Ighalo celebrates scoring opening goal as Hornets beat Gunners (Photo PA)
Ighalo celebrates scoring opening goal as Hornets beat Gunners
(Photo PA)

Arsenal won’t be lifting the FA Cup for a third successive season.

The Gunners were knocked out of the FA Cup this afternoon by Watford at the Emirates Stadium.

The Hornets backed by 9000 supporters set up an FA Cup semi-final trip to Wembley, with second-half goals from Odion Ighalo and Adlene Guedioura.

Substitute Danny Welbeck pulled one back for Arsenal late on, but Watford held on for a memorable victory over their London Colney training ground neighbours.

The defeat played out to thousands of empty seats in the home sections of the stadium adds to the pressure on Arsene Wenger.

Arsenal face an almost impossible task to pull back a two goal deficit in their Champions League last 16 tie against Barcelona at the Nou Camp on Wednesday.

Whilst in the Premier League, Leicester City can open up an eleven point lead on the Gunners’ with a home victory over struggling relegation threatened Newcastle United tomorrow night.

So a season that a few months ago promised so much has been unraveling in all competitions with a series of poor performances.

Today was Arsenal’s third successive defeat at the Emirates Stadium, in three different competitions. It’s the first time the Gunners have lost three successive home matches since 2002.

Once again today’s performance was punctuated with poor defending and missed chances.

A late rally couldn’t disguise a team playing with low levels of confidence and a lack of leadership.

Arsenal did get the ball in the net when through Olivier Giroud in the ninth minute, but it was ruled out for offside.

Watford goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon wasn’t called into action for the remainder of the half. His only worry was picking a yellow card for persistent time-wasting.

The chances Arsenal did create were wasted by a lack of composure in front of goal.

Calum Chambers’ set up an opportunity for Mohamed Elneny on the half-hour mark, but the Egyptian sliced it high and wide of the goal.

Mesut Ozil then set up a chance for Joel Cambell, but he volleyed over the crossbar with only Pantilimonto beat.

Elneny’ then wasted another chance before half-time after Mesut Ozil had skipped along the bye-line and passed to Joel Campbell. He teed up  Elneny on the edge of the box, but he fired his effort over the bar..

The only other talking point of a low-key first half was Gabriel’s tackle on Watford skipper Troy Deeney. Gabriel’s two footed lunge went over the top of the ball and caught the Watford player, but referee Andre Marriner surprisingly decided it wasn’t worth a yellow or a red card.

Watford took the lead with their first shot on target in the match. just five minutes into the second half.

Deeney outjumped two Arsenal defenders at the near post to flick the ball on, with Ighalo turning Gabriel before shooting beyond David Ospina into the net.

Ighalo went close o doubling the Hornets lead soon afterwards, hitting a volley over the bar after Deeney had again headed on Allan Nyom’s deep cross.

Arsenal went close to equalising with their first shot on target. Campbell set Giroud, but he was denied by Pantilimon at the near post –

Watford counter-attacked and this time did double their lead, with their second effort on target.

Deeney held the ball up inside the box, holding off Per Mertesacker, and then played it back to Guedioura, who crashed a right-foot drive into the roof of the net past Ospina.

Arsene Wenger made a triple substitution in the 67th minute bringing on Walcott, Welbeck and Iwobi for Elneny, Campbell and Giroud.

Unfortnately, as a result Arsenal lost all their shape and rarely threatened to breach the Watford defence.

Their best chance coming when Alexis Sanchez set up Gibbs for a header that flew straight into the hands of Pantilimon,

The Gunners did pull a goal back two minutes from time, when Welbeck exchanged passes with Ozil and slotted into the corner to set up a grandstand finish.

Welbeck had an opportunity to make it 2-2 after Alex Iwobi’s effort had struck the post and rebounded off Pantilimon – but shot wide with the goal gaping.

Watford held on to reach their first FA Cup semi-final since 1987, where they join Crystal Palace and Everton. And the winners the replay between West Ham and Manchester United.

You suspect the week is going to get tougher for Arsene Wenger and the players with the daunting trip to the Nou Camp to face Barcelona on Wednesday.

Arsenal: Ospina 6; Chambers 5, Mertesacker 5, Gabriel 5, Gibbs 6; Coquelin 6, Elneny 7 (Iwobi 67); Campbell 6 (Welbeck 67), Ozil 5, Sanchez 5; Giroud 5 (Walcott 67).