Another three goal winning margin – the last three league games have reaped the same dividend – not to mention another clean sheet doesn’t tell the whole story in what was an intriguing ninety minutes. The 3-0 win over Watford tells a captivating story but was partially written by the home side.
After the 5-2 hammering over an in-form Leicester City side and the fantastically pure 3-0 win over old adversaries Manchester United, hopes were high that another win was on the cards that would enable Arsenal to keep pace with top of the table Manchester City. What was a telling factor before the referee blew his whistle for kick-off was Watford’s impressive defensive record – they boasted the joint meanest amount of goals conceded.
Hornets boss Quique Sanchez Flores once more called upon dynamic Captain Troy Deeney and Odion Ighallo to muster a goal threat. The pair have linked up well so far this season despite the skipper failing to register a goal thus far this campaign but his work rate and clever link up play, coupled with his impressive strength, is the perfect foil for Nigerian Ighallo to feed from. It wasn’t the strike duo that would take the plaudits however. More of that further on.
Arsene Wenger was sweating on the fitness of lethal Chilean Alexis Sanchez before the game began. His record of scoring ( after this game it was the sixth successive game he had scored in ) left the Arsenal boss crossing his fingers that the hip injury inflicted in the United victory wouldn’t leave his side short in attack. Despite two full games for Chile and a return long haul flight, the inexhaustible Sanchez lined up alongside the usual suspects of Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey, with another in-form player in the form of Theo Walcott once again getting the nod in the strikers berth. Laurent Koscielny also proved his fitness and took the place of Brazilian Gabriel.
With Watford finding strength in defence, they could be forgiven for packing the midfield and putting a large volume of players around the box. To their credit though, the Hornets didn’t read the script.
The Gunners spread the ball around well for the first twenty minutes but despite the odd flash of penetration, they couldn’t find a way past a spirited rearguard. Then, the Hornets found their sting.
Spurred on by the midfield combination of Ben Watson and the gangly Etienne Capoue, their tireless pressing started to blossom into territorial advantage. From there, chances arrived. Ighallo and Capoue spurned what fell their way – Ighallo’s chance in particular was gilt-edged – but they failed to take advantage. Deeney continued to harry and put a couple on target – despite their failure to register a goal, their work rate never faltered.
Arsenal’s first half was a tale of frustration. On first glance, I thought it was another case of our side putting in a lackadaisical display but the reason for their frustration wasn’t down chiefly to inadequacies in front of goal but mainly to the efforts of the home side.
Watford had done their homework and knew who the catalysts were. Whenever Santi, Coquelin, Ozil or Sanchez received possession, then a hail of yellow and black shirts would fall upon them and quell any schemes they were mustering. It was rather incredible the fitness levels the Watford midfield and attack exhibited for the first half and it pegged Arsenal back until the half time whistle blew.
The second half was a measure of the strength and team spirit that now flows throughout the Gunners side. They weathered whatever Watford threw at them and kept faith in the system they were playing. It paid off and when the deadlock was finally broken, it was Arsenal who benefitted.
A lame penalty shout from Capoue soon converted into a rapid counter attack which ended with a goal – for the Gunners. Chelsea loanee Nathan Ake upended Mesut Ozil who was running onto a brilliant Santi Cazorla through ball, but the loose ball fell to Sanchez who dispatched it with aplomb. The run continues.
had been full of endeavour but apart from a first half header, he didn’t have a chance to show his burgeoning strike reputation. He made way for maligned Gaul Olivier Giroud and within four minutes, he once again showed his value.
Mesut Ozil, kept quiet by superb marshalling from the Watford midfield for the proportion of the game, wriggled free and produced an instinctive pullback for Giroud who lashed it in first time. A two goal lead and wearing down a spirited team wasn’t sufficient for the Gunners though and a third goal soon followed.
Aaron Ramsey has been suffering in f
ront of goal this season. Fans know exactly what he is capable of but his finishing has been pretty dire of late. His lack of confidence for his club may have ended partly due to his goal for his country Vs Andorra in the recent international break. Either way, Ramsey was set up by a rampaging Hector Bellerin and a deflected finish means the Welshman is off the mark this season.
The game was seen out comfortably in the la
st twenty minutes, but the manner in which Arsenal dealt with a tricky opponent was particularly pleasing. On so many occasions, these types of games would have proved a stumbling block which would have resulted in dropped points but not this time. Whilst Watford worked incredibly hard, it only meant the Gunners had to work harder for the breakthrough.
Mesut Ozil provided, Sanchez , Ramsey and Giroud finished – but Santi Cazorla once again proved how invaluable he is to the side.
His recent transformation from mercur
ial marvel to dependable all-rounder has been quite amazing. His two-footedness means he can turn any opponent inside out and the speed with which he converts defence and attack is breathtaking. He is hugely influential at both ends of the pitch and for a man of his stature to win so many tackles is astounding. Superlatives are hard to find if the aim is to do justice to Cazorla. He is quite simply pivotal to the Arsenal cause.
So, to summarise, Arsenal fought shoulder to shoulder with an impressive and motivated Watford side but the class in Arsene Wenger’s side eventually told. A hugely satisfying three points, another comprehensive scoreline and Manchester City still have our club uncomfortably close when looking in their rearview mirror.
A job well done. #UTA