Sokratis Papastathopoulos takes responsibility for Arsenal’s collapse at Watford
Arsenal defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos insists he is solely responsible for allowing Watford to come from two goals down and earn a draw against the Gunners on Sunday.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s first-half brace appeared to have Arsenal on course for victory, only for the Hornets to welcome Quique Sanchez Flores back into the Vicarage Road dugout by staging a comeback as the visitors’ defence crumbled.
The game eventually finished 2-2 as Sokratis gifted possession to Gerard Deulofeu with Unai Emery’s side looking to play out from the back – Tom Cleverley punishing the Greece international by converting as a result.
Things went from bad to worse when David Luiz tripped Roberto Pereyra inside the box and the substitute converted the resulting penalty to level the scores.
After the game, head coach Emery refused to criticise his players, while captain Granit Xhaka claimed they had been “scared” in the second half.
But Sokratis, signed from Borussia Dortmund last summer, said the buck stopped with him following his costly error.
“I think that I cost the game for the team,” he said. “It was my mistake for something simple that I don’t have to do. I think this was the problem why we lose the three points.
“This is all about our responsibility and we have to do better. It was my mistake and today without my mistake, we would take the three points.
“I don’t want to speak about others. Today it was my mistake and this cost the game. Nothing else. The other guys tried their best. I don’t have to do this mistake.”
Watford had 31 shots on goal during the game as they dominated after the interval, with Sokratis admitting Arsenal were not up to scratch in the second 45 minutes.
“Of course. I apologised because today I cost the game for the team and I have to work harder,” he added.
“I know up to this moment I didn’t have a mistake, I didn’t do nothing. Everything was near to perfect. We didn’t have the same pace in the second half as in the first half.
“But if we didn’t do these mistakes, I don’t think we draw. Of course they had other chances to score more, but if we didn’t do these mistakes then nothing happens.”
Despite their rousing comeback, Watford remain bottom of the Premier League and without a win following a poor start to the campaign that led to Javi Gracia losing his job last weekend.
The Spaniard was replaced almost immediately by compatriot Flores, who had previously taken charge of Watford for the 2015/16 season, and the 54-year-old will be encouraged by what he saw.
Cleverley revealed they had spent the days leading up to the game working on a way to close down Arsenal as they played out from the back – something that paid dividends as the former Manchester United midfielder grabbed his first league goal since January.
“I feel like we were well organised from their goal-kicks,” he said.
“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.”
Asked about the impact Flores has made since returning to Vicarage Road, Cleverley added: “He’s not bombarded us with information.
“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.”