Watford 1 – 3 Arsenal
We desperately needed a win more than anything else today. But we also needed to play some very good football the Arsenal way’ to get the supporters properly excited again… and luckily we got both against the Hornets. On top of that we had verbal confirmation that two new players, Mustafi and Lucas Perez, will be added to the squad, so every reason for us Gooners to be happy. And if not you may want to give the Samaritans a call… 🙂
It was of course a game of two halves, to use the nr.1 cliché in football. Arsenal were full of life and brutally lethal in the first the half and we saw out the second half with a few bumps but nothing too drastic. It would have been great if the boys had continued in the second half with the same intent and tempo of the first half, but it was also important to not get more injuries. Therefore, taking the foot of the gas and making some timely tactical changes and substitutions in the second half, was just what the doctor ordered.
Eight positives from a vital win:
- Alexis was superb especially in the first half. I love the ‘second’, alternative away shirt the boys wore today and especially Sanchez looked like the mini-hulk in it. Our Chilean firecracker was unstoppable through his movement and aggression all over the pitch. Two assists and a goal are a fantastic return for his efforts but it was also his overall team play that impressed me a lot. Supported by Theo and the less effective Ox on the wings, he offered great movement and availability to which the Watford defenders had very little answer. We will need more end product from the Ox and Theo going forward as Wenger is playing Alexis not like a typical super CF but more of a mixture between Giroud and say Aguero – a combination between hold up play and speedy penetration. The signing of Perez makes a lot of sense therefore, as he will add goals (and assists) on a regular basis, which is needed to make the system a success;
- Mesut Ozil scored! He also had the ‘assist’ for the penalty given early in the first half: a superb ball aimed at the space in front of Alexis from which he surely would head the ball home. Alexis was hacked down before he could score and the referee awarded the penalty after some initial confusion on the pitch. Santi took it well and that was a relief to us all. We need more goals from midfield this season and Mesut made a Lampardesque run into the box to head home with venom and precision. Great stuff and let’s hope there will regular goals to come from our midfielders this season.
- Xhaka carved the hornets nest open without mercy. I reckon Wenger is building a team that can add a few dimensions to their football. As per my first ‘positive’, we need goals from a number of attackers rather than rely too much on the one super CF. But we also need key passes and assists from a number of players, and playing Xhaka, Cazorla AND Mesut clearly gave us that. Xhaka did this regularly from deep, allowing us to attack with speed and precision and not give the Watford defence a lot of time to regroup. Some of Granit’s through-balls and diagonal thunderbolts were sublime today, getting the balls into the pockets like the best snooker player…
- Arsenal played a very attack minded formation today. I cannot remember the last time we played with so many quality, attack-focussed players: Xhaka sat deep but was constantly feeding our attackers; Santi sat also deep(er) but was mainly focussed on attacking Watford, and then there were the foursome of Ozil, Ox, Theo and Alexis attacking relentlessly, whilst being supported from behind by the Spaniard and Swiss geniuses! On top of this the full backs, especially Bellerin, kept bombing forward to support the attack. As a result, we saw an awesome black and yellow attacking machine, especially in the first half. Theo played with aggression and intent and produced a peach of an assist for Alexis’ goal – the all important second goal for us.
- Good substitutions. Of course such an attacking formation only works well if the tempo is high and we manage to keep our opponents hemmed in in their own half. In the second half we dropped the tempo and discipline a bit and gradually we allowed them back into the game. We sat too deep and allowed them to have players in and around the box and this led to a number of half-chances for the Hornets. They scored a typical ‘lucky pinball goal’ for which I cannot blame the defence too much. But after that we allowed them more chances and looked a bit vulnerable at times. Luckily, Wenger had good options on the bench and gradually both Jack and Elneny were able to bring a bit more calm and control back in to our play. It was really good to see Jack back on the pitch and let’s hope we will gradually see more and more of him. Elneny was great – what a player!
- Cech was solid. He made some good instinctive saves and oozed confidence and calm in our defence. Nothing more to say about him.
- Holding and Koz had another good game and could have had a clean sheet if a little bit more lucky. Our young England CB looked in control throughout the game and his height and strength were great assets today. Wenger will have to decide whether to keep playing him for a while and then introduce Mustafi gradually or to establish the French-German CB pair asap. I am really pleased for Holding and I hope he will get twenty of game time this season.
- The final ‘positive’ is for Wenger. He has had to work hard to get the signings he wanted and he has succeeded. There was also a lot of pressure on him to win this away game and he delivered in style. I have said before that we should make the first proper analysis of our chances to win the league after ten games, and I now believe we have everything in place, bar a lot of bad luck on the injury front, to fight for three points in every game and push upwards in the table. Let’s see where we are in a few months time.
Happy Interdull! 🙂