Life for Arsenal and its fans is good at the moment. Saturdays win over Watford made it our 5th win in a row in the Premier League, and our 7th win on the spin in all competitions. Not to mention, it was our second clean sheet of the season, which makes me think we’re doing something right at least.
Unfortunately, I had other responsibilities to attend to this weekend so I couldn’t watch the second half live with the rest of the world, but I recorded it and watched it a bit later on when I had the chance. While I was busy, I noticed that none of my friends were texting me, which was a good sign because they would normally rub it in my face when Arsenal fuck up. But that wasn’t the case as I got home and confidently switched on the TV and watched the rest of the game, knowing that we either won or came away with a draw.
Unai Emery’s team selection on the day was almost unchanged from the team that started against Everton last weekend, with the exception being Sokratis who was left out as he was still recovering from an injury he picked up in that game. Rob Holding stepped up and took his place, which I was quite comfortable with as I’ve admired the shifts he’s been putting in for the team so far. One thing that bothered me, and still does, is the fact that Özil is being asked to play out wide every now and then, and Ramsey being given the freedom to play in that number 10 role from time to time. Maybe Emery is giving Ramsey what he wants, to help with the contract negotiations, or something… I don’t know. But what I do know is that it’s not working as well as what Emery had hoped. Frankly I was surprised Iwobi didn’t start instead of Ramsey, as the Nigerian has been playing really really well for us recently. But I’ll discuss him a bit later on.
The first half of this game wasn’t great, but at least it wasn’t as bad as last weekends first half. There were a couple of chances for us to score, one which was presented beautifully to Lacazette, who chipped the keeper but saw the ball roll well wide of the post. Lacazette was also involved in an early penalty claim which should have seen us been awarded a penalty, but he decided to try stay on his feet, and for that, the ref played advantage and gave a goal kick after Lacazette’s shot hit the side netting. The striker was clearly put off from the contact he received prior to the shot, and personally I think the ref should have brought it back and called it a penalty after the missed attempt. On the other hand, had Lacazette gone to ground after feeling the contact, the ref would have given the penalty straight away. You’ve got to admire his honesty though, but at the same time there will be games where we need our strikers to go down and win penalties, because it may be the only chances we get. I’m not talking about blatantly diving like Dele Alli, but if you’re tripped and feel the contact, you may as well go down and see if the decision goes your way. That’s just my opinion, and don’t get me wrong… I love it when players are honest, but honesty won’t always win you games.
This game was pretty stretched, with each team attacking the other instead of one team sitting back and defending. This made for quite an entertaining half to watch as it was spaced out and the play was flowing nicely. The passing from Arsenal was much better but it was difficult to find a way past a stubborn Watford side who had a lot more physicality than us on the day. Unfortunately the half ended with an injury to Petr Cech, who pulled his hamstring while taking a goal kick, but this meant that Bernd Leno finally had the chance to make his Premier League debut and make a case as to why he should be selected instead of the veteran when he eventually returns from his injury. The captains armband was then handed to Ramsey as Cech came off, but there was no more time for the half to carry on as the whistle was blown shortly after the ball was back in play.
Watford came out much stronger than they were in the first half and forced Leno into a brilliant save quite early on in the second half, denying Troy “Cajones” Deeney from opening the scoring. Leno handled himself really well during the half, catching as well as punching the ball out numerous times and showing us that he’s not only good with his feet, but also with his hands. Ramsey was then taken off later and replaced by Alex Iwobi and the armband was handed to Mesut Özil, making him our 3rd captain for the day. Now, I wasn’t a fan of Iwobi until very recently. In fact I always thought that he didn’t fit into the Wenger system and that he wasn’t ready for the Arsenal team just yet… but under Emery he’s been showing a lot of promise and giving us a different edge. He’s also giving us width and a burst of energy that we need sometimes, so for now it seems like he fits the Emery system much better.
Watford had a really good spell of play, which was worrying me a bit because they were really putting us under a lot of pressure. One of Watfords subs, Success, had a very similar chance to Lacazettes first half chance, beating Holding for pace and chipping it over Leno. But fortunately for us, and ironically for him, he was unsuccessful, as the ball brushed the outside of the post and went out for a goal kick. Shortly after that, Dat Guy Welbz came on for Aubameyang, who wasn’t having the best of games. The Gabonese international wasn’t as influential as we’d hoped and was replaced by the Englishman, who has had a bit of form recently, scoring 2 goals in midweek against Brentford. That meant that Arsenal had width on the right with Iwobi and on the left with Welbeck, which paid off not long after he came on. Following a free kick conceded by Cathcart on Lacazette, the ball was played wide to Iwobi, who fizzed a cross into the box looking for Lacazette. Lacazette didn’t manage to get a touch on it, but Cathcart, who was marking him closely unfortunately put the ball into his own net. Finally! 1-0 to the Arsenal after 80 minutes of play. But like I said in my last post: one goal can definitely change a game, and 3 minutes later the Gunners made it 2-0, with Welbeck and Iwobi collaborating with Lacazette, who put a beautiful ball into the box for Captain Özil to score with that classic finish of his. Great play! There wasn’t to be any more action after that goal, as Watford basically gave up on the chase and allowed Arsenal to dominate possession by passing it around at the back until the final whistle blew.
I thought Rob Holding had an exceptional game and he was my man of the match. When Sokratis comes back, I really hope that he replaces Mustafi, because seriously… Mustafi was pissing me off on Saturday, giving away needless free kicks and putting the pressure back on us. We don’t need that kind of shit! I thought Xhaka and Bellerin also played superbly and admired Lacazette’s movement and contribution on the day. Torreira I felt had a rough time, and was often being shunted off the ball too easily.
Overall it was a great weekend! That win meant that we moved up to 5th place in the league and are flying under the radar on our quest to get back into the top 4. Arsenal are the hottest team in form at the moment, winning our last 5 games, and winning all our games in September which surely means that Emery deserves Manager of the Month, right!? Up next is Qarabag in the Europa League on Thursday, then we head to Craven Cottage after that to face Fulham on Sunday. It’s a fantastic opportunity to grab 2 wins and keep the run going! Come on you Gunners!