A barnstorming first-half display earned Watford a well-deserved but wholly unexpected 2-1 victory against Arsenal at the Emirates on Tuesday. The visitors could easily have been further ahead at the break and backed up a dominant first 45 minutes with a disciplined and brave second period. On the eve of Graham Taylor's funeral, this was a performance that would have made Watford's greatest manager proud.
This was a display full of positive intent and the way Watford set the tone by tearing into their opponents from the kickoff was a joy to behold. They didn't allow Arsenal to settle and used the ball to great effect, moving it with pace and purpose. New signing M'Baye Niang made an immediate impact with regular inroads down the left and Etienne Capoue delivered an extraordinary display from the centre of midfield.
Conceding early in the second half made the job tougher, but despite the setback, Watford coped well with the expected pressure. Perhaps the only negative on what was a memorable night was that it's taken them two months to turn in such a display.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Reacted to a string of poor performances by switching to four at the back, a change that gave Watford a more robust shape and a solid platform from which to attack. Made the brave move to start Niang after a period of inactivity and was rewarded with a superb display from the AC Milan loanee.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Heurelho Gomes, 7 -- Coped well with a number of crosses and stayed calm against the backdrop of an increasingly frustrated home crowd. Made a number of excellent and brave saves and looked unflappable whenever called upon.
DF Younes Kaboul, 8 -- Put in a huge performance, capping off a dominant defensive display with the opening goal. Watford supporters will be hoping he can maintain this level.
DF Sebastian Prodl, 7 -- Forced a sprawling save from Petr Cech with a towering first-half header. Was able to threaten in the Arsenal box without ever neglecting his defensive duties, where he remained in control.
DF Miguel Britos, 7 -- Was focussed, disciplined and worked hard throughout, making sure he was first to the loose ball from start to finish. Excellent.
DF Craig Cathcart, 6 -- Looked ill at ease on occasion, which wasn't surprising given that he was playing at right-back rather than his preferred position in the centre. But, like his defensive counterparts, he did all that was required throughout. Solid stuff.
MF Daryl Janmaat, 7 -- Was freed from his defensive duties and able to maraud forward at will, especially during a first half in which he linked up superbly with new signing Niang. Forced a good save from Cech in the Arsenal goal.
MF Etienne Capoue, 9 -- Put in a blistering performance. Battled for the ball and when he won it either drove forward or got things moving with a measured pass. His mazy run and shot resulted in Watford's second goal, perfectly summing up his magnificent performance and contribution.
MF Valon Behrami, 7 -- Sat in front of the back four and seemed to win every tackle or loose ball until he was withdrawn after the hour mark. Afforded the opposition no time or respite.
MF Tom Cleverley, 8 -- Was effective and impressive once again, carrying the ball forward with purpose and tracking back tirelessly when necessary. Has shone since signing from Everton.
FW M'Baye Niang 8 -- Had a superb debut that saw him torment Arsenal down the left flank for the entirety of the first half. Strong, quick and skilful, Watford supporters are in for a treat if he maintains this sort of form.
FW Troy Deeney, 7 -- Was on hand to double Watford's lead inside fifteen minutes and more than played his part in a wonderful team showing. Had a tough night aerially against Laurent Koscielny, but fought hard to earn and then keep possession throughout.
MF Abdoulaye Doucoure, 7 -- Replaced Behrami and while he didn't display the same ferocity, he did a fine job of marshalling the midfield.
FW Isaac Success, 7 -- Was a surprise inclusion after an extended layoff, replacing Niang with 20 minutes to go. Surprised the Arsenal defence with a couple of pacy runs down the left flank. Did well to keep the ball in the Arsenal half as the clock ticked down.
FW Stefano Okaka, N/R -- Was a late replacement for Deeney. Did his job perfectly, holding the ball up as far away from the Watford goal as possible.