Watford 2-1 Arsenal: Tom Cleverley's late strike sends hosts fourth
By Richard Morgan
Last Updated: 15/10/17 12:15pm
Late goals by Troy Deeney and Tom Cleverley saw Watford come from behind to beat Arsenal 2-1 and go fourth in the Premier League.
Arsenal had appeared on course for all three points after taking the lead six minutes before the interval when Per Mertesacker, making his first start for 18 months in place of the injured Shkodran Mustafi, headed in Granit Xhaka's corner.
However, the home side drew level in controversial circumstances when Richarlison went over in the box under Hector Bellerin's challenge, with Deeney smashing home the resulting spot kick.
Marco Silva's side then recorded their first home win of the season when Cleverley fired home in stoppage time after a mad scramble in the box, a result that sees Arsenal fall to sixth.
Watford made three changes from the side that drew 2-2 at West Brom last time out with Britos, Pereyra and Gray coming in for Capoue, Carrillo and Deeney.
Arsenal were without Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey, but they did have Laurent Koscielny, Sead Kolasinac and Danny Welbeck all available, while captain Per Mertesacker made his first Premier League start for 532 days.
In a drab first period with few real openings for either side, it was Arsene Wenger's team who took the lead through an unexpected source.
From Arsenal's first corner of the game, Xhaka swung the ball in from the right and Mertesacker rose above Cleverley to head in his first league goal since December 2013, as well as the visitors' first league strike on the road this season.
Watford failed to muster a single shot on target in the first 45 minutes, but the home side went more direct after the break, and they were rewarded for their change of style.
Heurelho Gomes produced vital saves to deny Alex Iwobi and substitute Mesut Ozil in quick succession, with Watford equalising moments after the latter.
Richarlison's surging run into the box was ended by Bellerin, but despite there being no contact, referee Neil Swarbrick still pointed to the spot, with substitute Deeney doing the rest for his first league goal in 14 games.
The Brazilian, though, could now be subject to a two-match ban if the newly formed disciplinary committee deem the forward had dived to earn his side the penalty.
Etienne Capoue then hit the post before Watford completed a remarkable turnaround when Cleverley found himself in the right place to coolly fire home after a series of ricochets, the midfielder's first goal for the club since his loan spell in 2009/10.
Watford: Gomes (8), Femenia (7), Mariappa (8), Britos (7), Holebas (7), Doucoure (8), Kabasele (6), Pereyra (7), Cleverley (9), Richarlison (8), Gray (5)
Subs: Deeney (8), Carrillo (6), Capoue (7)
Arsenal: Cech (7), Koscielny (6), Mertesacker (7), Monreal (6), Bellerin (8), El Neny (6), Xhaka (6), Kolasinac (7), Iwobi (6), Welbeck (7), Lacazette (7)
Subs: Ozil (7), Giroud (6), Holding (6)
Man of the match: Tom Cleverley
- Watford have made their best-ever start to a top-flight season after eight games (15 pts), since their maiden season in the top division in 1982/83 under Graham Taylor (16 pts)
- Arsenal lost to a 90+ minute winner in the Premier League for the first time since January 2012 (Bobby Zamora for Fulham)
- Arsenal scored with the first shot on target of the game
- All six of Mertesacker's Premier League goals have come via headers
- Since the start of the 2015-16 season, Arsenal have scored more headed goals in the Premier League than any other team (35)
- Petr Cech has failed to save any of the last 18 penalties he has faced in the Premier League, last saving one for Chelsea against Fulham in February 2011
Marco Silva: "I have seen the penalty now and I respect the decision of the referee. It's important, I didn't see a dive or a simulation.Richarlison has suffered the most fouls in the Premier League this season, and people are starting to say he dives."
Arsene Wenger: "I believe that we had many, many dangerous situations where we could have scored but didn't. We had opportunities to score the second goal. The decision on the penalty is a bit ridiculous and then we panicked a bit for their second goal and in the end we stand with a defeat."
Man of the Match: Tom Cleverley
The midfielder provided a calm presence in the centre of the park for the hosts, using the ball wisely and effectively throughout.
And the 13-cap England international then capped off an impressive display by scoring his first goal in a league game for Watford since March 2010, when he netted against Sheffield Wednesday in the second tier.
Watford take on champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge next Saturday afternoon.
Arsenal, meanwhile, travel to Crvena Zvezda in the Europa League on Thursday, before a trip to Everton in the Premier League on Sunday.