In a whirlwind match, Arsenal came out 2-0 winners against Javi Garcia’s Watford at the Emirates on Saturday afternoon.
It wasn’t plain sailing, but through a Craig Cathcart own goal and a Mesut Ozil follow-up within 3 minutes of each other late on, the Gunners finished the day 3 points better off.
To begin with a look at the bigger picture, Arsenal’s form is very impressive.
After losing the opening two matches of his tenure as Arsenal manager, Unai Emery’s side have won the subsequent seven matches.
This result sees them leapfrog their opposition into 5th position on 15 points, 4 points behind last season’s Champions Manchester City in 1st place on 19 points.
A valid argument could be made that Arsenal were favourites in all of the past 7 matches and, as such, should have won them could be made.
But not only have Arsenal been winning the games, they’ve been showing signs of improvement – this is a team undergoing a large transition, and getting wins during this period is reason for celebration.
This celebration was particularly evident in the 81st minute of today’s match, when Arsenal’s first goal made its way into the Hornet’s net. Emery sprung to his feet, ecstatic – this one meant a lot.
And rightly so – Watford are not a side to be trifled with this season. They’ve been the surprise side of this campaign thus far, and started the day ahead of Arsenal. They’re an ambitious side that easily could have left the Emirates today with a share of the spoils, at the least.
Arsenal lined-up with their now tried and tested 4-2-3-1 formation, against Watford’s attack minded 4-2-2-2.
This away attack included the talents of Troy Deeney, Roberto Pereyra, Will Hughes and Andre Gray, and after strong starts to their season, these would have been player’s that Emery would have been fearful of.
These players threatened throughout the first-half, where the quality that seen Watford get towards the top of the league table was evident. Hughes had two first-half efforts that threatened, a volley that dragged marginally wide and an effort that could have caught Arsenal keeper Petr Cech out after it skimmed off Hector Bellerin.
Cech was to come into the fore as the half reached its conclusion – Deeney (a man with a bad reputation around Arsenal) challenged for a header from a corner, colliding with the Czech stopper.
It was a bad knock, and Cech was unable to continue, meaning Bernd Leno was able to experience his first league action, in unfortunate circumstances.
This was just prior to the first half whistle. Over the course of the half, Arsenal had looked at times threatening, without carving out any truly clear-cut chances.
Alexandre Lacazette was perhaps the stand-out player, and looked the likeliest to break the deadlock in the opening 45. He was aggressive in his approach – after just five minutes he burst into the Watford box and was taken down by Christian Kabasele. Nothing given, but it could easily have been a penalty.
A few minutes later the Frenchman attempted an ambitious chip over Ben Foster but it wasn’t to be. In the second half, it was this attacking threat that lead to the opener.
Prior to the opening of the scoring, Watford looked particularly threatening, and if anything, looked likeliest to snatch a goal. Leno was forced to make a quick impression with a fine stretched save to deny Deeney.
With 10 minutes to go, Watford, who had defended admirably to their credit, were broken down. Cathcart was trying to deal with Lacazette, and accidentally placed the ball past Foster from an Iwobi cross. A sense of tension was lifted from around the Emirates, and in many ways against the run of play, it was one-nil.
Before the elation had even died down, the same pair – Lacazette and Iwobi – combined well to set Ozil up to add a second. The German playmaker was able to tap in an effort at the end of a slick piece of play to bring the gap to 2 goals between the sides with seven minutes remaining, which proved to be too big of bridge to cross for Garcia’s side.
The goal was Ozil’s 2nd in 3 matches, which matches his record for the previous 18 league games. Hopefully it is an indicator of the player re-finding his scoring form domestically.
Full time in North London, 2-0. It was the 4th home match that Arsenal have won in the past 12 days in all competitions.
Arsenal have been a second half team this season – 10 of their goals have come in the second half, which is the league’s joint highest (along with Man City).
A second consecutive clean sheet as well following the win over Everton with the same score line last weekend. The credit for this must be shared between two goal keepers today, who both contributed. The extent of Cech’s injury is still unclear as of writing, but it seems likely that Leno will be featuring in next weekend’s match against Fulham away.
Prior to the Fulham match, Arsenal have their second Europa League match to play – this time away to Qarabag on Thursday. After such success over the past fortnight on home soil, the Gunners will need to travel to Azerbaijan and to Craven Cottage within 3 days for another test of their mettle.
Fulham are another side who have showed quality this campaign and will prove another valuable – but winnable – test for Emery and his side. While the side are in 16th place, they’ve got players who can cause problems for defences, such as Jean-Michael Seri from midfield and Alexander Mitrovic up-front.
Now though, Emery can resonate in what was an important victory. Watford are a good side – they perhaps deserved a goal for their efforts, so credit must be given to Arsenal’s defence, which is appearing to have sured itself up since the beginning of the season.
Two games in the next week could see Arsenal bring their winning run as high as nine consecutive matches – it’ll be interesting to see how things play out.