Arsenal continued their fine form as they extended their winning streak to five games to see off Watford 2-0 at The Emirates.
As in previous games, Watford looked the stronger team, playing with more desire and coming close on numerous occasions. Yet, it was another defensive mistake that cost the Hornets.
Substitute Alex Iwobi got free down the right side, sending a low cross in the direction of Alexandre Lacazette. However, the ball bounced off Craig Cathcart in defence and ricocheted past Ben Foster
Just two minutes later Arsenal would double their lead and seal the victory after Watford lost possession in midfield.
It was Iwobi starting the quick counter attack, with Watford defenders slow to react, finding Lacazette on the right side as he slotted a pass to the top of the penalty spot, where Mesut Ozil slotted it past a flailing Foster to put the Gunners 2-0 up.
As in previous games, the Hornets played with intensity and a confidence that has been brought to the club by Javi Gracia. Even against the big clubs this season, Manchester United, Spurs and now Arsenal, the game plan has been identical, even though the results haven’t been kind to Gracia’s side.
Saturday was yet another case of missed opportunity for Watford, which seems to be their undoing recently. They recorded 13 shots with 4 on target, beating Arsenal in both categories. Statistically, Arsenal controlled possession, chalking up 63.5% of the ball, but the game was a wide-open affair. Success had a chance to give the Golden Boys a lead, as he went one on one with Bernd Leno, but his chip fell just wide. These are the “big chances” Watford need to capitalise on to steal a point or a win on the road.
Changing of the Guard
Could we have seen a changing of the guard for Arsenal? Petr Cech was replaced moments before the halftime whistle, as he went down with an injury after a long goal kick. It appeared Cech was clutching at his hamstring, which could see him sidelined for an extended period. This would open the door for Leno, who signed in June for £22.5 million an opportunity to showcase his talents to Unai Emery.
At 36-years-old, Cech is now into his fifth season as the Arsenal stopper, but it hasn’t been without conflict and question. There were some doubts he would start the season as Emery’s man, but the from the first two games of the season against Manchester City and Chelsea, Cech has been in fine form. Leno will have some big shoes to fill, but came up with some excellent saves and presence for the Gunners defence in his first clean sheet.
Tiredeness strikes down the Hornets once more
Having watched each of Watford’s seven games, one can begin to question the tactics of Gracia, having used very few substitutes, while starting with an unchanged lineup for six out of the first seven weeks. Today’s match was the first we saw a change in personnel, due to a knee injury to Daryl Janmaat. While the Hornets have been successful with the unchanged 4-4-2, it’s been the second half substitutions that haven’t been made.
Offensively, Gracia continues to use Issac Success, to spell Andre Gray, who has put in some excellent efforts early in the season. Partnering with Troy Deeney up front, Success has the ability to hold up play, but also the speed to get by defenders; a welcome sight late in a game.
While Gracia has used substitutes off the bench, many times these decisions have come too late (past the 80th minute) or not at all. Today was the case of tired legs, as seen on the Ozil goal, as Jose Holebas was caught up the pitch, unable to track back and keep pace with Iwobi. While Etienne Capoue has been in fine form, he picked up a minor knock, putting him on the sideline for a few minutes. It would have been a great opportunity to bring in Nathaniel Chalobah to give the Watford defence some fresh legs. These late personnel decisions haven’t work to benefit Watford, who continue to build on a strong start to the season.
Man of the Match: Bernd Leno
It’s never easy to come off the bench in the middle of a game as a goalkeeper. The Cech injury gave Leno his first Premier League start of the season. While Leno worked to command the defence and fend off numerous Watford challenges, this could also be the opportunity the German needs to usurp Cech as the Arsenal number one.