Arsenal’s second-half capitulation at Watford on Super Sunday was like seeing a’semi-pro’ staff, states Graeme Souness.
Following being 2-0 up through a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang dual, the points threw away through two errors. Sokratis Papastathopoulos tried to play out for Tom Cleverley, just of the back to capitalise and halve the deficit, even until David Luiz gave away a penalty which Roberto Pereyra converted.
Arsenal have conceded seven goals in their past three games, a number of them coming from errors in the back, also Souness did not return from the Sky Sports studio in his assessment of the Gunners.
“They capitulated in the second halfof Arsenal. They did not win a struggle. If you are an Arsenal supporter you have to be scratching your mind. It’s two teams that are unique. It is like here’s a second one later half-time, and the team at the first half. Proper teams do not play like this.
“Arsenal in that second half were just like a semi-professional group playing soccer. That I mean they weren’t learning from the errors they were performing and time again.”
Souness questioned when major 2-1 in the second 22, Unai Emery caused Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock.
“They bring on some children, that was a match at which 2-1 it was time to dig and regroup, be sure they didn’t lose the match, and they should’ve lost it. When the children arrived they were all around the place, it was just like a game of basketball and when you were an Arsenal fan, that would profoundly, profoundly fear you.”
The first goal came by a Bernd Leno goal kick, and something seen longer this year after rules altered to allow the ball within the box to collect in Papastathopoulos’ central pass out of defence.
But Souness said Arsenal should have gone long after a warning sign from the first half.
“There are older players in that defence. As a manager, you hope your larger players, it does not have to be the ones, work it out that they’re likely to concede.
“Why did the big players not say’let’s just go long with it for 10 minutes and watch where it’s us’, because persisting by it was likely to charge themand they are fortunate it only cost them one.”
One of Arsenal’s top players Granit Xhaka, around the day confessed Arsenal were’fearful’ from the second half,” however, stated playing from the back was one of several issues, not the sole problem.
“That which was wrong [in the second half], we did not play our gamewe were fearful , we know they would push us more in the second half but we have to show more personality and drama, rather than be scared. You can not give a performance in this way.
“We train for short target yells, obviously mistakes are here but it is not an excuse. Next time we must do better, we have to analyse and we’ll see what happens. It was not just this scenario that was a problem – it was the entire second half”
Back in the studio, Souness reacted to Xhaka’s interview by asking:’How do Arsenal be fearful?’
“They’re saying that they were scared – I have never been frightened at a game of football in my life. I don’t understand it. From the game plan Watford dropped .
“It’s simple to play when no one’s coming after you, in mind. I could’ve played that Arsenal group of the But the thing changes when Watford are allowed off the lead, you’re faced plus they did not stand up to it.
“Sometimes you’ve got to have one hat on for one type of game, and yet another hat for a different. Arsenal proved now they can only play one way – they can’t go to war”
Talking after the match to Sky Sports, Arsenal manager Emery admits his side should learn from their errors, and said the ball from goal strikes would have caused his side to eliminate the battle that was physical at midfield.
“Attempting the long ballthey are stronger than people, and they were winning that chunk. We wanted to split the very first line and join with Mesut [Ozil], like we did with the next aim.
“It had been two unique halves. At the first we controlled the game how we wanted, in the instant we pushed to our errors, and we’d more than we ever wanted to perform. We need to think about how we can improve, how we could perform.
“We can develop the mistakes and find out for the future games. We said that 2-0 is not enough, and in the next half we needed to perform the job, but knowing they would do more. They did that, and the lines couldn’t be broken by us.
“I keep with our method of working. We need to improve, take some information. We can be let down, but we learn about this.”
Arsenal visit Eintracht Frankfurt within their initial Europa League group phase battle on Thursday at 5.55pm, prior to hosting Aston Villa at the Premier League on Sunday at 4.30pm.