London : Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was at a loss to explain his sideâ€™s appalling first-half display during their surprise 2-1 defeat by Watford at the Emirates Stadium.
His side mustered just three wayward efforts on goal in the opening 45 minutes as they allowed Watford to canter into a two-goal lead and damage further their tilt at the Premier League title.
â€œIt was not good in the first half, especially in the first 20 minutes. We were beaten in the duels and Watford were sharper than us,â€ Wenger admitted after Tuesdayâ€™s match.
â€œDid we think subconsciously that we just had to turn up? I donâ€™t know. Honestly we prepared well for the game. Looking at the preparation, I have no basic regret.
â€œWe knew that Watford would make it very physical and we prepared for that.
â€œYou do not make 47 points after 23 games in the Premier League if you donâ€™t have physical power, but you have to switch it on 100 percent all of the time in the Premier League.
â€œWe didnâ€™t start the way we wanted, but in the second half it was all us and letâ€™s be fair, we didnâ€™t deserve to lose this game.
â€œWe hit the bar and (Watford goalkeeper Heurelho) Gomes made fantastic saves as well, so I still think that if you look at the chances, we were unlucky to lose.
â€œOn top of that we were a bit unlucky with the free-kick for the first goal and then a deflected shot on top of that.â€
Younes Kaboulâ€™s deflected free-kick gave Watford a 10th-minute lead and Watford added a second three minutes later when Troy Deeney tucked in the rebound from Etienne Capoueâ€™s shot.
Arsenal, who replied through Alex Iwobi, travel to leaders Chelsea on Saturday and Wenger insisted his team will not suffer from a hangover from this result.
Nor was he comforted by draws for Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, which limited the ground Arsenal lost.
â€œWe want to respond against Chelsea and win the game, of course. But we first have to analyse why we didnâ€™t start well in this game,â€ said the Frenchman, whose team now trail Chelsea by nine points.
â€œIâ€™m responsible for the results of the team so I am very frustrated that we did not win the game. We are playing at home, we had a great opportunity and we had a start like we did.
â€œWe have to learn from that and respond very quickly and in a very convincing way. What the other teams do doesnâ€™t matter.â€
Wenger confirmed that Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey had limped off with a calf strain.
For Watford manager Walter Mazzari, the result justified his decision to rest almost his entire first team for Sundayâ€™s FA Cup defeat by third-tier Millwall.
The Italian made a point of dedicating the victory to former Watford manager Graham Taylor, who passed away on January 12.
â€œMy objective is for Watford to stay in the Premier League and to make my team grow game by game, week by week,â€ said Mazzarri, whose side sit 13th.
â€œOf course the players need this victory to work better with me and also to believe that they can achieve great things.
â€œI was very happy at the end because recently we deserved to win some games, but didnâ€™t because luck was not on our side. We needed a big win, especially for the morale of the team.
â€œOf course I would have liked us to play the whole 90 minutes like we did in the first half.
â€œBut we had at least four or five players coming back from injury and who hadnâ€™t played 90 minutes for a long time, so they werenâ€™t in condition to play the full 90 minutes at the same level.
â€œToday was a great game and I want to dedicate this victory to a great person in Graham Taylor.â€