After the worst spell of Wenger’s reign, here was another ray of sunshine. Following the win away to AC Milan that kept their Europa League hopes alive, Arsenal made easy work of a limited Watford side.
Wenger made some surprising changes to his team with Bellerin, Koscielny and Ramsey all missing with niggles. Arsenal eased their way into the game that resembled an end of season encounter dead rubber even this early in March. The official attendance was again higher than the empty seats would have suggested.Embed from Getty Images
Nevertheless Arsenal went ahead early on when Mustafi headed in from an Ozil free kick. The game stayed at one nil thanks to good work from both goalkeepers with Cech saving from Richarlison and Doucoure while Ozil and Aubameyang spurned one on one chances.
It was Aubameyang who did grab the second beating Karnezis to a Mkhitaryan through ball, rounding the stand in keeper and adding to his decent start for his new club.
Then came the moment Arsenal have been waiting for since October and Petr Cech since December. Maitland Niles was adjudged to have fouled Pererya and the referee pointed to the spot. Troy Deeney, he who questioned the “cajones” of the Arsenal players in the reverse fixture, brass neck for a player who has never played at the level of any of these Arsenal players, stepped up and hit a good penalty but Cech managed to beat it away.Embed from Getty Images
A cathartic moment for Cech, his first penalty save for the club and redemption for a poor performance last week against Brighton. The save also helped Cech to his 200th Premier League clean sheet, a lovely milestone for a player, who like his manager deserves a better denouement to his career than he will get.
All that was left was for Aubameyang to return the favour for Mkhitaryan and Arsenal had ended a three game losing streak. Two wins in four days has at least cleared some of the cloud as Arsenal and Wenger plot a respectful ending. Any more results like the Milan one and this and maybe Wenger will persuade himself he has to stay – all is rosy in the Arsenal garden this week – until Milan score first on Thursday.
Arsenal (4231) Cech; Maitland Niles, Mustafi (Chambers), Holding, Kolasinac; Elneny, Xhaka; Ozil, Iwobi (Welbeck), Mkhitaryan (Wilshere); Aubameyang
Watford (4231) Karnezis; Jaanmat (Britos), Prodl, Mariappa, Holebas; Doucoure, Capoue; Richarlison, Pereya (Osaka), Fermenia (Hughes), Deeney
Man of the Match: Mkhitaryan. The Armenian was at his best today, gliding and dropping into space, lovely weighted passes, assists and goals. I suppose it would be churlish to suggest a game against a mid-table side with both teams having nothing to play for would be right up the Armenian’s street?
Written by Gary Robinson.