Watford stings Gunners with late winner

Per Mertesacker scored his first league goal in 532 days but Watford came back to sting Arsenal with a late goal and win 2-1.

Tom Cleverley celebrates Watford's late winner against Arsenal on Saturday night.   -  Getty Images

Comeback king Watford handed Arsenal a first defeat in eight matches as Marco Silva's men recovered from a one-goal deficit to snatch a dramatic 2-1 triumph at Vicarage Road on Saturday.

Per Mertesacker marked his first Premier League start in 532 days with the opening goal, the German defender converting Grant Xhaka's corner in the 39th minute, to put Arsene Wenger's side on course for a fifth successive win in all competitions.

However, Watford - which had scored late goals to pick up points against Swansea City and West Brom in its last two outings - once again demonstrated its new-found resiliency under manager Silva.

MATCH CENTRE

A 71st-minute equaliser from the penalty spot by substitute Troy Deeney got the host on level terms and set up a thrilling finish.

After Etienne Capoue hit the post, the game appeared set to finish all-square until Tom Cleverley popped up with an injury-time winner to complete the recovery mission and send Watford above Arsenal and up to fourth.

The midfielder - who had been easily beaten in the air for Mertesacker's header - was in the right place in the penalty area to convert a loose ball, meaning the Gunners are still yet to record an away league win this season.

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The dramatic finish spectacularly bursts the fragile bubble of optimism that had been growing at Arsenal, who had put together an impressive run of form since a 4-0 hammering at Liverpool on August 27.

Wenger will rue his side's failure to hold onto a lead given to it by the most unlikely of goal-scorers, club captain Mertesacker - replacing the injured Shkodran Mustafi in the starting XI - celebrating a rare outing by breaking the deadlock with a thumping header.

Up against the under-sized Cleverley, the towering German didn't even have to get off the ground to convert Xhaka's teasing set-piece delivery from the right and grab Arsenal's first away goal of the campaign.

The set-piece effort came after Arsenal had struggled to break down a Watford side that mirrored its opponents in starting with a three-man back line, too often settling for long-range attempts or throwing in hopeful crosses.

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Silva switched to 4-4-2 on the hour mark and the move paid off when club captain Deeney - without a goal in his previous 13 league games - matched his Arsenal counterpart by converting from the spot after Hector Bellerin was adjudged to have pulled down Richarlison.

The equaliser came after Arsenal had twice fluffed its lines at the other end.

Alex Iwobi and Mesut Ozil, on as a replacement for the injured Danny Welbeck,were both guilty of putting their attempts too close to goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, letting Watford off the hook.

The closing minutes saw Arsenal come under siege, with the post helping it out when Capoue's drive struck Mertesacker's chest to wrong-foot Petr Cech.

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However, the woodwork failed to come to its rescue when Cleverley arrived at the perfect time to slam home a dramatic winner three minutes into added time.

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