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Arsenal 2 Watford 0: The giddiness of the unknown

Arsenal 2 Watford 0
From Goodplaya at the Emirates

PERHAPS it was all in my imagination. But on my first visit to the Arsenal since May, I was struck by the crowd reaction when Mesut Ozil scored our second. I’m not saying it was hug thy neighbour and fall into the row in front time. But there was a brief giddiness that I can’t really remember sensing for a long time. Suddenly, we’ve won five on the spin and for now at least we can dream a little.

For sure, the squad doesn’t look comparable to that of others. But we can dream just a bit because gone is the sense that whatever positive we do, we’ll soon come a cropper in exactly the same way we did the season before and the season before that and the season before that.

I absolutely love it when a game is hard to call and I love it even more when a game is still hard to call after 70 minutes. Watford today were bloody good. But after a draw and loss in their last two games, they reminded me of what we were like in the final games of 2007-08 post that draw at Birmingham. Essentially, you can be doing everything right and exactly as you did when you were all conquering but the ball no longer runs for you.

Unai Emery’s substitutions were fascinating to observe: Iwobi for Ramsey and then Welbeck for Aubameyang. A world away from what Wenger would have done. Torreira and Xhaka would probably have made way for Welbeck and Mkhitaryan. It turned out Iwobi and Welbeck would make decisive contributions to both goals but it would be absurd to pretend that Watford weren’t the most likely winners until our opener.

But in a way that is what made it all the sweeter. This wasn’t so much a lucky win as one that was eked out thanks to some sharp play when it mattered.

Anyway, it was good to be back and it’s nice not knowing quite what to expect.

23 Responses to “Arsenal 2 Watford 0: The giddiness of the unknown”

  1. Elvis says:

    It’s so good to have decisive substitutions after 60 minutes as well, rather than having to wait for the obligatory 70 before anything can change.

    Arsenal fans have become so unaccustomed to innovation and novelty that the slightest things can feel like gettin a new car.

  2. slc gunner says:

    On the positive side, we keep on winning despite some very mediocre performances. But a win is a win and 5 out of 7 in the league puts us only 4 behind. Change was needed and we have certainly seen that in many aspects of our play and the club’s operations. There is plenty of room for further improvement.

    On the negative side, several players have not played well: Aubameyang, Ozil, Ramsey in particular. Defensively, we’re giving up too many chances. Mustafi still doesn’t convince. Sokratis has been decent if not majorly tested – jury is still out. Right now, I would pick Holding and Sokratis until such time as Koscielny returns.

  3. PD says:

    Still a long way to go but I’m happy with Emery’s work so far. We’re still far too open defensively & we’re not that fluent going forward yet but there are definite positives.

    Biggest one (by far) is the mental side. Arsene’s sides the last few seasons you just knew would fall away when things got tough. We’ve eked out wins the last while without playing great….and even the losses against City/Chelsea….2-0 down relatively early in both – you know that could easily have ended up 5-0 or 6-0 in seasons past….

    As Elvis said making changes based on what’s actually happening in the game as opposed to making pre-planned changes at 70 minutes feels fantastic when it should really have been the norm.

    I think we could sneak the top 4. If Arsene had stayed the chances of that were zero. Onwards & upwards hopefully !

  4. Elvis says:

    At times the football under Arsene was sublime but even in the glory years of 2002-04 he was limited tactically and very rarely turned a game with substitutions or formation changes. That is something I am looking forward to with Emery, even if we have to become accustomed to winning ugly a bit more. Introducing Iwobi early was just the job on Saturday. He has improved as a player under Emery already.

  5. slc gunner says:

    Best performance yet. And without Ozil…interesting. The Ramsey goal was outstanding, and I’m not just talking about the finish. Fulham aren’t great – nonetheless I thought we were more solid all round. Still a few dodgy moments playing the ball out from the back, but otherwise really good. And you have to love Torreira.

  6. MDP says:

    So much to love about how this team are developing. Emery is rotating this group of players with mastery in a way that is so refreshing to see with Welbeck, Holding and Iwobi now looking like fully fledged, important members of this squad. A 4-4-2 formation was it yesterday? Tantalising with the strikers we have at our disposal. We’re starting to see what a different style, ethos and approach can do at the club.

    I keep thinking the bubble will burst and it may well do with the defence still far from perfect but things are looking so much better and progressive. 12 months ago we were still persevering with the likes of Theo, Coquelin and Giroud but we now simply have players better suited. Still a lot to do but a chance for top 4 and a cup seems realistic. I think Emery quite fancies the Europa League but it could mean facing one of Chelsea or Spurs (sitting 3rd in their CL group) if we do need to progress. Anyway great optimism as we head into the International break…

  7. MDP says:

    What a game to watch last night. It said so much about the progress of this team and the development of the players under Emery. The slow start to games is a bit of a mystery but enjoying watching this Arsenal more than I can remember for about 10 years.

  8. PD says:

    It is very exciting. First half was terrifying defensively but I’m consoling myself with the fact that (if Kos gets back) only 1 of our first choice back 4 were playing….but so many of the things we wanted addressed appear to have been done : being a big name no longer guarantees you a start – you need to earn it; subs are being made based on what is happening rather than being pre-planned; formations & tactics are being changed mid game; there seems to be no panic when things aren’t going our away (actual mental strength)……and after every game Emery is demanding more & more.
    Keep it up sir – we love what you are doing !!

  9. Elvis says:

    Enjoying the comedy gold from Tottenham on their embarrassing stadium delays. “The only place in London to watch the Champions League!” Ha ha ha…

  10. MDP says:

    Bugger! Fair play to Palace, they deserved the point. Arsenal just didn’t look clinical enough today. Too many stray balls and a lack of composure and decisiveness. Mustafi deserves a bollockin yet again for going to ground when he didn’t need to. An uncomfortable watch throughout and I guess dropped points were always going to come at some point the way we play sometimes. The returns of Monreal, Kos and Sokratis can’t come soon enough. That said, Rob Holding looked decent enough. Shame, we could have sneaked it today with a bit more composure.

  11. Elvis says:

    To be honest that has been coming. Arsenal have ridden their luck a bit on this run of victories; clear penalties not given against us, red cards avoided, wasteful opponents etc. If Arsenal can learn to start games with greater intensity and pace, 4th may be possible.

    Eleven straight wins after the tough start is good. We would all have bitten someone’s hand off if they had offered us 11 straight wins and a draw after Stamford Bridge. Let’s see if we can compete with Liverpool in a week’s time. The acid test.

  12. slc gunner says:

    Lucas Torreira is fast becoming my favourite player. I saw him play quite a bit at the world cup and he did well, mostly on the defensive side of the game. In recent weeks, I’ve noticed how good a player he is going forward as well. His passing, short and long, is very accurate. He holds off players and has that feint that sucks players in, allowing him to dart quickly in the opposite direction. He’s not as good as Santi Cazorla maybe, but not too far off – but that isn’t the player we were looking for anyway. Way better than Coquelin when on the ball, and also better defensively. Torreira is no more than 5’5, but adds immense calm and presence. The defensive midfielder that we have been wanting for years – and I think it will also allow Xhaka to improve as well.
    That said, our defensive record still needs to improve. Mustafi is still my biggest concern. Kos is not far away and I’m interested to see how a Kos/Socratis combination might fare. Right now, I would also pick Holding ahead of Mustafi.
    The 3rd goal against Leicester was out of this world. Ozil at his best. But great to see that Emery manages from game to game and wasn’t afraid to remove Ozil in today’s game.
    Agree with Elvis…I think we would all have bitten someone’s hand off for the record since the Chelsea game. Liverpool is the first major test since then.

  13. slc gunner says:

    I watched quite a bit of the Hoffenheim game yesterday. Really excited by what Nelson is doing. Hopefully he can keep it up and return to Arsenal as a bona fide 1st team player next season.

  14. MDP says:

    Yeah, I agree with Elvis too. In the cold light of day it’s good to remember that we would never have even got a point from that game 12 months ago. The heartening thing for me is that I have every faith in the back room staff to identify and recruit the players we need to be more solid. I also have the faith in the manager to mould those new players on current evidence. I keep having to remind myself of patience but am more optimistic than I thought I’d be.

    Interesting point on Nelson SLC. Palace showed what good wingers can do to the opposition defence. I wouldn’t mind seeing Zaha in an Arsenal shirt but maybe Nelson can be our version. I thought Welbeck looked lively when he cane on. A very useful player to have around the first team but suspect he’s on his way come the end of the season but would love him to stay as back
    Up.

  15. PD says:

    I’d agree for centre half. Enough is enough for Mustafi. (35m – what was Arsene thinking ??) I’d play Sokratis & Holding v Liverpool. (and pray Bellerin & Monreal are fit in time)
    Hopefully we will see Kos tomorrow too v Blackpool & he may be ready for more serious action in a couple of weeks.
    Yeah, winning run was always likely to end soon. We were so far off the other 5 big teams last season that starting out, I thought we needed a miracle to finish in top 4 this season…but I think now we have a decent shout.
    Totally agree on Torreira – super player.

  16. Elvis says:

    Yes, agree about Torreira; our most important signing in years. We have been missing a player of his position and quality since Gilberto Silva left.

    Had we signed someone like Torreira when we moved into the new stadium, I think we would have won a couple of league titles (2008 and 2016) and possibly more. Imagine the defensive and positional nous of Torreira with the creativity and dynamism of Fabregas 2006-2012.

  17. MDP says:

    I thought that was a terrific result on Saturday. So used to seeing us get thumped by Liverpool of late, I feared our defence would be perfect fodder for them again but we certainly stood up to the challenge. Torreira and Xhaka look fantastic as our midfield duo and certainly took control in the middle and took some of the pressure off at the back. In defence, Rob Holding just gets on with the job without fuss and appears to have a cool head. He’s fast becoming my favoured centred half at Arsenal. Mustafi can look quite solid in between the terrible mistakes and had one of his better days. Emery, is certainly getting the best out of what he’s got.

    I still question how we utilise a striker like Abamayang. He seems wasted out on the wing and when Emery took him off, I was convinced he was making an error. Yet, Lacazette went on to get the equaliser from an Iwobi pass. I don’t know how we solve this one but I would like to see a bit more game time for Abamayang in the middle to see what he can do. He is after all one of Europe’s most prolific strikers. Maybe Emery feels he can do more with Lacazzette at 27 now and in the future than Abamayang at 29 years of age. It remains an interesting and good problem. Perhaps at the business end of the season we will see the benefit of two top quality forwards.

    If the Liverpool game set down a marker of how good we are then the two games against Spurs and Utd on the horizon will perhaps tell us if can beat our two nearest rivals for a top 4 finish.

  18. Elvis says:

    I think Emery has not put Aubameyang down the middle because he can see he lacks the physical strength needed to hold the ball up against two central defenders snapping around him. That is not his game. He is a van Nistelrooy type striker who has an instinct for where the ball is going to go in the box and is a similarly clinical finisher. When he comes on as a sub, he has a fantastic davantage as an impact attacker against a tiring defence. Iwobi does that well too.

  19. PD says:

    Yeah, I think Auba is the most natural finisher we have for quite a while but Laca is a better all round player. (I’d say he is a nightmare to play against for a centre half)
    I know I’ve said this before but would love to see us play a game in a 4-4-2 with both of them & see how it goes. With hard working guys like AMN/Welbeck/Iwobi in the wide positions I think it could work…..but then you have the ‘where do you put the 350k a week man’ problem again.

    Anyway, loved the Liverpool performance. Have to build on it now with a win on Sunday to get back in the winning habit.

    Agree on Rob Holding, MDP. Really looking the part at the minute. Great to see.

  20. PD says:

    What a game !! We have ourselves a serious manager gents, no mistake about it. North London is Red !!

  21. MDP says:

    Agreed, I’m still buzzing!

  22. slc gunner says:

    What a match! Loving it right now. Emery has done very well, from playing with tactics and formations to dropping Ozil and others as needed. Not something Arsene would have done.
    I am concerned about the Ramsey situation. Is it just a case of bargaining or is he really leaving? I think we should keep him personally – he offers something that you don’t see in the rest of the midfield options: a willingness to make runs into the box that often have end product.
    Did I say how much I love Torreira?! Possibly our best signing since Vieira? Probably better to dampen expectations a little but he has been immense in recent games.

  23. N7 says:

    SLC Gunner I agree – Rambo gives us a heap of energy and drive and I can’t see why we’d let him go.

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