a goal all game long with the way they were trying to play out from the back from goal-kicks. And it finally happened on 53 minutes when Sokratis’ pass went straight to Tom Cleverley, who thumped a finish past Bernd Leno.
It was calamitous defending from the visitors and it got worse 10 minutes from time when David Luiz, for the second league game running away from home, gifted a penalty for a foul on Roberto Pereyra, who dispatched the resulting spot-kick.
Watford really should have won it in injury time as well, but Abdoulaye Doucoure shot straight at Bernd Leno from 12 yards after a quick breakaway.
The wins against Newcastle and Burnley now seem a long time ago for Arsenal, who have gone three Premier League games without a win.
Defensively they are a shambles, with Luiz’s summer arrival doing nothing to help matters. Indeed, as revealed by Opta, Arsenal’s players have made a combined 14 errors leading to opposition goals in the Premier League since the start of last season, at least two more than any other club in this time.
And the midfield continues to offer the back four next to no protection. Watford had a staggering 31 shots during the game, the most the Gunners have allowed since Opta records began over 15 years ago.
At times, they just ran through the centre of the pitch at will as the midfield parted and the defence backed off. Against a more clinical side, Arsenal would have been travelling home on the back of a heavy defeat.
It’s a familiar story and the lack of improvement raises serious questions about the work being done by Emery and his coaching staff on the training ground.
Arsenal are as bad as they have ever been at the back and it’s criminal when you consider the quality they have up front. It was no surprise to see Aubameyang trudge off the pitch looking utterly dejected. He deserves far better than this.
With attackers like Sergio Aguero, Harry Kane and Mo Salah operating in the Premier League, it’s perhaps easy for Aubameyang’s work to go slightly under the radar.
But when you look at his statistics, he has been right up there with the very best European football has to offer right now.
His double against Watford means he has now contributed to 46 Premier League goals since his debut at the start of last year, scoring 37 and setting up another nine.
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He has scored 14 goals in 17 league starts since the beginning of 2019, and 21 from 26 starts in all competitions. Arsenal’s number 14 has been simply indispensable.
A side with a striker of his quality in their ranks should be challenging at the top of the table, not scrambling around trying to sneak into the top four each season.
But if Arsenal continue to defend the way they are right now, then that’s what they will be doing once again this campaign. They have to find a way to improve and Emery needs to come up with a solution.