Arsenal earned a rare away victory – and their first ever clean sheet away from The Emirates this season – as they shut out a dangerous Watford side to bag the points.
An early goal from top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was just enough to see us to victory, but that was the tip of the iceberg when it came to the full story in this topsy-turvy 90 minutes.
Still, Arsenal now sit back in the top four, two points ahead of Manchester United and level on points with Chelsea, who have played a game more.
Unai Emery made changes for this game at Vicarage Road. Mesut Ozil was left on the bench and Aubameyang was the sole striker. Aaron Ramsey played further forward, alongside Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, with Lucas Torreira back in the lineup alongside the fit-again Granit Xhaka.
The big story though, was a first start of the season for Konstandinos Mavropanos, and the Greek defender played alongside captain Laurent Koscielny. Shkodran Mustafi was at right back, with Monreal in his more accustomed position of left-back.
The game changed inexorably after ten minutes, with the normally reliable Ben Foster picking up a back pass and allowing Aubameyang to steal a march on him and it was the Gabon striker’s leg that blocked an attempted clearance, with the ball dribbling in the net.
Just a minute later, it got worse for the home side. Lucas Torreira had the ball and in steamed Troy Deeney. Torreira had offloaded the ball, and a second later, Deeney came in with his forearm and clipped our midfielder in the side of the face. It was an obvious foul that was unneeded, and it was enough for a straight red.
That should have been enough for us to comfortably see out the game, but we looked ill at ease throughout, and needed a combination of Bernd Leno, the woodwork and some terrible touches by Andre Gray to stay ahead.
Here is 4 things we learned from the game:
Mavropanos has what it takes – but is still raw
The defender was making his first league start of the season, and it was a mixed bag. True, he had no match sharpness to speak of, and there were some highlights, but on a few occasions he thrust himself in when there was no need, nearly leaving us open. He’s a work in progress and has shown he has the basics, but he needs experience. Perhaps a loan?
Away Movement Is Lacking
All too often, Watford broke up the field and left us chasing shadows. If it wasn’t for the wastefulness of Andre Gray, we would have most likely lost this game. Our midfield was far better than it was against Everton – thanks to Lucas Torreira – but we still didn’t have the urgency we carry at home. We got away with it this time, we won’t again.
Leno is the real deal
The German has recovered from a slow start to the season and has been showing us his pedigree for a few months now. He once again kept us in the game, smart stops denying Capoue, Gray and Hughes were enough to grab us the points. Leno has been an inspired purchase.
Tactical Switches Are Key
Let’s face it – away from home we will face longer periods of pressure. Unai Emery attempted to defuse this in the game with some switches. These adaptations have worked previously, and to a degree, they did. At half time, Mesut Ozil came on to give us some more invention. This was at the expense of Torreira though, which gave Watford a chance to fly forward unheeded. Then, the Spanish coach took off Mavropanos and brought on Guendouzi, giving us a back three. With Ramsey dropping deeper, we also had three in the centre to stifle the home side. That preceded our final change, that saw Maitland-Niles come on for Ramsey, to shut up shop. It is good that our side can roll with the punches, but it may leave us a bit unsettled. This time it just about worked.
We have Napoli at the Stadio San Paolo next up, followed by a game against Crystal Palace on Sunday.