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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

Troy Deeney makes good point about Arsenal's character

Arsenal's fragility is all too easy to expose. The Watford striker exploited it during 2-1 win, and then expanded on it

Troy Deeney, second right, was ruthless against Arsenal - on and off the pitch. Paul Childs / Reuters
Troy Deeney, second right, was ruthless against Arsenal - on and off the pitch. Paul Childs / Reuters

Troy Deeney was back at it again, roughing up Arsenal and questioning their resolve.

He tormented Arsene Wenger’s side on the pitch on Saturday, then taunted them off it, too. He was the catalyst to Watford's comeback win, then the chief critic in Arsenal’s latest defeat.

Watford triumphed 2-1 at Vicarage Road, just like they did at the Emirates Stadium in January. They recorded successive league victories against Arsenal for the first time in almost two decades.

Basking in the afterglow of a job well done, Deeney took to British broadcaster BT Sport to dissect the win. But he queried Arsenal’s courage and conviction instead.

"I have to watch what I say, but it's [having] a bit of cojones," he said. "Whenever I play against Arsenal, I'll go up and think 'let me whack the first one and see who wants it'.”

But do Arsenal ever "want it" really? A team heavy on style has often been light on substance.

They cruise at home, but this season have typically crumbled on the road. From four away matches, Arsenal have drawn one and lost three. The hugely creditable point at Chelsea aside, they were defeated by Stoke City, thumped by Liverpool and battered into submission by Watford.

They sit fifth in the table, already nine points behind leaders Manchester City. With the win, Watford leapt above them into fourth.

On Saturday, Mesut Ozil bore the brunt of the supporters' ire. Introduced just after the hour, within 10 minutes the German had helped turn around the match. To his dismay, it was in Watford's favour. Ozil wasted a golden opportunity to put Arsenal 2-0 up, shooting meekly at Heurelho Gomes. Thirty-five seconds later, Watford had a penalty and a way back into the game.

Ozil's latest aberration arrived on the eve of his 29th birthday. Instead of celebrating with a goal and probable confirmation of victory, he underlined how a marquee signing has become the poster boy for the side’s malaise.

A £42 million (Dh207.5m) recruit from Real Madrid, his talent it obvious. His temperament not so much. As such, his determination and his desire are open to accusation.

Ozil has grown into a game-changer with minimal impact. Once Europe’s master assist-maker, in 396 minutes of league football this season, he has yet to create a goal for a teammate. Once thought of as one of Arsenal's luminaries, his contract has less than a year to run. On Friday, Wenger conceded he could go in January.

Arsenal’s issues run deeper than that, though.

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Granit Xhaka is not the answer at the base of midfield. He emphasised that at the weekend, failing to sense danger as Tom Cleverley won the match for Watford. Neither is Mohamed El Neny. Aaron Ramsey, left out of the Saturday’s squad, is much better going forward than he is back.

Throughout the team, Arsenal lack leaders. Those that they have, such as Per Mertesacker, have become peripheral players.

Even so, Deeney’s dig will have hurt, or at least it should have. Once more, Arsenal’s strength of character had been questioned. It has before, most notably following the 4-0 thrashing at Anfield in August. Then they reeled off five wins from six matches. They drew at champions Chelsea.

Yet Arsenal's fragility is all too easy to expose. Deeney exploited it and then expanded on it. It is why they feel often a club never far from crisis. At this early stage at least, this season seems no different.

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