Sunday, 3 April 2016

Gunners too good for Hornets

Arsenal 4-0 Watford

Arsenal made sure they got their revenge over Watford on Saturday with a comprehensive league victory against the side who had dumped them out of the FA Cup.

The Hornets had performed well on their last visit to the Emirates to end the Gunners hopes of securing a third straight FA Cup win. However they had also spoken far too much in the aftermath of that game and were made to pay as the two sides met once again, this time in the league.
The most vocal of those Watford players had been former Spurs goalkeeper Huerellio Gomes, who had described the Gunners as essentially being a small club. The Brazilian was left with egg on his face as he trudged off at full time having conceded four goals on Saturday.

It appeared as though all those comments from the Watford dressing room had not only riled the Arsenal supporters, but also the players as the Gunners came out firing on all cylinders right from the first whistle. The home side were relentless in their pressing as they chased and harried the Watford players time and time again, attempting to win the ball back as quickly and as high up the pitch as possible.

Their hard work was duly rewarded as early as the fourth minute as Alexis Sanchez scored his first goal at the Emirates since October. It is always a mystery why Arsenal seem incapable of starting all, or at the very least, the majority of their games on the front foot, taking the game to their opponents. When they do, the Gunners can take the match away from the opposition very quickly, sealing victory within the first half. But far too often Arsenal start their games far too slowly, especially at home, allowing the away sides to build momentum and confidence, making the match all the more difficult.

This is exactly what had happened against Watford in the FA Cup, but on Saturday, the Gunners showed what can happen when they start their matches in the right frame of mind. Although many will see this game as Arsenal performing when all is lost, as they always seem to do to the frustration of all their fans, the emergence of Alex Iwobi has also helped freshen the attack. Iwobi was outstanding once again against Watford. Full of energy, determination, confidence and skill, it is hard to believe this is still a 19 year old who was only making his second Premier League start. The Nigerian international set up Sanchez’s opener with a delightful clipped ball towards the back post which saw the Chilean’s header initially saved, but Sanchez would not be denied and pounced on the rebound.

Iwobi was just always involved in the attacking play, linking up well with Danny Welbeck once again and showcasing a range of ideas with his brilliant eye for a pass. The Nigerian’s performances have been head and shoulders above anything both Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain have produced this season and on this form, it is hard to imagine them taking the youngster’s place anytime soon. Iwobi just seems to have it all, showcasing great finishing ability too.  As he had done against Everton, Iwobi managed to get himself on the scoresheet once again with another excellent goal. With Alexis Sanchez reaching the by line and cutting the ball back towards the penalty spot, Iwobi ran towards the ball and showed great composure to steer his shot past Gomes to double Arsenal’s lead. To keep the shot low and angled like he did, when running onto the ball shows enormous skill from such a young man.

But it all just seems to come so naturally to Iwobi. He is loving his football at the moment and playing with a smile on his face, without any pressure, as if he is having a kick about in the park. The Nigerian was very unfortunate not to have scored more against Watford, forcing Gomes into a fine save in the first half and then seeing an excellent effort come crashing back off the crossbar in the second half.

Once they had scored the first, this was a very comfortable game for Arsenal. Just after halftime, they scored again, this time through Hector Bellerin’s deflected shot to make the game 3-0 and then just as the clock hit the 90 minute mark, Joel Campbell’s brilliant run to take on the Watford right back saw him burst into the penalty area before laying the ball square to Walcott, who couldn’t really miss.

At the final whistle Arsenal fans could be forgiven for feeling a sense of déjà vu. They have been here before all too often as the season enters its final phase, wondering what might have been. Wenger appears to have stumbled on the right formation as a result of injuries in midfield forcing him to deploy Elneny alongside Coquelin. Once again the Egyptian played very very well, hunting the ball down tirelessly and working brilliantly in tandem with Coquelin to shield the back four. Having two defensive minded midfielders in front of the defence allows the attacking players to push a little higher up the pitch earlier, safe in the knowledge that the defence is covered. The full backs can also push up creating more width for the attack too. Yet it took a succession of injuries in the midfield for Wenger to go with this selection and there is no guarantee that when Ramsey, Wilshere or Cazorla are back fit, that the manager won’t simply return to form and pick one of them ahead of Elneney.

A great performance was therefore overshadowed slightly with the feeling that once again, it was a case of all too little too late from Arsenal as they are once again left to discuss the potential for next season rather than a serious title challenge this season. 

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