Arsenal fans need to keep perspective after win at Watford
PUBLISHED: 07:11 30 August 2016 | UPDATED: 10:46 30 August 2016
OK Arsenal fans, you can come out now…for the time being at least. The dismantling of Watford on Saturday evoked distant, pre-navel gazing memories of how things used to before Arsenal scrutiny became 'hip' in the football industry.
Putting the game into perspective, Watford are not expected to be challenging near the top of the Premier League any time soon, so while things took a definite step forward at Vicarage Road, chickens should not be lined up for counting just yet.
From the off, Arsenal looked a great deal more fluid than in recent weeks. Alexis Sanchez, alert and full of pace on the left, was soon creating havoc for the leaden-footed Watford defence. He was also striking up a deft partnership with Mesut Ozil, and it was this combination that won a penalty after nine minutes.
Ozil, looking resplendent with blond highlights to his fringe, dug out a ball from under his right foot and produced a lovely floating cross for Sanchez to race towards. He never actually reached it – instead falling victim to ‘Nordin Amrabat’s Elbow’ – an instantly notifiable disease that results in a spot-kick.
As the Watford protests and discussions with referee Kevin Friend took place, Santi Cazorla calmly placed the ball on the penalty spot and waited for the nod. Once given, he rammed home a low hard shot into the space conveniently vacated by Heurelho Gomes’s leap to his left.
Arsenal were far too good for Watford in every respect. Hector Bellerin’s surging runs, the pinpoint passing of Granit Xhaka, and bustling work from Cazorla were stand-outs, supplementing the magnificent work of Ozil and Sanchez who were ripping Watford’s left side to shreds.
The Arsenal defence – known for its benevolence – almost scored for Watford when Laurent Koscielny, in attempting to clear, fired in a shot at his own goal from an Amrabat cross that the absent Olivier Giroud would have been proud of. Thankfully, Petr Cech had it covered.
Amrabat was a handful for Nacho Monreal when driving forward, but paradoxically he was food and drink for Sanchez when defending. Time and again the Chilean slid by him as he continually engineered openings for his colleagues.
A Sanchez one-two with Ozil took out five defenders in an instant, with only the outstretched leg of Gomes preventing the second goal.
That second goal did arrive, however, when a string of passes presented Theo Walcott with the ball at the corner of the Watford box. With the home defence losing all shape, Walcott crossed perfectly for Sanchez to shin home the ball while airborne with just enough power to get it over the line.
Even when Walcott had just failed to convert a stunning 30-yard through ball from Xhaka, it didn’t stop the Gunners ploughing forward, and in injury time the third goal arrived.
It put the tin hat on any lingering revival hopes that Walter Mazzarri’s rousing half-time speech might have mustered – indeed, a glance down at the dugout saw the new Hornets coach with his head in his hands.
Progressing to the edge of the box, only to be met with a wall of defenders, Sanchez paused, looked up and centred. Nobody was in the box at that instant, but Ozil had read Sanchez’s mind like a book, and started a 20-yard sprint into the box to meet the hanging ball perfectly and head past the rooted Gomes.
Arsenal eventually relaxed their intensity and Watford did finally get on the scoresheet with a goal from Roberto Pereyra, after the ball had pinged around the Arsenal box. The new signing seemed to dig the ball out from under his foot as he found the bottom left corner.
Following a niggling period of play that saw the Watford booking count rocket, (final tally, Watford 6 Arsenal 1), Amrabat was replaced by the delightfully named Isaac Success, who proved to be rather a handful in the home attack. He popped up everywhere, creating chances, and showed clear evidence of his pace and skill.