Deeney doubts after drop
Aubameyang 5 pen, 33, Tierney 24 Watford
Deeney 43 pen, Welbeck 66
In this desperate final battle against relegation, Watford showed a spirit and desire missing for so much of their painful, turbulent campaign. Their problem was that it took until they were three goals down, their hopes all but gone, to play like a team who truly believed they could stay up.
So this is how the Premier League adventure ends for Watford, relegated despite impressing for much of the game against far better opponents. They were good enough to win here, but they have simply not been good enough across this season, as made clear by captain Troy Deeney in a characteristically blunt post-match interview.
“It is heartbreaking for the people who work behind the scenes,” he said. “The harsh reality of it is that some people will lose their jobs because we have not been good enough. We have to appreciate that fans will be hurt and angry and annoyed.”
There is a strong possibility that Deeney will not be around for the next stage of the club’s journey. He is having a knee operation next week, which may signal the end of his Watford career. “If that is my last game, I am happy I went out on my shield,” he said. “I am a simple man. Did I go out and do everything I could? Yes. Was it good enough? No.”
Could it be his last game as a player? “I am not that old,” he said. “Where I am from, I keep going to the end. If it’s next week or two years from now, I will say I had a good time and made my kids proud, and that is all that matters.”
In many ways, this bizarre match was a fitting conclusion to Watford’s bizarre season in which they fired three managers, thrashed the champions and finished
19th. Interim head
Watford woe: Heurelho Gomes (right) consoles Ismaila Sarr coach Hayden Mullins had called on the club’s fans to trust the owners but can anyone argue they were right to dispense with three managers, including Nigel Pearson with just two games remaining?
“We lost managers and people say it’s a club in chaos but if Norwich got rid of their manager, would you say they’re a club in chaos?” Deeney asked. “If Bournemouth did the same, is that chaos? Things happen in football.”
What is clear is that Watford have players with enough ability to have comfortably avoided relegation. Ismaila Sarr and Abdoulaye Doucoure are certainly far too talented for the second tier.
And yet their defending in the first 30 minutes, conceding three goals out of nothing, was a reminder of why they are in this position. Craig Dawson gave away a penalty after 30 seconds, which spoke volumes about Watford’s defensive solidity. “It is a reflection of the whole year,” Deeney said. “We have not quite been good enough at both ends of the pitch and it showed again today. It is frustrating.”
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was a gleeful punisher of these errors, scoring from the spot and then again half an hour later, and in between there was also a goal for Kieran Tierney. But Deeney kept the game alive with a penalty and Danny Welbeck breathed more hope into Watford’s afternoon in the second half.
The penalty incident after 30 seconds was not even Watford’s first mishap of the game. That came on the opening whistle, when Doucoure forgot to take the knee. A few moments later, Dawson bundled into Alexandre Lacazette when there was no prospect of winning the ball. Aubameyang buried the penalty.
It is to Watford’s credit that their heads did not drop, although their defending remained typically dreadful. They were soon exposed again when Tierney’s deflected effort skimmed into the corner. It was the Scotsman’s first goal for Arsenal and Mikel Arteta, who revealed after the game that Shkodran Mustafi will miss the FA Cup final through injury.
Aubameyang scored an acrobatic third before Watford’s revival through Deeney and Welbeck, but their time was up. The inquest begins now.