Watford – Arsenal: Early events reek chaos on a fiercely fought encounter (0-1)
A goalkeeping blunder, a Troy Deeney elbow and a whole host of system changes. All of this made for quite the matchup when Champions League hopefuls, Arsenal, were pitted against Europa League hopefuls, Watford. Both managers chopped and changed their team’s outlook, for better and for worse, but it was the visitors who held out in deserved fashion.
Tactical analysis and match report by Peter M.
Hot on the form books and still reeling from last week’s dramatic cup comeback over Wolverhampton Wanderers in the FA Cup semi finals, Javi Gracia trusted in himself enough to bring back an old, experimental shape – the 3-5-2 formation. In line with this, Roberto Pereyra, José Holebas, Adrian Mariappa and Heurelho Gomes all dropped out.
As for Unai Emery, this awkwardly placed match, wedged right in-between their Europa League quarter final tie with SSC Napoli, was still vitally important to their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League next season. His attempts to try and prioritize both were clear in his selected eleven as the spine of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Aaron Ramsey, Lucas Torreira and Laurent Koscielny held strong. Emery also made a change in system, reverting to a more familiar 4-2-3-1 setup.
Watford’s initial plan
Before things went topsy-turvy, Gracia had clearly prepared his side in a way that would go toe-to-toe with the opposition. Thanks to some excellent anticipation work in predicting this system change by Emery, Watford’s players were man-marking Arsenal and disrupting a lot of their buildup play right . . .