Turned out to be the most crucial moment of the game and when it arrived, Troy Deeney of all people couldn’t make it count.
After Watford beat Arsenal last October in the Premier League, Deeney spoke less than generously about Arsene Wenger’s vanquished side. Arsenal did not, he hinted, have the mental courage to cope with pressure.
How sweet for Arsenal, then, that when Deeney was given the chance to drag his team back in to this game from the penalty spot here, he made such a mess of it.
Arsenal had just taken a 2-0 lead when Watford were awarded their penalty. With half an hour still to play, a goal for the visiting team at that point would have given them a real chance against a side that still do not seem to have totally shaken recent setbacks from their system.
So it was a big moment, alright. One that called for the ‘cojones’ that Deeney had said Arsenal lacked back in autumn.
Perhaps the most generous thing we can say about his penalty is that it was on target. It was, though, too close to Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech and at a nice height too. So Cech was able to make his first penalty save since late 2014 and Arsenal eased away to victory.
Three goals was the difference in the end, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan went on to add to previous goals from Shkodran Mustafi, in the first half, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the hour. But that gap between the teams was not always that pronounced. That is why that penalty really could have changed things.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
ARSENAL: (4-2-3-1) Cech 8; Maitland-Niles 6.5, Mustafi 7 (Chambers 73mins 6), Holding 6.5, Kolasinac 6.5; Elneny 8, Xhaka 7; Mkhitaryan 7 (Wilshere 78mins 6), Ozil 6.5, Iwobi 6.5 (Welbeck 67mins 6); Aubameyang 7. Not used: Ospina, Nelson, Nketiah, Willock.
GOALS: Mustafi 8, Aubameyang 60, Mkhitaryan 77
MANAGER: Arsene Wenger 7
WATFORD: (4-4-2) Karnezis 7.5; Janmaat 6.5 (Britos 80mins 6) , Prdol 6.5, Mariappa 6, Holebas 6; Femenia 6 (Hughes 63mins 6), Doucoure 6.5, Capoue 6.5, Pereyra 6.5 (Okaka 67mins 6); Richarlison 7, Deeney 6. Not used: Sinclair, Gray, Carrillo, Bachmann.
MANAGER: Javi Gracia 6
REFEREE: Martin Atkinson 7.
Some Arsenal supporters made their feelings known about their team’s Premier League decline by staying away. It was hard to recall a day when there were quite as many empty seats at the Emirates.
And though early nerves were settled by Mustafi’s headed goal, there may have been something in this for Javi Gracia’s players had they been a little more clinical in front of goal.