Arsenal 2-0 Watford
The Troy Deeney show rolled into the Emirates on Saturday with his gang of 'grrr' and 'gnarf'. Everyone's favourite pantomime villain looking to chomp on timid defenders, gnaw on bits of Mustafi and seek revenge on Cech for the LOL penalty save last season. (Still the biggest cheer I've heard at the Emirates, which is not something to shout about).
The team news when it broke didn't exactly instill confidence; the one guy in Arsenal's backline who could combat Troy's beastliness, Sokratis, left at home, not on the bench (YIKES). Unwanted imagery of Troy licking lips whilst slightly foaming at the mouth floated across my mind - would this match be an 'orrible hornets nest? I tried to lose myself in the prematch 'COYG video' to find some confidence.
Line up: Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Holding, Monreal, Torreira, Xhaka, Ramsey, Ozil, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Subs: Leno, Lichtsteiner, Kolasinac, Guendouzi, Iwobi, Mkhitaryan, Welbeck
If there was one word, no, a few words to the sum up the start of this match, then you could certainly pick from the following selection... 'open', 'end to end', 'great for the neutral'; basically Watford enjoyed plenty of early possession, which irked the crowd at the Emirates. The ease in which Watford created chances was just as worrying as the ones created by West Ham and Everton in previous home games; time and time again the away side found themselves in dangerous positions, only to be thwarted by a mixture of Cech heroics or last ditch clearances from Holding and Monreal. Cech was again having issues playing out of the back while Deeney was lurking and prowling like some sort of nasty thing out on the moors.
Whether perplexed by Troy's mere presence, or just having 'one of those days', Petr never seemed to make the right decision; going long when there was a short pass available, or trying an intricate pass into midfield where the ball just came back at him via another Watford attack. Emery cut a furious figure waving and pointing at him furiously from the touchline...
"Put it there son, put it there!" (In a Spanish accent)
Joining Cech on the naughty step were Ramsey - chasing around a lot and affecting nothing, Mustafi - getting way too tight and giving away stupid free-kicks and the referee for not giving Arsenal a blatant penalty. Arsenal's first real chance came on 15 mins, with Lacazette using his new found aggression to rob a Watford defender and finding himself one on one with Foster. Quite how he proceeded to chip wide is a mystery. Danny Welbeck misses came to mind straight away, but the applause Lacazette then got 'for the effort' felt embarrassing. It was a pretty woeful attempt and should have been 1-0.
Watford were again exerting plenty of pressure at one end, getting corners and actually time wasting (bizarre) whilst Arsenal's final ball was lacking quality at the other. Mustafi giving away free-kicks and playing the ball out of play like he wanted to be subbed, Xhaka giving the ball away again like he also wanted to be subbed, zero composure! Deeney was living up to to his reputation as the pantomime villain, going all beastly on Monreal and getting a yellow, then enjoying a bit of banter with the home crowd showing them his abs - "You fat b*****d" being the appropriate response to that nastiness. Xhaka nearly atoned for his first half display with a fierce drive which warmed the hands of Foster, whilst at the back Arsenal were again leaving many in the crowd to place heads in hands with dodgy back passes...
As halftime approached Cech's hamstring decided to give the poor guy a break, going all pingy on the 44th minute, leading to Leno finally making his Premiership debut. It felt pivotal; either this guy would breathe confidence into the back line with his amazing passing powers or he'll chuck one in! 20 seconds and no dramas. HT 0-0.
3 mins into the second half and Leno got the chance to show us those 'passing powers'. Taking his time, he looked up and whacked the ball straight out for a Watford throw-in.
"Well, alrighty then."
To be honest, that was his only blemish, and you could forgive the young German for it, especially in the 53min when after another stupid foul, this time by Xhaka, he denied Deeney brilliantly. As the resulting free-kick was whipped in, the Watford ogre escaped Mustafi and flicked the ball towards the far corner, Leno going all 'cat-like', pushing the ball out for the corner at full stretch. Would Cech have saved it? I have my doubts.
Watford were still looking dangerous; in fact Arsenal were frankly struggling to contain them, which on the face of it is a poor state of affairs. If an alien had appeared at that moment in the match it would struggle to decipher who was the home side. Leno was punching balls (which will take time getting used to) and Holding was easily shining as our best defender.
On 63 min the second pivotal moment of the match came when Ramsey got hooked for Iwobi. The welshman didn't look happy as he trudged off, but to be honest I was. I really don't think both Ozil and Ramsey can play in the same side - it's two passengers as neither has any discipline positionally. One is on a lot of money and all signed up, and the other wants out - why play him?
After this switch the change in Arsenal's play was immediate. Suddenly there was a balance to the team going forward, and Ozil energised, making darting runs and looking lively. The substitutions didn't stop Watford creating dramas however; despite tiring, they still forced Leno and Holding into blocks, and only a piece of paint denied 'Success' (yes thats his surname), when the young striker got in behind Holding in the 76min. I genuinely thought that was our lot but Success was unsuccessful (sorry had to), beating Leno, but not the far post.
The game changer came in the 80min, Iwobi crossing low from the right after good interplay with Bellerin and finding what at first looked like Lazcette for a tap in close to the keeper. However upon inspection it was actually an own goal, the Watford defender kind of forced into it by the frenchman. That goal sucked the life out of Watford like a dig to the solar plexus, and it wasn't long before Arsenal made it 2-0, with new-found energy and the crowd sensing victory. A quick break found Lacezette providing from the left and the on-rushing Ozil finishing calmly for a tap-in. Game over 2-0 and time to ask the question.
The fact this was followed by olés as Arsenal played out passing moves in injury-time was slightly embarrassing, and a shame for Watford who really deserved a lot more from this match - but hey, them's the breaks!
Positives: A clean sheet and the balance of Arsenal's attacking play after Ramsey departed.
Negatives: So many chances again for the opposition. Arsenal have six winnable matches in all competitions to come where they really need to sort this stuff out before Liverpool come to town. The performance against Watford repeated against Klopp's outfit could result in a cricket score!
Cech: Kept too busy and struggled with his feet. Injury could mean he struggles to reclaim the No 1 jersey. 5/10
Bellerin: Attacked well, got done a bit defensively. 6/10
Mustafi: Just stop it. 3/10
Holding: Easily Arsenal's best defender (which is not saying much). 7/10
Monreal: Attacked well, got done a bit defensively. 6/10
Torreira: Good spotting danger again, needs more help from Xhaka. 7/10
Xhaka: Sprays one good pass to switch play then just hands the opposition the ball with a fiver yarder. A real head-scratcher. 5/10
Ramsey: Needs to be benched, can't do the No 10 thing he thinks he can. 4/10
Ozil: Better in 2nd half after Ramsey went off, lovely finish for the goal. 7/10
Aubameyang: Quiet. Doesn't like it on the left, but Emery will persist in the absence of any wingers at the club. 6/10
Lacazette: Involved in all the Arsenal danger created and both goals. MOM: 8/10
Iwobi: Changed the game. 8/10
Welbeck: Ran around a lot. 6/10
Next up Fulham away. Another 3 points do-able but only if we get the defensive side sorted.
Next up for Jose Mourinho, Chelsea away.....