Recent results, both in Arsenal’s control and out of it, has instilled a renewed sense of optimism among their fans. After the dramatic, last-minute winner against Wolves, Arsenal turned their attention to their match against their training-ground neighbours, Watford.
A bitterly fought 1-0 home win over the then-Claudio Ranieri managed side on matchday 11 had been part of Arsenal’s upsurge in form and now, Arsenal were in need of a result more than they did then.
With an unchanged squad from the Wolves match, Mikel Arteta would be hoping for a fast start from his Arsenal side.
In essence, they did. The opening 15 seconds saw them a goal down, however, Emmanuel Dennis’ early strike was ruled out for an offside in the build-up. A danger sign.
However, Arsenal recovered well and after some superb intricate play between Bukayo Saka and Martin Ødegaard, Arsenal found themselves ahead, after the latter buried his effort with class and poise.
Arsenal’s jubilation was cut very short, however, as 6 minutes later, Cucho Hernández produced a stunning overhead kick to bring Watford level, a truly worthy contender for goal of the season.
However, Arsenal dug deep and continued to smother Watford. But for their goal, Arsenal had largely been in control of the affair and soon found themselves ahead again when Bukayo Saka fought hard to win the ball back off Tom Clevelery, played a delicious give-and-go with Alexandre Lacazette, before lashing his effort into the top corner, beyond Ben Foster.
The half-time whistle brought an end to a very rampant Arsenal half, one in which they had never truly looked out of control. The second-half needed to be a big performance from the away side.
The quick thinking of Mikel Arteta was key to Arsenal’s third. As the ball bounced out of play for a throw-in, the Spaniard ran forward and threw the ball to Saka, who played through Cédric Soares from the throw-in, a deft touch from Martin Ødegaard following Cédric’s cross allowed Alexandre Lacazette to lay the ball off to Gabriel Martinelli, who didn’t need to take a touch before smashing the ball into the top corner to give Arsenal their third of the afternoon.
Arsenal continued to dominate in possession and even came close to adding a fourth after Eddie Nketiah’s effort rifled against the post.
Watford still created chances, with the afternoon’s main efforts falling to Emmanuel Dennis, who knew better than anyone that he really should have done better.
However, things became nervier still at the end as former-Tottenham midfielder Moussa Sissoko fired home from close-range to bring the game back to 2-3.
Arsenal responded in kind. Plenty of time-wasting tactics took over as did the usual Rob Holding substitution to see the game out, which they did.
The final whistle was sweet, blessed end and welcomed relief to Arsenal, who spent the final 10 minutes in a far greater sense of worry than was strictly necessary.
It was an immensely important 3 points. Arsenal need to take things game-by-game, but that win could be all the more important if they are to gain headway in the race for top 4 and leave both Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur in the dust.
It was a superb performance from many, but Bukayo Saka and Martin Ødegaard were perhaps the standouts.
For Saka, it was a display of the highest-order and truly deserving of his Man of the Match award. He was simply unplayable for Arsenal and he deftly wove in and out of defenders without a trace, with Watford having to double-up on the winger on more than one occasion.
For Martin Ødegaard, it was just a repeat of his usual high standards. Since making the £29m switch from Real Madrid, the Norweigian looks as though he has a point to prove and, after Mikel Arteta said that he needed to start adding goals to his game, the number 8 did not disappoint. He and Saka linked-up beautifully and were at the heart of all things great about Arsenal’s performance on the day.
For now, Arsenal can rest, but they now have a 7-day break before the matches really start to come thick and fast. A home visit from Leicester City next Sunday is then met with the visit of Liverpool 3 days later and then an away trip to the in-form Aston Villa.
But for now, Arsenal can bask in the light of a job well-done and 3 points thoroughly well-earned.
32.) Aaron Ramsdale
17.) Cédric Soares
4.) Benjamin White
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
3.) Kieran Tierney
5.) Thomas Partey
34.) Granit Xhaka
7.) Bukayo Saka
8.) Martin Ødegaard (Holding 90’)
35.) Gabriel Martinelli (Pépé 73’)
9.) Alexandre Lacazette (c) (Nketiah 80’)
1.) Bernd Leno
16.) Rob Holding
20.) Nuno Tavares
69.) Zak Swanson
25.) Mohamed Elneny
23.) Albert Sambi Lokonga
82.) Omari Hutchinson
19.) Nicolas Pépé
30.) Eddie Nketiah
1.) Ben Foster
21.) Kiko Femenía
15.) Craig Cathcart
14.) Hassane Kamara
19.) Moussa Sissoko
6.) Imran Louza (Kayembe 64’)
8.) Tom Cleverley (Samuel Kalu 89’)
29.) Cucho Hernández
10.) João Pedro
25.) Emmanuel Dennis
26.) Daniel Bachmann
31.) Francisco Sierralta
27.) Christian Kabasele
11.) Adam Masina
12.) Ken Sema
33.) Juraj Kucka
49.) Edo Kayembe
4.) Peter Etebo
28.) Samuel Kalu