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Match Report: Watford 0 – 1 Arsenal

Watford (0) 0 Arsenal (1) 1

Premier League

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.

Scorer: Aubameyang

Referee: Craig Pawson

Attendance: 21,120

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.

Steve

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

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Match Report: Arsenal 2 – 0 Watford

Arsenal (0) 2 Watford (0) 0
Premier League

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
Attendance: 60,019

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.

Steve

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.

2-0 won doesn’t answer all the questions for Arsenal

It was like watching an Arsene Wenger side against Sam Allardyce’s Bolton.

Watford are a big, physical, athletic side. They place close to the line, often stepping over what is considered legal. Pull backs, clips, trips and body checks. All behind the referees back to try and gain an advantage.

For once it did not work as Arsenal ran out 2-0 winners.

Since returning to the Premier League, Watford have been a 70 minutes side.

They are physical with a high work rate, but die in the last 20 minutes. They did it against Spurs mid-week, they did it on Saturday against Arsenal, and they will probably do it in the league.

I expect them to continue a fine start to the season – this was just their XX defeat – until about February. At that point they will have enough points to stay up and will collapse in exhaustion, having put so much energy and effort into the first 5 months.

On Saturday, for much of the game, their dirty tactics worked as Anthony Taylor waved away late challenges and off the ball incidents. The fact the referee decided to book Shkdoran Mustafi for asking for a corner, whilst not giving Trot Deeney a justified second yellow for a crude and late challenge summed up what Arsenal were up against.

But like at home against Bolton, we got through. We got the 3 points. We made it 7 wins in a row. And with Chelsea and Liverpool drawing 1-1, we sit fairly pretty in the league.

The game changed in its substitutions. Not the one where Petr Cech went off for Bernd Leno, but the two late ones.

Firstly on came Alex Iwobi for Aaron Ramsey.

The game passed the Welshman by, and not for the first time this season. You can see by that performance, how he struggled to fit in, why Emery, Sven and Raul are now unwilling to make him our second highest paid player. He was ineffective.

Iwobi meanwhile is proving a lot of people wrong this season.

Physically he has it all. He is big, strong and quick. He has silky skills but just needed the confidence and vision to match his size and strength. This season he looks a new player and he changed the game.

Always busy, always direct. It is easy to forget that he only turned 22 at the end of last season.

Danny Welbeck also came on with a fine cameo. He is so good in these situations. Able to both hold the ball up, win headers, and stretch teams. He and Iwobi showed why those who called for Eddie Nketiah and Reiss Nelson to be in the Arsenal first team squad ahead of them are premature.

What Emery has done in his short Arsenal career so far is make the right substitutions depending on the situation.

In recent weeks we have seen Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette pulled off. Saturday it was the turn of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Aaron Ramsey. The Spanish manager is clearly not one for reputation. It is all about winning the game.

One man who can be concerned about his future – alongside Aaron Ramsey – is Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

The early goal keeper change meant that only two outfield options could be used to change the game. Emery went for Iwobi and Welbeck ahead of the Armenian.

He might have been coming back from a slight knock (again) but it is hard to see how he fits in with what Emery is trying to do.

Emery does have some decisions to make before next weekends games against Fulham (why is this on at noon on Sunday?)

Aubameyang looks ineffective out wide. Playing him to the side of Lacazette does not work.

Likewise Ozil does not influence the game on the other wing, with Ramsey inside him.

We looked a much better side with Welbeck and Iwobi our wide and Ozil in the middle.

It could be time to make the two ultimate decisions. Ozil or Ramsey; Lacazette or Aubameyang.

It suddenly feels like I am being very negative.

7 wins in a row. With Qarabag and the Fulham, we can make that 9.

The future is bright.

Keenos