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Online Ed: Winning run continues at home to Watford

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Arsenal took their Premier League winning run to five matches with a somewhat fortuitous victory over Watford. I’d argue that Watford looked the best team that Unai Emery’s team has faced since Chelsea, and they could easily have taken all three points from their hosts. A little too often, the Gunners seem to not really get going in the first half of matches. There was some early promise – Lacazette was denied a penalty when being too honest, something he will have to learn from, as well as missing a one-on-one with the keeper. Yet it was Watford that created greater danger, in spite of having far less of the possession.

Sokratis had been declared fit to play the day before the game, although did not even make the bench, so Rob Holding remained at centre-back. The other players were the same as started against Everton the previous weekend. There were plenty of oohs and aahs as Watford went close, but as long as they didn’t score, the crowd, which looked about 5,000 short of capacity, stayed patient.

At this point, I think there is a general understanding that points are more important than performance, and on that front, you cannot argue with the current run. Arsenal have climbed to fifth place, and whisper it quietly, but are only four points off top place. So fans have got used to the team frustrating in recent matches, but still coming out with a result. This has certainly bought Unai Emery some time in an atmosphere where fans have become quick to condemn and make quick judgements, impatient to see improvement on the last couple of seasons.

Emery’s tactics in terms of attack are generally one of two approaches. Either play the ball quickly, ideally on the floor, through the lines to set up an attacking player making a run, or get the full backs so far forward that their overlapping creates the chance for a cutback from the goal-line. The former requires quick thought and action when possession is won, the latter comes at the price of defensive solidity. For much of the game, Arsenal were too ponderous for the first tactic to work, and the second assisted Watford when they broke.

Petr Cech pulled something taking a goal-kick just before the interval and Bernd Leno made his Premier League debut, leaving Emery with only two subs to change the game in the second half. The first of those, Alex Iwobi, came on after 62 minutes for Aaron Ramsey. Frankly, Emery could have hooked any of the front four, as none had really impressed. However, the Nigerian’s entrance flicked some kind of a switch as his running seemed less predictable and more energetic, raising the level of his colleagues around him. This was enhanced further when Danny Welbeck replaced Aubameyang.

In the 81st minute, Iwobi played a ball from wide across the face of the goal, and in attempting to prevent Alexandre Lacazette reaching it, Watford’s Cathcart put it into his own net. Cue delirium in the Emirates. Two minutes later, Iwobi played the ball to Lacazette in the box, and the Frenchman squared it for Mesut Ozil to apply the finishing touch and take the game beyond Watford’s reach.

Winning is a good habit when the team is not playing well. It’s certainly one that Arsenal have not really demonstrated for a long time, so it can only be welcomed. The obvious concern is that they cannot get away with giving the opposition so many chances on a long-term basis. It is reassuring that Bernd Leno was able to pull off some decent saves, although there was one moment when he came out for the ball and missed it completely. However, there were simply too many chances for Watford, and the real question is how this is going to be improved. The tactics employed mean that the opposition are often going to get opportunities, just on the law of averages. The full backs, especially Bellerin, are too prone to being caught upfield. I won’t criticise Bellerin because he is following orders.

At present, I think Emery’s game (the high press) requires a high amount of energy and that energy isn’t uniform throughout the team. It requires a joint commitment with everyone pulling their weight, and it was no surprise to see Mesut Ozil pulling out of a tackle yesterday. That the German scored his first goal at home since December tells you plenty. He isn’t getting into the areas where he can score enough.

The more I see, the more I think that Emery is simply biding his time, working with what he has, and waiting for players more suited to his style to arrive in the next two transfer windows. It’s encouraging that he is winning matches, but we all know it can’t last.

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  1. Nos89

    Oct 2, 2018, 13:27 #112342

    I keep hearing pundits say winning when your not playing well, as Arsenal are, is a sign of a good, dare I say, title winning side. I wish they wouldn't keep saying that. We are doing well at the moment but are we a title winning side? No, we are nowhere near Liverpool, chelski or city. However, the title we should've won in 2016 when we inexplicably self imploded, was won by the most consistent team, not necessarily the best. Winning is a good habit.

  2. mad max

    Oct 2, 2018, 06:18 #112339

    have noticed since their messiah was sacked a lot of his disciples have stopped posting on here well good riddance, now we can get back to talking about arsenal f.c not arsene f.c unai is doing a great job give him some credit and a couple of season's C.O.Y.G

  3. mbg

    Oct 1, 2018, 17:53 #112336

    Goonhogday, nice one, that will do no harm at all both for his confidence and the payers, there's only one Unai Emery will accompany it nicely, hee hee.

  4. The Man From UNCLE

    Oct 1, 2018, 13:51 #112334

    We watched the game online and the first half was 50/50, we had a little spell start of 2nd half then they were in control up till the goal. A good win. A very good win. I loved it seeing the celebrations for the second goal.

  5. Goonhogday

    Sep 30, 2018, 20:03 #112333

    On another positive of the winning streak, I heard the chant ... Unai Emery’s red and white army ... on Saturday. Maybe it has been chanted before but that’s the first time I’ve heard it. I bet that felt good for him.

  6. mbg

    Sep 30, 2018, 19:40 #112332

    A bit of piste here but I wish someone would get rid of those bloody silly giant flags behind the goals, they do absolutely nothing for us, and was only copied from the Chavs, whose idea was that anyway ? Obviously they've changed wavers as the current personnel aren't even in sinc and spend their time trying to untangle them. Barca and Real and a few others might get away with that, but we're certainly none of those.


    Sep 30, 2018, 18:43 #112331

    Again how depressing to read all the negatives. Dick has inherited a **** show & it's going to take time - particularly as the MSM are convinced that our billionaire owner hasn't a pot to piss in & therefore we will have to recruit from the bargain basement in January. So what! Smart recruitment can overcome that. But the major plusses are that the team is now fighting, are clearly enjoying the coaching ( I love the Colney videos) & are learning how to win ugly. But for me, in spite of the ownership/"boardroom" crap, the big plus is Dick - his obvious drive & enthusiasm are infectious & the Beeb showed a wonderful "heat map" of his touchline activities on Match of the Day. What a refreshing change. My only worry is that he will become disillusioned by Wiggy & Co.

  8. Goonhogday

    Sep 30, 2018, 18:04 #112330

    Perhaps the only summer managerial rumour the press got right was the new managers limited budget then? There’s no way Emery has completed his preferred first team yet. However, if Ramsey, Mustafi and Ozil are really for sale in January, perhaps that explains their current selections in the first team as player on the bench or rotting in the reserves will be valued less than one that’s currently playing? Maybe that’s Emery’s tactic?

  9. RobG

    Sep 30, 2018, 16:58 #112329

    "The more I see, the more I think that Emery is simply biding his time, working with what he has, and waiting for players more suited to his style to arrive in the next two transfer windows." This indeed strikes me as the case. Didn't see the game but I was following it and Watford sounded well on top. Still three points so we must be grateful.

  10. Paulo75

    Sep 30, 2018, 15:55 #112328

    Another welcome 3 points but we've been far from convincing during this winning run. Whilst we try to find some cohesion from midfield to front we really have to tighten up at the back. The last two games could easily have been defeats but hats off to the team and Manager for getting the points on the board. Another win at Fulham next weekend before the International break would make for satifying viewing.

  11. mbg

    Sep 30, 2018, 14:25 #112327

    And what I can't help thinking (and we would never have thought or said this anytime in the last fourteen years)is there is a lot more to come from this manager and team yet, a hell of a lot. Exciting times ahead.

  12. mbg

    Sep 30, 2018, 14:06 #112326

    I think I said after the Chelsea game the eight games were winnable (something that would never have been said under the last incumbent whatshisname now) I was being optimistic of course as we're rebuilding but winnable all the same well that's five down and yes we have been fortuitous at times and haven't been setting the world alight, but that surely can't be a bad thing, there's a long way to go yet of course but if Unai can get the defence sorted and can maintain this up to the Scousers game and even get something out of that it will set us up nicely for the continues rebuilding.

  13. Rob1971

    Sep 30, 2018, 13:12 #112325

    Disappointing article Kevin. Disappointed to be winning? Watford are a big, muscular team. They had chances but no Arsenal player bottled it. Winning is a drug. Emery is our manager and has the cojones to persevere and make things happen. Re the financial stuff, Arsenal are privately owned, and such ownership can go into the red for a short time whilst focusing on the long term vision. Whether Kronke can stomach that is unknown. What we do know is that Arsenal is competitive. No need to keep rolling around in the Wagner hubris and muck. We sit higher than most of us expected. Winning is grinning.EgGHrw

  14. jjetplane

    Sep 30, 2018, 13:02 #112324

    This run is more than we could ask for and Unai has made Arsenal an ordinary football team again without all the puffed up emptiness of the last regime - 23 ****ing years! I for one am loving it and the difference in a player such as Iwobi is stunning. He is a right beast at the moment. Do not understand all this knee jerking as what does anyone expect after 23 years of cod philosophy saved only by some titanic players in the beginning. So we're lucky. Good. Of course I am talking from a 9th tier perspective where my team is bottom without a win and the signs of a club folding are there. No fans or players so be thankful for a not full Emirates cause it still looks better than the wasteland City play to. Chelsea to win the league and Arsenal to finish in front of the Spuds and the awful Mancs. Heard a idiot on the radio last night saying if Liverpool win the league he will kill himself. Utd supporter who probably has never been to OT but wants his viral moment. Still noticing how Untold do not use Unai's name (cult editorial policy) and now have a consistent postership of two. For Atwood see Hubbard .... Up the ****ing Gunnnnnersss!

  15. ArsenalMagna

    Sep 30, 2018, 12:46 #112323

    I hope we continue to play high tempo counterattacking as well as occasional pressing (hard to sustain it constantly over a season or even 90 mins due to fatigue), but I feel those above Emery have capped what he can achieve already. The fact is, we've got Mkhitaryan, Xhaka and Ozil (the new Fernando Torres...), all on huge wages and long contracts, with no resale value, and he seems obliged to regularly play them, despite the fact they're all proficient only to play the 10 role vs weak teams! It would be great if we had Auba and Lacazette playing together in a 4-4-1-1 but that won't happen either.

  16. Slartibartfast

    Sep 30, 2018, 12:39 #112322

    Good article. The disaster of much of the last decade of Wenger's reign is becoming clearer as the season progresses. There is still too much "dead wood" in the squad and the wages that several of these very average players are on is becoming a real problem - who wants to leave a club that an agent recently described as "such good payers"? An interesting piece in the Mail on Sunday today that appears to confirm that it is the huge wage bill that is behind the abrupt decision to cancel the contract talks with Ramsey and that the club will announce an operating loss, with only player sales reducing the deficit. Basically, we can't afford him as we're running a CL-focused set up on Europa League money. The recent growth of commercial revenue, although the total is still behind many of the other so called top 6 clubs, isn't enough to plug the gap. I think it's common knowledge that the business plan at The Emirates called for CL qualification 2 seasons out of every 3 - so that's out the window and, despite the recent run of victories, it's going to be very tough again to qualify this season. There is a degree of irony in the fact that the whole purpose of moving to The Emirates was to enable us to compete with the other top clubs in the EPL (which we never did of course) and it seems we now need to release players like Ramsey (possibly for nothing, or at best way under market value) to try and balance the books. The only way to survive unless we are successful quickly will be to sell our best (and/or highest paid) players. Like Kevin, I don't see the current winning streak lasting and if it doesn't there will be tough times ahead off the pitch and on.

  17. GoonerRon

    Sep 30, 2018, 11:45 #112321

    Great to keep the winning run going but it is difficult to shake the feeling we’ve been a tad lucky with the profligacy of our opponents in recent weeks and our keepers pulling off plenty of saves in one-on-ones. Long may it continue but we need to find a better balance (hopefully one exists with the current squad). Perhaps after this Holding and Iwobi’s individual performances might mean Mustafi and Ramsey find themselves on the bench.