• Xhaka slams Arsenal as he admits they ‘paid’ for their second-half display during collapse to a draw at Watford.
• Arsenal were 2-0 ahead of Watford going into the half-time break at Watford.
Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka gave a damning assessment of his team-mates by admitting players were ‘scared’ as they threw away a two-goal lead to hang on for a point against Watford.
Unai Emery’s side took a two-goal lead into half-time after a brace from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang but found themselves stung by the Hornets in an overwhelming second half. Sokratis was guilty of a horrendous mistake playing out from the back for a goal kick which allowed Tom Cleverley to score the first and it was a moment of madness from David Luiz to give away a penalty for Watford’s second.
Arsenal, so frail on the road in recent years, fell apart again when appearing in total control.
For Xhaka, now in his third year at the club, self-destruction is becoming a bug-bear and a lack of mental strength needs arresting as soon as possible.
“We were scared in the second half,” he said. “We knew they would come at us and push us hard but we have to show more character and not be scared. We have spoken about it. We cannot give a performance like this in the second half. Nobody wanted the ball. Every team in the Premier League is strong enough to score so you have to stay calm, be mentally strong and we weren’t today.”
Watford, in Quique Sanchez Flores’ first game back in charge, stuck to their guns with the message to play two separate games.
“We lost the first game but the second half was a game we went to win,” he said afterwards, accepting it could easily have been three, rather than one point.
For Emery, mistakes were just mistakes, not a consequence of fear, but accepted young players have to learn the lessons if they are going to kick on away from the Emirates stadium.
“Maybe it is a new feeling,” he said. “I think in football you never need to be scared, you need to take the moment as experience. I can feel the players, me the same. We need to be strong in our mentality to play our way.”