Arsenal routed Watford 3-0 on Saturday to stay second in the Premier League, two points behind Manchester City. In the race for Champions League spots, the Gunners have a nice cushion with a lead of six points over Liverpool and eight over Chelsea.
Photo credit: http://www.arsenal.com
The Hornets worked hard and pressed high up the pitch in the first half while the Gunners lacked the urgency they showed against Manchester United two weeks ago. Arsenal played at a faster pace in the second half and exploited gaps in a tiring Watford defense to put the game to bed in a 12-minute span.
Cazorla sent Ozil clean through on goal in the 62nd minute. Ake tripped Ozil inside the area, but Sanchez pounced on the loose ball for a side-footed effort inside the near post. Sanchez notched his seventh goal in his last four Arsenal games and could have scored another in the 79th when Cazorla hit a ball over the top of the Hornets’ defense. Sanchez flicked the ball past Gomes while colliding with the Watford goalkeeper. The Chile striker quickly got back on his feet but could not prevent the ball from rolling out of bounds. This should have been a penalty but the referee did not seem to care as the Gunners already had a three-goal lead by then.
Walcott’s timing of his runs
Giroud, who replaced Walcott in the 64th, made it 2-0 by connecting with a cutback from Ozil to slam the ball into the roof of the net in the 68th. The Frenchman regained confidence during the international break by scoring twice with his national team in a 2-1 win over Denmark. Giroud is not Wenger’s first choice at the moment but at least he’s giving the manager some food for thought. He had another scoring chance from a Cazorla corner in the 83rd with a powerful header that Gomes palmed away.
Walcott started the game in the lone striker role and caught the attention of the Watford defense by the fourth minute. He met a cross from Ramsey for a downward header that Gomes saved. The England international then wasted three good situations by poorly timing his runs. He was clean through on goal in the fifth minute, the 13th and the 14th but was flagged offside each time. That’s one flaw I already mentioned in my analysis of the Chelsea game. Walcott has so much pace that he should never get caught offside. Instead of trying to be on the same line as the last defender, he just needs to start his run a yard behind to get the ball.
Ramsey’s smart runs
Ramsey sealed the win in the 74th by taking a pass from Bellerin to beat Gomes with a deflected shot. He netted his first goal for the club this season after also scoring in Wales’ 2-0 win over Andorra in a Euro 2016 qualifier last Tuesday. This should boost his confidence and increase the team’s scoring options. We shouldn’t expect Ramsey to be as prolific as in the 2013-14 season when he scored 10 goals in 23 league games, especially now that we have Sanchez, but a target of eight league goals would be reasonable. Ramsey made some smart runs in the first half but failed to catch the frame, sending a sliding effort over the bar after meeting a cross from Sanchez in the 29th and firing wide from a tight angle after taking a pass from Ozil on the stroke of halftime.
Ozil had another good game with an assist for Giroud’s goal and a penetrative run that led to Sanchez’s opener. Besides his passing skills, his movement in the final third is Ozil’s main asset. That’s why he should often be in good scoring positions. Then it’s all about composure in front of the net.
Cazorla’s defensive contribution
Cazorla pulled the strings in midfield with 100 passes, 27 more than any other player. Again, he sacrificed himself to preserve the balance of the team, winning 2 of 2 tackles, making 2 blocks and winning 66.7 percent of his duels (the best defensive stats among Arsenal midfielders). The Spaniard created the chance for the opener with a perfectly weighted pass for Ozil and could have also claimed two assists, first with a long ball for Sanchez in the 79th and then with a pinpoint corner kick for Giroud in the 83rd.
There was a time when Wenger injected a strong French flavor in his team with Henry, Vieira, Petit, Pires, Wiltord, Grimandi and Flamini. France is no longer a powerhouse of European football, which is now dominated by Spain and Germany. In Saturday’s starting lineup, there were three Spaniards, two Germans, two Frenchies, one Englishman, one Welsh, one Chilean and one Czech. Monreal and Bellerin proved reliable at fullback. Bellerin created two chances, first with a low cross for Monreal that was intercepted by Nyom in the 37th and then with a mazy run that led to Ramsey’s goal. A lot of youngsters at the academy must dream to walk in the steps of Bellerin, a regular starter at the age of 20.
£3 million a year
The Gunners had the match under control in the second half but were quite shaky in the first half defensively. Watford’s game plan was clearly to hit Arsenal on the fast break. Deeney stole the ball from Coquelin in the 11th to fire a long-range strike that Cech parried. Mertesacker was then caught out of position in the 19th and it took a sliding tackle from Koscielny to cut out Deeney’s pass for Ighalo. Koscielny put himself in trouble with a missed clearance in the 30th. Anya won the ball and fed Ighalo, whose low strike sailed wide under pressure from Monreal.
Cech also misread a play in the 43rd, straying outside his area while Mertesacker was in a good position for a clearance. The Gunners survived some poor communication as Mertesacker’s tame header bounced off Cech’s shoulder. From the moment the long ball for Deeney was hit with some backspin, Cech should have let Mertesacker make the play. The Hornets couldn’t capitalize on those half-chances, but you can bet those defensive frailties would be punished against a team like Bayern Munich.
I’d like to finish this post with last Thursday’s annual general meeting. I was disappointed that the shareholders couldn’t get any explanation about the three million pounds paid every year to Kroenke Sports and Entertainment. The chairman of the club said it was a fee for advisory services. Well, what kind of services? It can’t be services to sign players since Wenger and his network of scouts are more knowledgeable than KSE. Is it about our commercial revenues? Then KSE is doing a poor job since the club is way behind Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea, Liverpool and the two Manchesters in that area.
Defending the club’s interests?
Financially, it’s not as bad as when the Glazers created debt by taking over Manchester United through loans. But ethically, it doesn’t make sense to give away a dividend at a time when there are still some financial issues. The club is not done yet with interest and debt repayments for the construction of the Emirates stadium and it is also investing 13 million pounds in the redevelopment of the London Colney training ground and Hale End academy.
You’d think three million pounds is nothing for a club like Arsenal but over a 12-year period, it’s a total of 36 million pounds, the fee for signing a world-class player like Sanchez. Basically, we are shooting ourselves in the foot. It’s no secret that the club no longer belongs to the fans. But does the board still defend the interests of the club?