Football News

Tom Cleverley surprised by Arsenal’s ‘stubborn’ short goal-kick routine

By CJ Smith

Published: 18:15, 16 September 2019

Watford midfielder Tom Cleverly has questioned Arsenal’s “stubbornness” from goal kicks.

The Gunners threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at Vicarage Road on Sunday, with Watford’s first goal coming thanks to a horrific attempt at playing out from the back by Unai Emery’s men.

Is Emery too stubborn? Five things to know…

  • No Premier League team has made more errors leading to goals than Arsenal (14) since the start of 2018/19.
  • The Gunners continually gave away possession in their own half against Watford.
  • But they persisted in playing out under extreme pressure.
  • Watford eventually intercepted a pass from a short goal-kick, allowing Cleverly to pull it back to 2-1.
  • And the midfielder was shocked by Arsenal’s “stubbornness” in continuing to play that way.

With three Watford players camped on the edge of the Arsenal box, goalkeeper Bernd Leno played it short to centre-back Sokratis Papastathopoulos.

However, the Greek defender’s attempted pass to Mateo Guendouzi was intercepted by Gerard Deulofeu before Cleverly fired the ball into the back of the net, kick-starting the Hornets’ revival.

Although Cleverly says he wasn’t surprised by Arsenal’s gameplan – something Watford had clearly planned for – he did admit he was shocked by how stubborn they were in their willingness to stick to it, even when things weren’t going to plan.

“I feel like we were well organised from their goal-kicks,” he said after the game.

“It is something we worked on all week. We weren’t surprised they tried to play like that. It was just more of a surprise they didn’t adapt during the game and they were pretty stubborn with it.

“It was our kickstart to a comeback that was nearly perfect. We can be proud of the second-half performance but we really need to be starting to turn those games into wins.”

Watford fans will look to this result as something which can jump-start their stuttering season after new manager Quique Sanchez Flores took over from Javi Gracia.

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And Cleverly says it has been a “positive week” training with the Spaniard, who has, so far, kept his instructions basic and simple.

“He’s not bombarded us with information,” he added.

“He’s just got his ideas across, very black and white about the basics of how he wants to set up and play. It has been a good, positive week.”

Despite the positive point, Watford still remain without a win in the new Premier League season.

The Hornets travel to defending champions Manchester City on Saturday.