TOM CLEVERLEY was Watford’s hero as he popped up with a last-gasp winner against Arsenal.
The former Man Utd midfielder fired home with just minutes remaining to deny Arsene Wenger a crucial win at Vicarage Road.
Wenger’s side looked ready to finally get three points on their travels with Per Mertesacker – making his first Premier League start since April 2016 – scoring a 39th minute opener.
Incredibly, it was Arsenal’s first away goal of the season.
But Deeney, a 63rd minute sub, scored from the penalty spot eight minutes later after Richarlison went down incredibly easily following a challenge from Hector Bellerin.
To make matters worse, sub Ozil missed a great chance at 1-0 with Watford going up the other end to score.
And Arsenal’s misery was compounded when Cleverley hit the target in the dying moments following a dramatic goal-mouth scramble.
Arsenal’s starting line-up looked particularly weak with Ozil on the bench and Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey missing.
And it tells you about Wenger’s starting line-up that the away fans continually sang the name of one of their subs, Jack Wilshere.
To please the kit manufacturers, Arsenal were wearing their away blue hit. Ironically, Watford and Arsenal’s training grounds are separated by a hedge.
Yet in the first quarter of the game, virtually nothing happened.
Watford’s Roberto Pereyra got the home crowd excited with a flashing header but to give you some idea of whether it was anywhere near the goal, his effort went out for a throw-in.
Mohamed Elneny manager Arsenal’s first decent chance but his drive is over the bar yet Mertesaker put his team ahead from Granit Xhaka’s 39th minute corner.
Mertesacker was actually being fouled by Tom Cleverely but he shrugged off the midfielder to then rise above Adrian Mariappa to send a firm header into the net. The previous Arsenal player to score away from home in the Premier League was Olivier Giroud in the 4-1 win at Stoke in May.
Ozil replaced Welbeck in the 60th minute and Arsenal looked dangerous on the counter-attack. Ozil released Iwobi who forced a cracking save from Gomes,
Ozil then missed that sitter when clean through and Watford went up the other end and got a penalty with Bellerin apparently fouling Richarlison.
Deeney sent Petr Cech the wrong way to the delight of the home fans. Soon after, sub Etienne Capoue saw an effort deflected off Mertesacker and onto the woodwork.
But it was Watford fans who left Vicarage Road singing, with their team now sitting fourth in the table.
INTERACTIVE STATS – CLICK on the categories to find out how the teams fared
INTERACTIVE LINE-UPS– CLICK on a player’s number below to see their stats
FACTS, STATS, GOALS AND LOLS
- Arsene Wenger has won eight of his 11 matches versus Watford in all competitions as Arsenal manager
- Watford have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 10 matches against Arsenal in all competitions
- Since the start of the 2015-16 campaign, Arsenal have scored more headed goals in the Premier League than any other side (35)
- Watford were set to be winless in their opening four home league games this season before Tom Cleverley’s late strike
- Petr Cech came close to keeping five consecutive clean sheets in the Premier League for the first time since 2010 but was denied by Troy Deeney and Cleverley
- Alexis Sanchez was left out of the matchday squad despite scoring three and assisting three more in his last four league appearances against Watford
WHAT THEY SAID
Watford captain Troy Deeney: “Fourth in the table doesn’t mean anything now. We are having a great start and we are building something really good.
“Our late goals show we have got belief. Lads are coming off the bench and making an impact.”
DREAM TEAM RATINGS
Watford: Gomes 7, Mariappa 6 (Carrillo 6), Kabasele 7, Britos 6, Femenia 6, Cleverley 7, Doucoure 6, Holebas 6, Pereyra 6 (Capoue 6), Gray 6 (Deeney 7), Richarlison 7
Subs not used: Janmaat, Wague, Watson, Karnezis
Goal: Deeney 71’ (pen), Cleverley 92’
Arsenal: Cech 5, Koscielny 7 (Holding 6), Mertesacker 8, Monreal 6, Bellerin 5, Elneny 6, Xhaka 7, Kolasniac 6, Iwobi 6, Welbeck 6 (Ozil 6), Lacazette 6 (Giroud 5)
Subs not used: Ospina, Walcott, Coquelin, Wilshere
Goal: Mertesacker 39’
Star Man: Per Mertesacker