Just like they had done with a 11-game winless start to the season, the Hornets left it all too late. They waited too long to produce their best performance since the restart and they were relegated by a point. One measly point. How terrifyingly small the margins can be at this punishing level.
Managerless Watford were relegated from the Premier League on the final day of the season as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang inspired Arsenal to victory. The Hornets, who dropped into the bottom three for the first time since 28 February in midweek, started the day level on points with 17th spot knowing a positive result could keep them up.
Hayden Mullins’ side looked dead and buried at 3-0 down but they deservedly pulled a goal back courtesy of Troy Deeney’s penalty shortly before the break, then reduced the deficit to one goal when former Arsenal man Danny Welbeck slotted home from Ismaila Sarr’s cross (66).
Some of Watford’s players sank to their knees; others made for the tunnel without a moment’s delay. The whistle had just blown on their five years in the Premier League and nobody could say that, when the occasion demanded them to hurl the kitchen sink at Arsenal, they went down without a fight. This was a performance full of the crispness, urgency and aggression that have hallmarked their best work over the last half-decade but it came too late, as did the fightback that almost completely overhauled a three-goal deficit on the day. Had Emiliano Martínez not brilliantly saved Danny Welbeck’s backheel 16 minutes from time, shortly after his former teammate had tapped in to put Watford within two goals of safety, there is every chance they could have completed a comeback for the ages.
It’s been a while since we had something like this, a final day with relegation still in the balance. We have a habit of doing relegation properly when we do it at all and our greatest escapes (1991, 1994) haven’t gone to the final day. Only 1996 bears comparison and then… not really. Then we were on thunderous form, trying to steal defeat from the jaws of victory. Here, the reverse was true. Then there was a massive sense of anticlimax as the first 20,000+ home crowd since relegation sat sullenly as results elsewhere relegated us anyway and Chelsea loanee Muzzy Izzet propelled Leicester into the play offs and towards promotion. Here? Here we gave ourselves a huge mountain to climb, did a reasonable job of climbing it anyway and then didn’t, leaving us in the ignominious position of finishing behind Bournemouth for good measure. In 1996 we dared to believe, propelled by GT’s explosive mini-series (nestled between his two epic screen plays). In 2020 we had all but given up before kick-off.
Watford were relegated from the Premier League. A hearty performance at the Emirates, but one that came too late. Jon, Mike, Jordi and DCW discuss how they feel after the final whistle of what is, for a little while at least, the last Watford game in the promised land.