Unai Emery's tactics and influence will be called into question after his Arsenal team blew a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with bottom-of-the-table Watford in the Premier League on Sunday.
The stalemate at Vicarage Road gave Quique Sanchez Flores a point on his return to the dugout for the Hornets. It also meant the Gunners wasted another fine performance from in-form striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Earlier, Everton slumped to a 3-1 defeat away to Bournemouth. The Cherries got two goals from Callum Wilson, while the visitors struggled to impose themselves with Gylfi Sigurdsson again failing to pull the strings.
- Bournemouth 3-1 Everton
- Watford 2-2 Arsenal
Loser: Unai Emery
Those wondering what is different about Arsenal under Emery since the dog days of Arsene Wenger's last season in charge are likely still confused after another accident-prone, disjointed performance.
Those things are fast becoming the norm on the Spaniard's watch and were obvious again, beginning with a tactical setup that afforded Watford too much space. Not for the first time, Emery changed shape and deployed a diamond in midfield, partly to accommodate the return of Mesut Ozil to the starting lineup.
To the surprise of nobody, Watford found time and space on the flanks. Said space allowed the usually shot-shy Hornets to pepper the Arsenal goal with attempts early on.
In the end, the side rooted to the foot of the Premier League had dominated the attacking phase of the game:
It's difficult for Arsenal, who mustered a mere seven shots, to justify this kind of disparity. This is, after all, a squad featuring some of the best attacking talent in the division, including Ozil, Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe and Dani Ceballos.
A flowing and artful style of play became a staple of the Gunners under Emery's predecessor, yet lofty standards in possession are steadily deteriorating on the latter's watch.
It doesn't help Emery has so far struggled to improve a leaky defence. Even with a host of new players, such as goalkeeper Bernd Leno and centre-backs David Luiz and Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Arsenal remain worryingly fragile at the back.
Emery's insistence on playing out from defence looks foolhardy with teams pressing defenders on the ball. Watford routinely found joy with this simple tactic, yet the Gunners persisted with their risky approach until Sokratis gave the ball away to set up Tom Cleverley's goal three minutes before the hour mark:
By the time David Luiz tripped Roberto Pereyra to concede a penalty in the 81st minute, Arsenal's latest mission to self-destruct from a winning position was complete. Once again, the manner of the collapse could hardly be called a surprise.
Emery is known for extensive video analysis and was supposed to provide the more detailed coaching and better defensive organisation too often missing during the latter years of Wenger's reign.
Instead, the Gunners appear to getting further away from the best qualities Wenger brought to the club and deeper into the cycle of mistakes and bad habits Emery was hired to fix.
Winner: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
If there's one ray of hope for Emery, it's Arsenal's best finisher offered yet another reminder, as if one was needed, he's most effective when played through the middle. In fact, Aubameyang is downright deadly when he's allowed to operate centrally.
Watford were given a reminder of the 30-year-old's efficiency with his two first-half goals. Making the most of chances when they come his way has defined Aubameyang's career and has quickly become the feature of his prolific start to the season:
There was no surprise about both goals being scored from inside the box. It's where Aubameyang routinely does his best work:
Sky Sports Statto @SkySportsStatto
Since February 2018, 8 players have scored 20+ PL goals inside the penalty box. Touches inside penalty box per goal: 7.2 PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG 8.1 Ashley Barnes 8.9 Jamie Vardy 9.4 Harry Kane 9.6 Sadio Mane 10.2 Sergio Aguero 12.5 Mo Salah 17.3 Raheem Sterling https://t.co/V0XKgGYLTR
Ironically, Aubameyang's two-goal show may not have happened had Alexandre Lacazette been fit. The Frenchman was recently ruled out until October with an ankle injury, per the club's official website, but would surely have occupied the centre-forward spot had he been fit.
Usually when Arsenal's No. 9 starts, Aubameyang is forced out wide. He still has the pace to be a nuisance out wide, but isn't close to the same threat as he is through the middle.
Lacazette's injury has allowed Emery to keep his most consistent goalscorer in the areas where he will do the most damage. Aubameyang continuing to thrive may be more in spite of Emery than because of his manager's influence.
Winner: Ismaila Sarr
Watford signed Ismaila Sarr for a club-record fee of £30 million this summer for a reason. Yet it was difficult to work out what the reason was while Sarr was left out so often by former manager Javi Gracia.
Sarr made just one start on Gracia's watch, scoring in a Carabao Cup win over Coventry City. Gracia may have been sacked because of an "aversion" to playing new signings like Sarr, according to Sky Sports News.
While he still didn't start for Flores' first game of his second spell in charge, Sarr did make an impact as a 54th-minute substitute against the Gunners. The former Rennes winger, who tormented Arsenal in last season's UEFA Europa League, was quick, direct and intelligent.
His movement along Watford's forward line left Luiz and Co. baffled. Sarr took up positions through the middle, drifted onto the flanks and made well-timed runs from out to in.
While he didn't score, Pepe did enough to show he has the dynamism to help drag the Hornets out of the relegation mire. Flores would be wise to waste no time starting him.
Loser: Gylfi Sigurdsson
For such a talented player, Sigurdsson is enduring a tame start to the new season. Coming off his best goalscoring campaign, the Iceland international is beginning to look out of place in Marco Silva's best Everton starting XI.
Sigurdsson has just one assist to his credit and has failed to find the net through five matches. He was the supposed creative fulcrum for a team that enjoyed just over 40 percent of possession against the Cherries.
Sigurdsson was off the pace, leading to an inevitable substitution on 71 minutes.
The fact Sigurdsson was hooked spoke volumes about his diminishing status. Silva has Brazil international Bernardo and former Arsenal duo Alex Iwobi and Theo Walcott, who can also play behind the striker.
There have already been questions about Sigurdsson's significance as a No. 10 this season. Those questions will persist the longer the 30-year-old struggles to find his scoring touch.