The best part about yesterday’s 3-2 victory over Watford was when Mike Dean put his whistle to his lips and called time on this latest Premier League season.
I have been on this earth for 37-and-a-half years and as far as I can remember this has been one of the worst that I’ve had to endure. I was alive during the 80s but not as cognisant of how bad things were, but when I asked a mate recently he said “nah, we knew what we were in the 80s – terrible – these days we’ve been fed lies, we’ve had expectation built up and we’ve got overpaid and underdelivering players” and I must tell you I couldn’t put it better myself.
We’ve certainly got under-performing defenders, that’s for sure, especially when you factor in what David Luiz has delivered this season. He conceded his fifth penalty of the season – a Premier League high – and as Mikel Arteta looked on he was also asleep for Watford’s second goal too. It was another one of ‘those’ performances from the Brazilian and it means we go into next weekend’s FA Cup final looking ropey as heck against a Chelski team who will be delighted to go in with a bit of form and a Champions League place secured for next season too. Add to the fact that they’ve got some business already sorted for the summer and you can see why waking up this morning as a Chelski fan will feel a little better than an Arsenal one.
They have more momentum than us and had we got something against Villa I think we’d have at least been able to assume that we were going in to the final with a bit of momentum. As it is, after seeing Watford create chance after chance that they really should have buried against us were it not for profligacy and some excellent ‘keeping from Martinez to keep out the likes of Welbeck specifically, then we’d potentially being feeling a little worse if we’d have blown a three goal lead to drop points against a relegated side.
It seems very strange to be talking Arsenal down after a victory but that’s been this season I guess. Strange. Arteta even described the match as ‘weird’ because of the circumstances and perhaps you could argue that Watford were going to throw everything at an Arsenal team who would clearly have had one eye on the final next weekend, but you still have to be professional and at the back we looked anything but at times.
I really worry about what Chelski’s attacking options could do against our back line. Arteta will surely need to switch back to a back three because he experimented a little with the back four yesterday and it simply didn’t work with Holding and Luiz. At times Holding looked alright when he was just asked to clear the ball from his own box, but that was only half the time, and the rest of the time he was seriously ropey, which makes you wonder about how he’s going to get on with much more clinical players next weekend. Chelski will not be as wasteful as Watford, but they will also recognise just how weak Holding is if in a two, so I suspect moving to a three with wing backs will be the order of the day again.
The formation just didn’t really seem to click, which is weird to say because it was a fairly even game and we found ourselves three up and cruising. An early goal always settles the nerves and despite the fact Mike Dean didn’t want to touch the clear push on Lacazette in the box, VAR rightly told him to get his whistle out of his arse and we found ourselves one up thanks to another composed strike by Aubameyang.
Watford were still dangerous and were pushing bodies forward, which was interesting because it gave us space and that’s probably how we found ourselves three up by 33 minutes. I thought Pepe did quite well whilst on the filed with a little more grass to run at and he had an impact in the second goal with what feels like it’s becoming a trademarked whipped ball into the back post against Auba. His touch surprisingly let him down but the stabbed ball backwards to Tierney allowed the Scot to score what I thought looked like a weird goal in real time, because it seems to be a really slow ball that drifted in to the corner of the net, which took an age to get there. Watford were a joke at the back too, but the third goal from Auba really summed that up when a long through found him easily in the six yard box and he was able to back kick it in from no distance. It was poor stuff from a team that you could see were on the floor confidence-wise, which is why I guess playing Arsenal is always a good thing to build it up, because we love to give hope when previously all there was, was despair.
Watford had 19 attempts yesterday. They had a mountain full of them in the game at Vicarage Road as well and Arteta is, I hope, going to take a long hard look at yesterday’s game because all it has done has filled me with trepidation for the cup final next weekend. It doesn’t feel like we’re going in to the game with any kind of confidence or momentum, we have players missing who will be a big blow like Mustafi and the options to replace him are the likes of Holding who, if I’m honest, I’m wondering if he will ever be good enough. Perhaps that is harsh because he’s had injuries and a stop-start career since establishing himself in the side last season, but right now we just feel creaky as can be as a defence and Arteta needs to find a solution for next weekend.
I haven’t really mentioned the midfield, probably because I don’t really feel like there was much to talk about really. Xhaka was ok, Ceballos was busy, Willock was pretty anonymous. Story of our season really. The FA Cup is a showpiece at the end to look forward to, but I will be absolutely delighted to see the end of this wretched season. Can’t come quickly enough.
Catch y’all tomorrow.