I didn’t expect an easy game against Watford yesterday and despite the fact we got the cushion of the second goal, it certainly was what I expected from a team who have started the season well, because Watford were a confident team that rocked up at The Emirates yesterday.
You didn’t have to go far to find information about how Watford were going to play but seeing it up front I have to say I was quite impressed with how organised Gracia has his Hornets. They played a traditional 4-4-2, they were disciplined and calculated when they had possession, whilst without possession they were organised and very clever with their press.
The way they pressed is how I thought Arsenal were going to press i.e. with intelligence and in pockets across the pitch. That’s how I saw Watford play yesterday. Only in certain positions where they knew that if Arsenal turned over possession, they could hit us on the counter. Then, when that happened, they could have got behind a couple of times.
Thankfully our defence stood firm but it’s fair to say it was another lacklustre first half that is becoming symptomatic of our season. I don’t really know what it is but the first half of each game is littered with stray passes, with players not quite seeming like there was urgency about their play. Emery named pretty much the same side as last weekend with just Holding coming in for the presumably still not ready Sokratis. I thought Rob performed very well and if he puts in a few more performances like that (he’ll most likely get another shot in midweek away to Qarabag) then he can have a fair shout to argue at an inclusion from the start in the league games.
But the same challenges remain in full back and it feels like we’re a prolific team away from a bloodied nose.
But I’ll not dwell too much on that on a day in which we’ve picked up another win and have now started to put together what can conceivably be called a bit of a ‘run’.
Lacazette should have most certainly have put us ahead in the first half after a mistake from one of their centre halves and whilst we can lament that big chance being missed, we can also consider ourselves fortunate that Success also dinked wide after getting in behind in the second half.
If the first half was a classic 2018-19 season under par Arsenal, the second half was also emblematic of this season and we upped the tempo, created more chances and looked more threatening. But we didn’t dominate and Watford had a couple of good chances including a potential own goal which Leno saved brilliantly to keep us at 0-0.
And as long as we didn’t concede we know we have the plays to get us out of jail at the other end. It wasn’t really Ramsey’s day yesterday which won’t help his cause amongst the fans after this week’s announcement about his contract, but the fact that Iwobi came on for him and instantly made us look more threatening will also be leaving the manager questioning about his short term place in the team.
Iwobi blows hot and cold sometimes but yesterday was almost exclusively ‘hot’ and it was his ball in which Lacazette got on to which put us one up. Lacazette had put himself about all day and you can see why he keeps getting preferred in his favoured role over Auba, who was quiet and looked a little forlorn as he came on for Welbeck towards the latter stages of the second half.
But again, Welbeck’s introduction was decisive and it was he that won the ball in Watford’s half to set Laca away and a good ball by the Frenchman got Mesut another goal with a deft finish. It was by no means a vintage Özil display but he was certainly more visible in the second half and of the debate keeps going about how Özil and Ramsey together isn’t quite working, then you have to say that Mesut’s output – he’s bagged a few goals already this season – warrants more of an inclusion than Rambo.
So it’s another win, another clean sheet, another dismal first half followed by a decent second, and an Arsenal team up to fourth. It makes it a good weekend and sees that when we play Qarabag on Thursday in Baku the general feeling will be good amongst the first team squad.
A bit of a ‘P.S.’ from me as I sign off. Antony Taylor proved once again why the lack of decent referees in this division is a crying shame, because there’s no way he should be one of our Premier League refs. Will Hughes had carte blanche all day to commit foul after foul and do nothing, then when Deeney went in for some ‘afters’ on Torreira in the second half, he should have seen a second yellow. Yet Torreira’s first challenge saw him booked in the first and the booking he gave Mustafi for being angry at a poor decision by the Lino on the other side of the pitch he saw fit to give a yellow. Inconsistency is maddening and Antony Taylor is one of the most maddening refs out there.
Right, that’s me for another day. You keep being awesome folks, and I’ll catch you tomorrow.