Arsenal (0) 2 Watford (0) 0
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Saturday, 29th September 2018. Kick-off time: 3.00pm
(4-2-3-1) Cech; Bellerín, Mustafi, Holding, Monreal; Torreira, Xhaka; Ramsey, Özil; Aubameyang, Lacazette.
Substitutes: Elneny, Guendouzi, Lichtsteiner, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi, Welbeck, Kolasniac, Leno.
Scorers:Cathcart (o.g.), Özil
Yellow Cards: Mustafi, Torreira
Referee: Anthony Taylor
And so a welcome to Hertfordshire’s finest, the last of four home games in the Premiership and a couple of cups too. Amazingly enough, we didn’t play The Hornets in the league until 1982, but since then, despite relegation and promotion issues for them over the years, they have earned a certain reputation for playing open, attacking football, a style that has paid off for them in this campaign, as they currently (at the time of writing) occupy the fourth position in the Premiership.
We started this match slowly and sluggishly, but all this was quickly forgotten when Alexandre Lacazette was desperately unlucky not to have been given a penalty in the fifth minute when he was blatantly tripped by a Watford defender; he valiantly carried on (although to be fair, most strikers in the modern game would have gone to ground) and was unlucky not to have scored from a very difficult angle indeed. Arsenal allowed Watford to make their mark on the game shortly afterwards and for the rest of the half looked disappointing at times, although it should be noted that our bandits (Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang) looked dangerous on the break, and when supported by the midfield, looked likely to score. Now the bad thing. In injury time of the first half, our magnificent gardien de but, Petr Cech pulled up with a hamstring injury that will keep him away from his duties for circa three weeks. Woe. However, cometh the hour, cometh the man, and now is the time that our £19 million summer acquisition Bernd Leno is to come to the aid of the party.
Second half at The Emirates, and as form follows finction, we all know what that means; a kick up the backside and a clip round the ear from Mr. Emery during the break and they all start to play as if their very lives depend on it – only at first it looked like The Hornets were the home team and not us with the amount of good and clear chances that they had during this time. It has to be said that Bernd Leno was very much on his game and prevented Watford from scoring on several occasions. Then Mr. Emery played a superb trump card, and hey, what a card it was, too. Enter young Alex Iwobi and the rejuvenation in the chaps was there for all to see. Ten minutes from time, Alex Iwobi found space for himself over on the right and slipped a low ball to the near post where Hornets’ defender Craig Cathcart diverted it beyond the grasp of his own keeper. Two minutes later, Alex Iwobi and Alexandre Lacazette played a superb one-two movement before the Frenchman passed the ball into the area near the far post where the much-maligned Mesut Özil lay in wait like a killer in the sun to administer the final act. Despite one or two late clashes, that was really the end of it all, and we can leave this match with three very important points, and another win on the board.
Okay, here we go, here comes the critique. Not wishing to be hypercritical, but at times it was a very tight match and we appeared to make heavy weather of things, particularly in the first half (surprise, surprise). We lack width and when it comes to playing the top sides (and we all know who they are), they will exploit this weakness in the formation. Arsenal need to play with concentration and vigour throught the whole of the match, and not just the second half, as one day a team will play us knowing that we are below par in the first half, and our punishment will be so bad, not even a half-time talk from Mr. Emery will be able to square that circle. Having said all this, we are looking fitter and there are signs of improvement; after all, this is our seventh win in a row across all competitions, so we are obviously ticking many boxes here. Our next match in the Premiership is an away tie at Fulham next Sunday before the international break, so fingers crossed that the chaps can continue their winning streak. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as these early days are going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.