Football as an exercise in torture

Online Editorial – Arsenal secure much needed win at Watford thanks to Messrs Foster and Deeney

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Words can come back to haunt you

Ed’s note - My thanks to regular Gooner contributor Peter Le Beau for covering for me to write the piece on last night’s game. Normal service will be resumed when Arsenal travel to Wolves, but in the meantime, enjoy some different perspectives on the matches.

Nick Hornby has come closest to describing best the visceral agony of the football fan. I waited all week for a match and then I wanted the final whistle after ten minutes! The last eighty minutes against Watford were agonising. Ironically Nick wrote ‘Fever Pitch’ at a time when we had an ironclad defence and massive leaders in the team, Adams, Bould, Keown et al - we felt we could rely on them whoever they faced. Our win at Watford was hugely important but boy was it a difficult watch.

If you’d given Arsenal fans two wishes, one would have been an early goal and the second would have been to see Troy Deeney sent off. Deeney, who was I read somewhere an Arsenal fan as a boy was very wound up for the game and whatever the protestations of him and his manager it was a very definite and sneaky slap and although not overtly violent, it was a definite red card. He had just watched Aubameyang score an opportunist goal with a brave block that was a fine example of his goal-getting instinct. Much more than just a freakish deflection.

The trouble is away from home we need more than two wishes with the defence we’ve got and some of the characters who inhabit our team. We never looked comfortable. Our possession play was sketchy, a number of players - Mkhitaryan, Xhaka and young Mavropanos looked error prone and struggled to get into the game but thankfully Leno is a very assured keeper and in front of him Koscielny and Monreal were sound enough against the limited Andre Gray.

On the touchline Unai Emery prowled and simmered. One thing you always know with Unai is that he will be proactive. His change of Ozil for Torreira at half-time was not one that I greeted with massive joy. A solid terrier for a luxury player against possibly the most physical side in the division. Unai flexed his team changing formation twice, taking off Mavropanos and Ramsey, with Maitland-Niles and Guendouzi replacing them. Maitland-Niles made a superb block to deny Gray and we tottered towards full-time squandering chances through Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan (foiled by a great block by Foster on one occasion and miscuing on another)

The final whistle was a blessed relief. We had finally kept an away clean sheet in the league on April 15th at the sixteenth time of asking. To call the three points precious is an exercise in gross understatement. We leapfrogged United and Chelsea. We are ahead of Chelsea with a game in hand, United must play Everton and Manchester City away and Chelsea at home in their next three games and we are only one point behind Tottenham who have to play Manchester City next.

When Emery joined us most of us would have been ecstatic if we’d been told that with five games left we would be fourth and in the position I describe above. On top of that we lead Napoli 2-0 and have a real chance of winning the Europa League. Monday night may not have been pretty but if it contributes another £ 50 million to Emery’s available transfer kitty none of us will mind. I love sparkling football but Watford was a very good example of when the result is much more important than the quality of the football. Next season we need a much better defence, more quality in midfield and better options out wide but we must still be thankful that without the lions of old we made it through for a plucky three points.


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    Apr 16, 2019, 18:31 #113526

    With Thursday night being critical for our season & therefore on everyone's mind, Dick was on a licking to nothing against a very motivated Watford. I notice huge swathes of criticism against Unai are building elsewhere but I prefer to listen to Carragher & Neville ( not a great fan of either) post match assessments. Both are thinking that squad-wise we are a poor 6th & therefore that Dick has massively over-achieved. All our remaining away fixtures are probable banana skins. I also wish Auba wasn't so free with his cheesey grins after yet another goal opportunity goes begging. Nice guy maybe but AFC needs more bad losers imo.

  2. mbg

    Apr 16, 2019, 16:22 #113525

    And Deeney found out the hard way we wanted it and we were up for it, we're no longer the the softies we were under wenger, Deeney will think twice the next time. Well done all we got our goal and stuck to our task, games like that would have been lost under you know who, four very winable games up next starting with palace and lets see where that takes us.

  3. RobG

    Apr 16, 2019, 13:09 #113524

    Bard - you have nailed it. We have the sixth best team/squad in the PL. And make no mistake sixth is what we have. Yet we have a 'chance' - and I will put it no stronger than that - to finish third. Given what we have, vis a vie what we are up against, he will have performed a minor miracle - IF we do it.

  4. Bard

    Apr 16, 2019, 12:54 #113523

    Good article. The result was everything, a poor performance but who cares. It's important to win ugly sometimes. Loved Deeney getting sent off, the highlight of the match. If Dick gets this limited team over the line this season it will be a monumental achievement.

  5. Made Up Stat

    Apr 16, 2019, 11:31 #113522

    Hope Mhkitaryan kept the receipt for his shooting boots.

  6. markymark

    Apr 16, 2019, 11:02 #113521

    I was updating the bbc website it felt like every 2 minutes ( currently in beautiful Morroco ) it was as painful doing that as watching it I bet. I think Gooner Ron is right though in that Pundits look for lines of story and the BBC feed was all plucky Watford and how they so deserved the points against us. Troy’s words are coming back to haunt himarent they ! A limited , aggressive forward who needs to motivate himself into a rage to play well. His braying about knocking our players about sealed his fate. An interesting point for me is that Unai has drawn the sting from the prissy Wenger / soft boys circle. Whereby Wenger moaned, we got clumped , Wenger moaned. It’s refreshing how quickly that Groundhog Day self inflicted rubbish has gone away. With Arsenal we could just as easily go to Leicester and Wolves and win well as suffer defeat. If he can raise the tempo away from home Unai would really have a team

  7. GoonerRon

    Apr 16, 2019, 10:30 #113520

    In a previous article I asked for two 0-1’s in our next games so we’re half way there. This was a generally stodgy performance although it certainly wasn’t all Watford as some have made out - we lacked a clinical edge to our finishing that would have killed the game. Still, 3 points, a clean sheet and bonus red card for that prick Deeney equates to a properly good outcome. Would I have preferred a more controlled, expansive performance? Of course. However, our away form has seemingly become such a mental block for the players that we need to build ourselves up gradually. That’s 5 clean sheets in the last 6 which is really encouraging as we head into the final straight. Our away form has built up to such a point that almost everyone is looking at our remaining fixtures with trepidation. Rightly so in part, although with the quality we have (and hopefully some belief gradually being rebuilt), we should not be going to Wolves, Leicester and Burnley with our pants full.