Well, yesterday was a bit more fun, wasn’t it? Four goals, dominant throughout, an Arsenal team with fluidity and movement and some very promising performances. Yessir, we can all be happy after a game like that, can’t we?
And yet, despite my pleasure at being able to actually watch Match of the Day yesterday evening, I still wake up this morning with a slightly dull feeling of heartache. It’s born out of the fact that we seem to have finally stumbled upon a collective of players where the balance of the team feels right. Sure, it’s taken us the best part of the season and sure, our previous failings have probably seen us concede another opportunity to win the league. But at least I am starting to see an Arsenal side that looks more familiar to ones that we expect to see under Arsène Wenger: pace, movement across the front, quick interchanges of possession and goals. Ahh the goals. Remember those? They’re great fun, aren’t they? I’m definitely a fan of the goals you know.
So as pretty much anybody predicted, Arsenal’s released shackles of any kind of pressure came to the fore, with Watford duly dispatched in a most classic ‘we’re Arsenal with nothing to play for’ mentality. An early goal settled the nerves from Alexis. Iwobi’s – pretty much a revelation of recent time – perfect ball over to the Chilean was met by our tiny wide man who’s forced save was good, but the follow up from Alexis was better, because it meant that we scored in the first half for the first time in what feels like an age.
The second goal was also perfectly timed. Just as half time approaches, you always want a cushion, so I was mightily relieved that we got one. Alexis’ cut back was grand, but the finish from Iwobi was just as composed as the last time he donned an Arsenal shirt. Everyone hates labels of players, but to me, the goal in isolation had a very Robert Piresesque feel to it. Arrival in the box, composed finish, it all felt very Bobby P to me. Which is grand.
Watford offered very little throughout, if we’re honest, with the most damage they did throughout the 90 being the away fans singing about Wembley, which hurt me more than the nullified threat of Deeney and Igahlo. They even had the incompetent Antony Taylor ignoring Arsenal fouls and blowing up in their favour, yet were unable to mount any serious threat to Ospina. He did make one smart save in the second half, but I thought Deeney’s attempt was at a decent height and just within a decent reach, so it looked a bit better than it actually was.
Özil pulled the strings again. I think he loves playing with quick and mobile players like Alexis and Iwobi. They allow his quick thought to be matched by their quick movement and we looked so much more balanced going forward. How much of the Everton and Watford games were down to those two teams being so poor, I’m not sure, but the old cliches ring true and one of the oldest – you can only beat what’s in front of you – certainly rings true at the moment.
The third goal was a bit fortunate given the huge deflection off Watson from Bellerin, but the Spaniard had played well throughout and deserved his reward, which he seemed very happy with. You can’t say we didn’t deserve it. Iwobi hit the bar and there were a couple of half-chances created, afterwards, but Arsenal were in cruise mode and Watford were probably thinking about the FA Cup.
The fourth was the icing on the cake and that it was Theo tapping in I was actually pleased with. Pre-match discussion centred around how much we would get for flogging him, but none of us really want to see any of those players offloaded if they play to the potential they are capable of, because nobody wants to see an Arsenal player ever play poorly in an Arsenal shirt. So hopefully that goal will give Walcott a little confidence boost.
The evening result between the Spuds and Liverpool was also a minor favour. It would have been better if Liverpool could have got the win, but given the confidence of those Spuddies right now coupled with the fact that Liverpool’s defence really is quite comical, suggests to me that we should be happy with a draw. If the Tiny Totts are dropping points, that’s the main thing, but how do you feel about the game between Leicester and Southampton now? Are you torn? I am. I want Southampton to win to close the gap for us on Leicester, but I also want Leicester to win the league if we cannot, but a defeat won’t help them at all. No, I’ve decided, I definitely want Leicester to lose. The dream is still flickering for Arsenal fans and whilst it flickers, we should hold on to the hope that the impossible is still possible, so a Leicester loss – or even a draw – would be a good result for us.
There is now a week to go until the next match and that’s a week of training and rest for the players. It’s a week to prepare properly for a West Ham team, who will be missing Kouyate through suspension, but who will be massively fired up after dropping points against Palace. That game is one of three away games in this Mission Impossible that I had earmarked as one in which I didn’t believe we could have a flawless end to the season. But if the team plays like it did yesterday, if they have that fluidity of movement and drive that we saw in dispatching an opponent, then it could be one more win and one step closer to believing we have a chance.
I think that will do me for today. I don’t want to speak too much about the improbable at the moment. As the manager as said to us too many times, it’s game by game, so we enjoy this result for a day or two, then start to look at West Ham and West Ham alone, not beyond that.
Catch you tomorrow.