Watford (0) 0 Arsenal (1) 1
Vicarage Road, Watford, WD18 0ER
Monday, 15th April 2019. Kick-off time: 8.00pm
(4-2-3-1) Leno; Mustafi, Mavropanos, Koscielny, Monreal; Torreira, Xhaka; Mkhitaryan, Ramsey, Iwobi; Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Čech, Elneny, Lacazette, Özil, Maitland-Niles, Guendouzi, Kolašinac.
Referee: Craig Pawson
And so we won an away match in the Premiership at last, and in doing so, have launched ourselves into fourth place in the table. That is at least how the commentators and pundits will say about tonight’s game at Vicarage Road, but in essence there was far more to this encounter than mere simple soundbites.
The event that turned the match came as early as the eleventh minute, shortly after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the only goal of the game. Lucas Torreira was the victim of a vicious forearm smash by Watford striker Troy Deeney; to the credit of referee Craig Pawson, he saw the incident and immediately issued a red card to the Watford striker, who unbelievably seemed nonplussed by the decision. Perhaps when he sees his handiwork again on television tonight, he may well see things differently (or not).
Previous to this fracas, our striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored perhaps what will become his most unbelievable goal this season. From a pointless back pass from a defender, Hornets goalkeeper Ben Foster found himself in difficulty as the Arsenal man chased in to challenge; as the goalkeeper attempted to clear the danger, the ball struck the underside of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s boot and into the goal. It may well have been odd, but hey, any goal is a good goal.
Strangely enough, two things should have happened after these two events; firstly, the home side should have caved in having been reduced to ten men, and secondly, more importantly, Arsenal should have capitalised on this and scored more goals. Neither of these theories came to fruition. Instead, it was a hard and sometimes painful first half for us. Watford pinned us into our own half and nearly scored on two occasions, with Arsenal being forced to defend deep and try and bust out in a classic Arsenal thirties’ “smash-and-grab” movement, but that proved easier to think about but increasingly hard to implement.
After the break, Mr. Emery did what he always does best; introduce substitutes at the right time in the match. Enter the much maligned Mesut Özil for a subdued Lucas Torreira, who to be fair, never really recovered fully from the earlier incident. The formation was changed to accommodate him, giving Aaron Ramsey a far more fluid role and in doing so put the home side under pressure. For the next quarter of an hour, Arsenal were in the ascendancy; both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were desperately unlucky not to score and it seemed as if it would be merely a matter of time before we chalked up a second goal. But it was not to be. Watford too, made a vital substitution, changed formation and brought trouble to our door. Their pressure was relentless, and they dominated us for large chunks of what remained of the match, and we can consider ourselves very lucky indeed that Watford did not at least draw level, particularly in the dying minutes of this Monday night match.
We can all breathe a sigh of relief that this game is now over, and we have got our three points and have found ourselves in fourth position in the Premiership. And still we live dangerously in away matches, and still we ride our luck, and still we have an inability to impose ourselves in matches away from The Emirates. How there can be such a difference between our home form and our away games is becoming more than just a mystery, it’s a downright enigma in all its variations. And still no Denis Suárez, not even on the bench tonight. Will we ever see him start a match? Who knows? Mr. Emery obviously does, and he’s not saying a word. Napoli are our next opponents in the Europa Cup in Naples on Thursday evening; dear God, let us hold firm, win the match and get through to the semi-finals. 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.
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