Three more points in the bag, rising to 4th place in the Premiership and a feeling of job done. A comfortable win not without its moments of discomfort, the defence displaying a nervousness when the ball was slung high into the area. Had the visitors more confidence in front of goal then well, the feeling I had was that Arsenal would have gone up a gear and restored their advantage to a comfortable cushion of at least two goals.
The opening goal was perhaps the antithesis of Wenger’s style of football; a lofted Fabregas free-kick, flicked on by Adebayour and turned into his own net by Stewart, albeit under pressure from Toure. That it took half an hour or so was the surprise and even by then the Watford strikers had proven that they could cause trouble with Young and King snatching at chances. Once the opener went in though, it looked increasingly a case of how many rather than whether the visitors would equalise. The second arrived just before half-time. A clearance from Lehmann carried through to Henry who beat Demerit – he earned his yesterday (Ho, Ho, You slay me Greavsie) – and easily beat Foster. Game over.
The third in the second half was Arsenal at their best. Hleb won possession on the edge of his own area and released Fabregas with a short pass. The young Spaniard then eased forward, passing to Henry just inside the Watford half. He then promptly attacked, sprinting into the area before squaring to Adebayour to slot into an unguarded net. It was the sort of chance my Grandmother could have scored and she has been propping up daisies for the best part of twenty years. Much credit is due to Hleb for having started the move, he was shoulder to shoulder with Adebayour when the Togan scored. Any criticism? Well, perhaps he should improve his sprinting speed but then that may be seen as a little picky…
Generally though, the team played within themselves perhaps mindful of the 5.30 kick-off on Tuesday. To that end, I am surprised that yesterday’s match did not start earlier although that would have meant getting out of bed earlier for most of us, I think we could have coped.
It was good to see the return to first team action belatedly of Gael Clichy. Earlier in the week, he had been quoted in the media as believing that he should be commanding a berth in the starting XI as the senior specialist left back but he was mindful of the fact that not just Gallas but also Flamini had played well in his chosen position, and that he had a considerable amount of work to do in order to justify selection ahead of them. It is one of the refreshing aspects of Wenger’s Arsenal that the young players who thrive at the club have their egos well and truly in check, publicly at least. Those that do not, tend to be shipped out at the first opportunity to find that perhaps they were better off at the club.
On that subject, Theo Walcott’s first start was as would be expected. Lively for the first half an hour, quiet in the latter part of the first half but above all, full of promise and you can see why Wenger was pleased to win the bunfight for his signature. That he was substituted after an hour was more for his sake rather than a comment on his performance although his disappointment was there to see but carried in a dignified manner rather than a tantrum on the bench.
In itself yesterday was purely three points and climbing up the table, making up for lost time. With Manchester United and Chelsea both at home next weekend in what ought to be home bankers against Liverpool and Portsmouth respectively, it was important that the momentum that was building prior to the International matches was not lost and a win proved that it was intact. And so onto Moscow on Tuesday. Looking at the line-up yesterday and the way substitutions were made, I would expect some changes but a lot depends on any walking wounded or training ground injuries.