In their third away game to start the season, and in their third kit (coincidence?), Arsenal finally got their season started with a relatively routine 3-1 victory at Watford. While it wasn’t the complete game, it was more than enough and demonstrated a lot that should have fans delighted. The team stepped up to a weaker team and dusted them in 45. Despite the later struggles, it has been a while that it felt so easy.
The attack flourished. While perhaps expected with Mesut Özil making his first start of the season, a slight adjustment saw a huge difference in fluidity in the deeper midfield.
Both Santi Cazorla and Granit Xhaka distributed very well and it unlocked multiple avenues of attack, primarily though Alexis Sanchez at center forward, to provide many good chances. while The understanding in attack seemed like Özil and Alexis were never parted, while Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott provided a lot of options going forward, if not the goals (although, Theo should count himself unlucky not completing a brilliant long ball from Xhaka). Long may this system live.
Özil’s goal. Thing of beauty. Carved Watford open, held up by Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain and Alexis well, no one picked up a rather predatory Mesut. Almost too easy.
Solid Cech. As easy as it seemed in the first, Arsenal still needed a very alert Petr Cech to maintain the fort with the lead. He was sharp and kept some late attacks at bay. Perhaps this season he’ll make up those 12 points.
(Bonus: I’ll admit... those 3rds look a lot better than I thought they would.)
So, let’s talk about the second half. As good as the first half was, the second was equally... sloppy? Lax? Whatever you wish to call it, Arsenal were not nearly as assertive and rather wasteful in the chances they had. Fortunately, though Watford pressed well, they only found one goal. Had a second gone in, one would wonder if the game would have fully gone pear-shaped. Be it lack of fitness or teammates still working things out, one would hope for a more complete game in the future.
Nacho Monreal hurt. Arsene Wenger later commentated that the injury was minor but it’s never good to see a regular leave a game with a knock. Monreal has been an exemplar of solid play for a long time now and Arsenal would sorely feel any absence. Fortunately, with the international break, perhaps its enough to keep him off the field but not enough to keep him from Arsenal’s next game.
Watford were... a bit kicky. Eighteen fouls and six yellows can’t be considered a clean performance. While it’s no surprise for a top club in England to face this, it does become tiring.
Nordin Amrabat’s foul on Alexis. While a penalty was rightfully awarded, the foul was one of the ugliest of the day. No attempt to play the ball and all arm into Alexis’ head. Nothing that you want to see ever in the game and a bit upsetting a card wasn’t given. Thankfully, Alexis was OK.
Watford’s goal. Bad bounces happen. Arsenal gave up about three leading to Roberto Pereyra’s goal. Incredibly sloppy, no one stepped up and dealt with the danger decisively, leaving Cech at Pereyra’s mercy. No more of these, please, Arsenal.
Overall, though, a good three points. Onwards to... oh right. Interlull. Blech.