Quique Sanchez Flores was the most annoyed he’d been all season when Watford lost to Arsenal at Vicarage Road in October, frustrated they strayed from the game plan to leave the back door open for Arsenal to score three times in 12 riotous second-half minutes.
It was the first and only time Watford had conceded three goals this season. Until, that is, Arsenal scored four times this afternoon to garnish a dominant performance that rendered any game plan Sanchez Flores had – and that’s assuming he did have one – utterly pointless.
“In this type of situation it isn’t about learning or not learning,” Sanchez Flores said. “We know the players, they know the plan. If we have to learn something at this moment it is a big problem.”
So that’s cleared up. Watford know what they have to do. Unfortunately, they are, in the Premier League at least, just not doing it. There is increasing concern about the Hornets’ nosedive in form. Watford have won just two Premier League games since they wiped the floor with Liverpool and have scored in just three of their last 11 top flight matches. It is relegation form.
There is no disgrace in losing to an Arsenal side in this type of rich form and there will be many more teams who leave the Emirates with their tail firmly between their retreating legs. But it was the way the Hornets folded after Alexis Sanchez’s fourth-minute goal and how you knew, given their complete failure to come from behind and win this season, the game was already up at that very early stage.
“It’s time to be competitive in the league,” Sanchez Flores said. “To reach our level it’s important to show energy. If we have that, we can get close to the ball, close to the opponent, we can reduce space and play the way we want. It allows us to choose whether we defend high or defend deep. Today we didn’t want to defend deep but we did because it was impossible to regain the ball against Arsenal. That was because we didn’t have the right energy. We are not happy, of course. It’s the first time we’ve conceded four goals, our performance was soft. They deserved to win. We are not in our best period of the season and they deserved to win.”
Sanchez Flores stood arm in arm with Heurelho Gomes on the touchline after the game. They were deep in conversation for several minutes before heading down the tunnel and into the changing rooms. “I love to support the players in these moments,” he said. “We are one group, I’ve said that since the beginning of the season. The staff and players are not separated. We share everything. The positive results and the negative results. The happiness of the group is the happiness of everyone.”