Troy Deeney being fit to play (when I say fit, I mean breathing and able to walk as long as it’s not uphill and too fast) was the best news this game could have had. With Watford in the relative safety of mid-table obscurity and ourselves being so far off the title pace, meant that there was little to play for except a few points and some comparisons of testes size. Deeney was the vital ingredient in the latter and he didn’t disappoint.
Shkodran scoring a carbon copy of his goal against the spuds after 8 minutes calmed any supporter fears that Watford might spawn a couple of early goals as they did at the Emirates last season. It was a perfect delivery from Mesut with which he smashed Cantona’s first to 50 assists record. How the first half finished 1-0 is anybody’s guess. There really were some great chances. 4-2 was Ant and mine’s assessment of the possible goal score.
Amongst our better chances, Auba missed a one on one right at the start of the game, The Beast battered one across the penalty area so quickly that Auba could only get a toe on it and then Mesut got into a magnificent position with a glorious first touch only to lose his composure with the keeper floundering on the deck. Pereyra missed Watford’s best chance skying over after Petr had ended up behind his goal line blocking a free kick.
The cones did not do their job at the start of the second half. The Arsenal crowd and players all looked as though they wished they could be at home (along with the many who didn’t bother attend). Watford, on the other hand, had their best spell, pressing Arsenal back towards the Clock but without giving us too many heart flutters.
Our first attack of note in the second period resulted in the BVB connection putting us two up. Micki slipped the ball through to Auba with perfect weight, stranding the keeper in no man’s land.
Then came the moments everyone had come to see. A Watford striker went over Maitland-Niles’ knee (in live time it looked to me as if our young Tory had got himself in a position to field a cricket ball rather than make a tackle) and the ref had no option but to give a pen. The pantomime villain stepped up to take the kick, only to allow Cech to make a one handed block which went away from the goal rather than back towards fatty. Cue wild celebrations – it was just like scoring a goal. Two one and things could have gone tits up quickly, but with a two goal lead we were still cruising. Great fun.
Conceding and then saving the penalty woke up both the crowd and the team. We looked comfortable from that moment onward, even with Calum having to deputise for Shkod. The third goal came with a quarter of an hour to go when Micki and Auba reversed roles allowing the Armenian to notch another Arsenal goal so quickly after his crucial effort against Milan. The Emirates crowd even produced a little volume, asking Mr Deeney if he knew what the score was. To his credit, he did seem to be smiling, the hideous gargoyle.
(Ratings are always subjective and always likely to be swayed by confirmation bias. Some like them, others don’t – perhaps it’s worth remembering that they’re there to give you something to bounce off.)
Cech – A save from a penalty against our Troy, no flapping and 200 clean sheets, lovely … 9
Maitland-Niles – a few sloppy passes didn’t detract from a quality performance, defended well with both interceptions and tackles, while looking smooth with the ball at his feet … 7
Mustafi – Excellent early header, drove the defence and looked more like the leader he could be. Hope his groin isn’t too sore this morning …7
Holding – All of our defenders struggle against the high press when the rest of the team do not give enough options for a pass, Rob was no exception. Made some fine tackles and blocks, and was even making better decisions about when to just get rid, TA6 style as the game progressed … 7
Kolasinac – Improving as an Arsenal player, whether that’s partly down to the standard of opposition or down to eating less fish and chips, we’ll find out later … 7
Elneny – Had a fine game in the centre. Chosen to start alongside Xhaka we might have thought that the midfield would look a bit static and lacking forward drive, but Mo provided plenty of thrust and no small measure of forward attacking passes, too … 8
Xhaka – Granit’s form is improving game by game, his defensive positioning is better and I still love his left foot … 7
Ozil – No subjective rating is ever possible for Mesut, he oozes class and the number of goals and great chances he creates is testament to that … 8
Mkhitaryan – Looking more like an Arsenal player with each game, should have had a penalty which Atkinson (Fifa referee, yeah right) chose to ignore to add to his goal and assist … 8
Iwobi – Watching Alex from the upper tier, you can see that he’s seeing great passes all the time, it’s just that, at the moment, his execution is lacking somewhat. It’ll come, keep working hard BIG17 – 6
Aubameyang – Settling in nicely, once he gets his razor-sharp finishing back up to scratch, his partnerships with Mesut and Micky could be most productive – 7
Subs – Chambers slotted in well, Danny produced a rasper and Jack came on for no good reason.