A very interesting team selection – a back four with Mavro partnering Kos and Shkodran and Nacho full backs. Heavy duty midfield with Xhaka fit, Torreira back from the sin bin , Rambo, Wobbly and Micki. Will Unai have got the balance right to see us do better away from home?
What a peculiar half of football! Watford set off all guns blazing, right up for it to the point where they were always going to tempt the ref into how much rough stuff he was going to allow. I suppose they thought that at home they might get away with a bit more than elsewhere.
After a fiery start full of Watford bluster, Auba was so rapid closing down Foster, the keeper was unaware of the danger of his clearance being blocked. One nil and the simplest goal you’ll ever see. A definite contender for Goal of the Month.
Mr Troy Weiner’s moment of extreme stupidity came moments later. Obviously still smarting from going behind, he swung an elbow at a much smaller man and had to see red. ‘But ref, we’re allowed to rough up Arsenal, every other team gets away with it.’ Both the Watford crowd and their players’ attempts to then paint Arsenal and Lucas Torreira as the villains of the piece from that moment onwards were laughable in the extreme.
To give their team credit, they made light work of the man disadvantage, still pressing for all they were worth and even had a scent of goal. Arsenal should have scored a second and third but couldn’t quite make the man advantage tell.
Ozil for Torreira as a sub made sense in two respects – don’t give the ref a chance to even up the sides and let Mesut pick apart the team with a man short. Hmmmm. That was the plan?
To begin with the second period appeared to be a showcase for Mkhitaryan to illustrate how many ways he could screw up decent chances. The one on one with Foster was the worst – just take a touch and the keeper’s out of the picture.
Other chances came and went and Arsenal failed abysmally to make having the extra man pay. Mavro was obviously match rusty, though replacing him with Guendouzi and going three at the back without wing backs was off the wall management. It didn’t work as Watford hit the bar amonfst other chances and eventually Maitland-Niles was brought on to give us a back four – Rambo getting a breather before Thursday.
Watford looked the most likely to score in the later stages which gives them great credit playing for so long understaffed. Thankfully we hung on to majestically cruise to victory with the early Auba screamer.
A pretty poor performance against a team which fought for its life. Still, there isn’t a Gooner in the world who wouldn’t accept the present of the 3 points from Misters Foster and Deeney. Up to fourth, what’s not to like and hopefully the away curse is broken!
Hopefully we’re saving better form and game management for Thursday.
Leno – a great save from a Capoue free kick – thank heaven he stopped that ‘Jens shoving the striker’ bowlocks before he was penalised by the ref – gets an extra point for a clean sheet away from home which had become as rare as rocking horse excrement … 8
Mustafi – regardless of what any fan thinks of Shkodran, Unai kept him on the pitch in a variety of roles and he didn’t let us down in any of them … 7
Koscielny – battered once again but such class … 7
Mavropanos – a few nervy moments which was understandable – he’ll get better with game time … 6
Monreal – like Mustafi, he was asked to play a number of roles and his covering is often superb – almost like a sweeper … 7
Xhaka – it was surprising that Granit couldn’t impose himself more on that depleted Watford side, though he wasn’t the only one … 6
Torreira – made some fine challenges after the elbow from Deeney, but taking him out of the danger zone at half time was a good move … 6
Ramsey – further forward in this game, Aaron was less effective strangely – it seemed as if the whole team had one foot on the plane to Italy … 6
Iwobi – Alex is so skilful he sometimes tricks himself – shame one of his many good runs couldn’t result in that crucial second goal … 7
Mkhitaryan – anonymous in the first half and then star of a poor finishing show in the second – I’d move him on in the summer if there are any takers … 4
Aubameyang – magnificent desire to block Foster’s clearance and then he spent the other 80 minutes trying to get on the end of a second – save one for Napoli, Pierre – that’s the ticket … 7
Ozil – didn’t really do what he was sent on the pitch to do … 6
Guendouzi – where was he playing? – I’ve really no idea, one moment in front of the back four then seconds later on the right wing? … 6
Maitland-Niles – added stability to the right flank but worrying that he thought he was a wing back – was he, wasn’t he? Who knows? … 7
Unai Emery – I wish I’d known about his crushing superiority (hex) over Gracia before – 6 wins and a draw out of 7 previous match ups. Substitutions were interesting to say the least – you can’t sniff at 3 points, a clean sheet and an away win though … 8
Javi Wagner – set his team up as far too aggressive and paid for it – bet they don’t think they can clatter into City at Wembley and get away with it … 4
Pawson – removed Deeney and then spent the rest of the game trying to appease Mike Riley by giving Watford a succession of unwarranted free kicks … 6