That felt like a strange old game yesterday away to Watford. Strange and ultimately good, but still unusual, in terms of how the match evolved and then finished. Yesterday morning I wrote that I didn’t think Watford would be pushovers; they don’t score a lot of goals but Roy Hodgson is a manager who has been around the block and knows how to set up a team to defend and stifle. I expected a compact Watford who would frustrate us, giving us the ball and seeing if we could be broken down. But instead we got what was akin to a basketball match; an open, end-to-end game with some fantastic goals from both sides and if you’re a neutral sitting down on Sunday afternoon just to watch a match this would have been a good one for you.

It even started with a goal within the first few seconds and when I thought Watford went one up inside the first minute I did think at the time “is this going to be one of those games in which all of the odds and stats will be blown out of the water?”. The stats I’m talking about are that Watford don’t really score goals, ship a lot of goals, but that they also don’t create that many chances. I wondered to myself of the Arsenal ‘gift that gives’ could have rolled in to town, just like we did in Liverpool against Everton before Christmas.

But what I didn’t bank on was that we would also have one of the best offensive displays I’ve seen this season. Within five minutes we were ahead and it was Odegaard and Saka who played the major part in the goal, as well as what was to become a great offensive performance, with some superb work and even a back heel to set Saka away before returning the ball to Odegaard to slot home. It was liquid football and had me fist pumping the air in delight. Both Odegaard and Saka were immense yesterday and both were thorns in the sides for Watford throughout. Odegaard was metronomic with his play, his balance and control of the football is a joy to watch, whereas Saka had his left back marker on toast all game, jinking and weaving his way past Watford time and time again. It was amazing stuff to watch and I joked towards the end of the game that deciding who was man of the match for yesterday felt like having to make a choice between which one of your two kids you prefer – simply impossible.

I thought that first goal would set us on our way and indeed, we controlled possession, we looked strong and Watford didn’t look like they could deal with our movement and swagger in the final third. But defensively it felt a different story. Gabriel and White I thought looked shaky at times and Tierney’s passing was off. Watford favoured those long diagonals and I thought Tierney got caught out a couple of times. And it was on that left hand side that Watford managed to get an overlap that enabled the cross for the superb bicycle kit that Hernandez scored from. Sometimes you just have to applaud when you concede a goal like that but it was still frustrating because Watford didn’t seem like they had much about them until that moment.

Then the game set in to a bit of a pattern which felt uncomfortable for about 10 minutes and as Watford got more possession, it began to be a little too open for my – and certainly Arteta’s – liking. We got caught in transition a couple of times and Watford had a couple of half chances that had me worried, before we got our second goal on the half hour mark. Once again though, it was some fantastic interplay in the build up and props must be given to Lacazette, because his backheel was perfectly timed and the finish by Starboy Saka was excellent. The way he ran on to the ball it is easy to think that you go to the left hand side of the goal as you are facing it; you open your body up and try to slot it there, but Saka went high wide right and I think that bamboozled Foster enough to ensure it hit the back of the net. Very clever from a very special player.

After that and until we got our third – and also for a big chunk after the third as well – we dominated the game and whilst for the most part we looked in control, it still felt a little too open for my liking. But the third goal was probably the pick of the bunch from Martinelli. I was watching it on the sofa and I said to The Management “remember when I first started taking you to the football and i’d pick out moves that were just superb to watch because of their accuracy and speed? Wengerball we used to call it. Well, that was just like Wengerball“. Everything from the throw to the moment the ball hit the back of the net happened like lightning. One touch football from every player – Saka to Cedric, to Odegaard, to Lacazette, to Martinelli, then BANG. It was a goal worthy of winning any match and that’s how it turned out in the end. Just.

And this is where it gets strange because what you would have expected was the game to be killed dead. Turn it in to one of those Man City ‘death by 1,000 passes’ jobs and Arteta referenced that is what it should have been yesterday. But instead we kept the game open. We created more chances, but equally so did Watford and I was surprised to see an Arsenal team who have been so well drilled this season, look so shaky at the back. It was like a basketball match sometimes even after we went up with the third goal. Perhaps it was because the team could smell blood and knew that there were more goals if we took our chances. There was one chance in which Lacazette was fouled in the box but Arsenal never get those decisions so I think we all know that Pawson was never going to give it. We just don’t get any help from referees so I wasn’t expecting it there, even if it was the same guy who send off Luiz and gave a penalty for a much less convincing touch on an attacking in the box than yesterday.

Thankfully it didn’t impact the result but the result in itself was a lot more nerve-racking than it should have been and Sissoko’s late goal made the game feel a lot closer than it had any rights to be. I thought it was poor from Ben White on his defending against Sissoko but thankfully they didn’t have time to mount a proper comeback. Three points were ours and we’re outright in fourth now thanks to City and Liverpool both winning this weekend.

It puts us in a very good place. We are now in fourth on points and not just “what ifs” and that’s a good feeling. We will of course drop points in the coming weeks but if we can continue the current good run of winning football matches, then we can start to build some daylight between us and the other teams around us. The Scum are at home to Everton, who have won once in their last 13 games in North London, so I’m not expecting any favours this evening. But if they can even pick up a point, it could feel like another big thing for us in the context of this season. United looked shocking yesterday, West Ham have stuttered of late and Wolves also lost. This match week could be huge for us but most importantly, it’s all in our hands today and that is a good feeling to have.

Catch you all tomorrow.