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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.

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

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  2. slc gunners says:

    Who is this Arsenal team? What is the identity? I have no idea. I am tired of watching us play our from the back and getting bogged down by teams who know exactly what we’re going to do. It’s terrible to watch and has not helped one iota. We would be better off going long and competing for the ball higher up the pitch and building from there.
    Apparently, we’re going to stick with a 4-3-3 that is not doing a whole lot for us. I know that’s what City and Liverpool play, but they are much much better teams. I am tired of Emery saying that “we are in the process” as if we were building and improving from game to game. We’re not. I am not seeing progress.
    What happened to the Arsenal that controlled games and created chances? 68% possession and only 9 shots – that tells its own story Sheffield Utd had almost the same number of shots with 32% possession.

  3. MDP says:

    Yes, the modern game of football – playing out from the back, pressing high up the pitch… Looks great when Man City and Liverpool do it! I even remember a transition period for both of those teams when it looked shaky. But, none of it was as bad as when Arsenal do it. We just seem to get stuck playing square balls or backwards in our half, inviting the opposition on to us and then get the major jitters before conceding another sloppy goal. It’s just not working. Pepe had the only moment in the game where it actually worked playing from deep. I’m very concerned with Emery right now and remain sceptical but in hope he has the technical know-how to get us out of this in-effective style of football…

    I believe in the players we have and although it won’t solve everything I can’t wait to see Tierney overlapping on the left either with Saka or Auba and Bellerin on the right with Pepe. Laca fitness boost is all part of this and can only improve things at the very least. Maybe these players returning can be the catalyst for an up turn in form but Emery has big problems to solve in the way we set up and play tactically.

    I feel bad picking out Chambers when he has been one of the highlights of the last few weeks. He just shows his limitations as a right back when overlapping with Pepe despite tons of endeavour. But, we’ve got too many players who have been moved around and don’t really know their position from Willock, to AMN to Saka to Ceballos. Is it not time to settle on positions. I just hope the returning players give us a bit more balance and shape and then Chambers can push on along with Holding and give serious competition to Luis and Sokratis as I see no reason why those two can’t be contenders to start in defence. Chambers has shown us a new level to his game but maybe time to settle on one position.

    As I say above, I have no problem with personnel, I genuinely think we have the players to compete for top 4 if played in the right system. I’d prefer to see Torreira over Xhaka in there for his ball winning qualities but I wonder if Emery prefers a more physical, taller type of player. With Saliba joining next summer I can only see that infamous defensive midfield position as the area to solve in the transfer market if Torreira isn’t deemed the right fit although I’d be playing him now given the options. Over to you Emery, time to take of the shackles and get this talent clicking like they seem to be in the Europa League…

  4. Slc gunner says:

    You’re right MDP – this is more about Emery and style of play than the players. While our players are not at the City/Liverpool level in terms of individual quality, that is not the main issue at the moment.

  5. MDP says:

    It’s all gone a bit crap lately, let’s be honest. It’s hard at this moment to see a future at the club for Emery, he seems to have lost his way after a promising start. I wanted Arsene gone for a long time before he went but what one of the things I found horrible about his last few years was the fact that instead of sticking to the real reasons he should leave (& there were plenty) people insisted on jumping up & down/shouting about EVERY SINGLE THING HE SAID & DID. Sadly, we have now reached that point with Emery too. He says some daft things undoubtedly, but even sensible, completely uncontroversial comments are now twisted as an excuse to put the knife in. Similarly for his selections etc : the grief he is getting from some for not playing Bellerin as an example. He has played two 90 minute games & looked well off the pace in both…… (not a dig at him, just a fact – after that long out how would it be any different ??)….and yet people are absolutely slaughtering Emery for not playing him in the league. It’s madness, have these people no intelligence whatsoever ??

    Anyway, we will see where the next few weeks go….but the pressure is building on him…and his (lack of) celebration after the late winner last night was telling. He doesn’t look a happy man. It’s a shame but he might not get to see out this season

  6. MDP says:

    Not sure who wrote the above post? It’s not me… Do we have another MDP in the group?

  7. PD says:

    Sorry, that was me ! I think tiredness from a tough work week has got the better of me, I was clearly looking at your post when I was typing in my mail….well, either tiredness or old age, one or the other!
    Sorry again

  8. MDP says:

    Haha! No probs at all…I thought I’d lost my identity for a moment there!!!

    Agree with a lot of your points though PD, hard to see Emery turning this around now as his decisions have been so bizarre and I think he’s set out his stall. He’s certainly giving that impression anyway. They were all over the place last night, looking clueless with absolutely no shape or purpose to their play. Too many free spirits and no discipline what so ever. It’s alright giving a player of Guendouzi’s quality a bit of licence to roam but when the rest of your midfield are doing the same thing. …And there lies the problem with Xhaka…It’s one or the other and I’d take Guendouzi all day long. This teams crying out for a disciplined defensive midfielder and a bit of on field leadership. I still struggle to see where that leadership is going to come from but Torreira still seems the man to sit alongside either Guendouzi or Xhaka as the deep lying midfielder. Although, he was popping up all over the place last night so would take some coaching… hmmm?

    Looking on the bright side – 2 stunning goals from Pepe… We certainly have the quality of players… they’ll maybe get Emery off the hook if they find any kind of confidence or groove.

  9. N7 says:

    How giddy are people feeling now? :-(

  10. Slc gunner says:

    Not very N7. 12 games in and champions league looks to be out of sight – at least not via the league route. I don’t want Arsenal to become part of the managerial merrygoround but what do you do. If nobody is available, then maybe stick with Emery until the end of the season and see how the youngsters do with a little bit of experience? But if there is an Allegri-type willing and available now, then I think we have to move decisively. Either way, Emery’s time is up (now or in 6 months at the latest).

  11. Slc gunner says:

    Is it sacrilege to state that Pochettino would be a good candidate for Arsenal? I like him. I don’t want Mourinho at Arsenal – that would be sacrilege given all the history. Emery is still in charge so all of this is moot until such time as he is fired.

  12. MDP says:

    I thought we’d hit critical point before the International break. Emery is at a dire place of no return from what I can see. If ever a club has needed to take decisive action, it’s now. And, it’s not just about turning the tide and CL football… It’s about convincing players like Auba and Laca not to jump ship at the end of the season and making a bad situation even worse. And, even if the right long term manager isn’t available right this minute… we’ve sunk to such a point that a temporary appointment has to be considered. Standing still would just be giving up in my book. I can’t quite believe how bad it’s got in such a short space of time.

  13. Slc gunner says:

    Oh please let it end now. So hard to watch this footballing non-entity.

  14. Slc gunner says:

    What a complete shambles. Emery is gone, but not much has changed with Freddie. We need t start winning or we’ll be in a relegation fight – that’s how bad it is. I keep hearing pundits talking about Arsenal being a big club and having all this attacking talent. Well I’m not seeing the latter and with the defence that we have, we need 3 goals a game to win. Our current average is 1.5. Why not give Chambers/Holding a chance as a pair. We’ve seen what the others can do and it’s not up to much. Maybe an old-fashioned 4-4-2 with wingers that actually defend and attack. Maybe two of Saka/Nelson/Martinelli who are young and have something to prove. We need graft and work ethic – I don’t see that from the Ozils of the world.

  15. MDP says:

    It’s just mental how bad things have got. I’m watching a lot of it unfold but it’s so bad and almost inevitable that I’ve almost detached myself emotionally to a point of numbness.

    When I think how rose tinted I saw things in the summer. I genuinely thought we had a decent squad worthy of top 4 – with a classy forward line, flair in midfield, knew wingers, talented youth stepping up, an expectation that Torreira and Guendouzi would go up a level after an exciting first season. I did have major doubts about defence but I thought we’d manage with the arrival of Tierney, return of Bellerin and Holding plus the experience of Luis (I never rated before joining Arsenal but had managed silverware at Chelsea – he couldn’t be worse than Mustafi could he?).

    The bear facts are we lost two top quality defenders in Kos and Monreal in the summer and then Bellerin, Holding and Tierney have all struggled to regain form and fitness. Leaving us with Luis who’s a shit defender and can’t defend, Sokratis who’s (this season) a shit defender and can’t defend, Mustafi who’s a shit defender and can’t defend and Chambers who works hard and has had moments but has his flaws. In front of them we have Xhaka who lost the plot, Torreira who’s either been dropped or played out of position and Guendouzi who’s a star in the making but too much on his shoulders and far from the discipline we need. The midfield still looks unbalanced and disconnected as does the front line. Emery’s tactics were too negative and incoherent and confidence broken.
    It will take at least 3 wins to start to heal confidence and they don’t appear to be coming anytime soon. Truly worried.

    The bottom line is…as long as we have a midfield you can run straight through and a defence that simply can’t defend and keeps retreating back towards the goal giving the opposition all the space in the world …we’re fucked.

    The rebuild under the new manager has to be from the back forwards. We already appear to have a world class goal keeper on current form (big shout out for Leno, truly class amongst all this shite). We need to lose Mustafi, Luis and Sokratis as soon as possible for whatever we can get. We need to find proper defenders who can defend whether it’s a Johnny Evans or a Cahill or a centre back I’ve never heard of, I don’t care as long as they can plain and simple defend. We need leaders who will stand up, take responsibility and lead on the field. Currently we have none. Xhaka will be off I expect and possibly Torreira. We have to find someone with discipline to play that position. Can this be done in January? If it isn’t, I hate to think where we’ll be. I like the idea of giving a back four of Tierney, Holding, Chambers and Bellerin a chance but I presume fitness is working against us. In principal though I think that’s our best option as things stand, they certainly can’t do any worse.

    Over to the new management team… Raul, Edu etc… it’s not about great deals it’s about getting the right players and stopping this rot that has been eating away at the defence and midfield for years. Stop the flow of shit school boy goals and we can begin to rebuild. Have absolute zero faith it will happen under the Stan regime… please prove me wrong. We need an inspired George Graham/Wenger (the early years moment). Eek.

  16. MDP says:

    I know it’s easy to speak too soon, I learnt that lesson with Emery… but I’m gobsmacked by the response Arteta has got from this squad. I never ever thought I’d see the day that Ozil could have such an all round performance. All the players put in a shift last night. I often heard people talking about shorter distances or being more compact but never has it been more clear to me than last night. Wow!

    I haven’t seen players respond to a manager like this since the George Graham days. I appreciate two completely different managers, style and philosophy but the response in the last two games have been remarkable. As I say, early days… but I’d love to know what Arteta is doing behind the scenes to spark such a change. Long may it continue!

  17. Slc gunner says:

    Finally something to feel good about. I had gotten to the stage where I wasn’t getting angry at draws, losses and bad performances. That changed with the Chelsea game. I was finally angry again because we had played a decent game. The Utd game continued the progress. A long way to go as Arteta himself has said.
    Agree MDP that things are looking up, even if we need to hesitate about being overly optimistic at this stage. As you noted in your previous post, we have some very bad defenders on the books. Mustafi should never see another match day squad for Arsenal. Luiz is not a great defender but a good footballer. Sokratis has his moments, but I would still rate him well ahead of Mustafi. A little bit of structure and organisation have made the pair look better. It’s as simple as that. The double pivot of Torreira and Xhaka has also made us look more sound. We can still improve more and it’s telling that Arteta has made multiple reference to fitness levels. It’s shocking to me that this is an issue, but clearly Arteta can compare what he has seen at the City training ground to what he is now facing.
    PD: are you out there. Thoughts on your favourite DM of all time now being the manager?!

  18. MDP says:

    Its been such a weird couple of weeks. It’s way too early to judge Arteta (or any of the players) but since he’s come in, it’s turned everything I ever thought on its head. I’m even thinking Xhaka staying beyond January is a good idea and Luiz could actually be able to defend with the right manager behind him (I mean look at all the things he’s won – you don’t do that without some kind of pedigree). Has Ozil been re-born? Is Maitland Niles going to go the distance as a right back? Is Arteta the Messiah? This whole thing is bizarre and I wonder if I’m going to wake up from this dream soon? Whatever way you look at it, this has been fun so far and anything seems possible. Even after the Chelsea game I refused to be miserable after the dust had settled.

    I have to say, I wasn’t Arteta’s number one fan as a player. I just missed a big physical presence in midfield and still felt we got opened up way too easily. I liked the person but the footballer that a huge number of people waxed lyrical about went way over my head, I just didn’t see it at the time. As a coach however, I always thought he looked like a man that meant business from the moment I saw him on the City bench. I didn’t see him as Arsenal manager the first time round, it was just too soon. But, after Emery I began to believe the hype.

    Regardless of how things pan out, this has been mad. Can’t wait to see what happens next. Please don’t burst, bubble…

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  21. PD says:

    Can someone please just cancel football again. At least there was some sense of hope then.

  22. MDP says:


    Just a mid table team.
    Time to rip it up and re-build?

  23. MDP says:

    Okay, so that last comment was a bit rash maybe.
    So impressed with the result today and last four games have been enjoyable. Some great stuff to build on. On to the next test.

  24. Slc gunner says:

    Good to see PD and MDP back online. It’s been a while. I’m afraid to say that the table doesn’t lie. We are now a mid-table team sadly. Good results here and there – but we then go and lose to Villa and look awful in the process. We can still win the FA Cup as Chelsea are definitely beatable. I’m not sure if the Europa League would be a good thing or a bad thing next season. It will provide some extra cash but not a lot in the scheme of things. But winning the cup would be a big deal after the season we’ve had. So I think we should just go out there and go for it – and forget about Europa League permutations. 40 points behind Liverpool – it’s a long way back from here and we’ll need changes. The current squad might improve by 10 or so points, but the quality is not there to go further than that from what I’ve seen.

  25. MDP says:

    Good to see you back SLC…

    What a roller coaster this season has been… hard to believe it started with Emery, followed by Freddie, then Arteta and then the COVID madness. Mid-table isn’t acceptable for a club of this stature, although it does represent a fair amount of truth and reality which we can’t hide from but maybe table position doesn’t tell the whole story when you take 3 different managers into account.

    The major positive for me is Arteta’s apointment. I’ve been surprised how impressive he appears to be. I love his whole demeanour, his confidence, a man with a very clear plan, building a much stronger culture, totally focused, coaching and giving instruction at every step in 3 different languages, nurturing yet ruthless. He seems to have the tools to improve and get the best out of players even if they’re not here for the long term. I do think we’ve ended up with the best man for the job at this point in time and I’ve found myself really buying into him. Maybe it’s also because he’s starting to find systems that are making this group of players tick better than I’ve seen in a long while. All of this taking in to consideration that the Ozil’s, Mustafi’s and Luiz’s of this squad (to name but a few) will be moved on in the next 12 or so months. To be replaced by models that best fit the plan. Ever the optimist eh?

    Other high points of the season include Tierney, a breath of fresh air by the sound of how he conducts himself around the place. Already showing a bit of steel at the back and some exceptional final balls into the box. Saka looks like the real deal and we’ve only seen the start considering how young he is. Martinez was a massive shock coming in to replace player of the season Leno and it’s been seamless up until now. The Cup Final is also an unexpected highlight as long as we can raise our game once more. Oh, and I don’t want to forget Martinelli either who’s been a revelation.

    But… its obviously not all sweetness and light. Some truly dire and awful results see us sit in mid-table. Another season outside the Champions League and potentially Europe full stop. All the financial constraints that brings. Owners that still seem somewhat detached and execs that have a lot still to prove. We also have quite a number of players to move on. A delicate situation but one that has me on the edge of my seat. So many of those players we frequently talk about kicking out are down to 12 months so things are going to change in the not too distant future…

    …and I won’t mention the Auba contract…

    Enjoy the Cup Final everyone. Stay safe, healthy and enjoy the re-build!!!

  26. Slc gunner says:

    Happy Days. Great to get another FA Cup win. I agree with you MDP that Arteta has made a difference and he’s brought a new energy to the club, in addition to the tactical awareness that comes from his experience working with Pep. We still need players to compete in the league, but a cup win always feels great. Plus there’s the added bonus of making Spurs play through the qualifying rounds of the Europa League!

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