Watford Preview, Signings & A New Hope

Football takes centre stage today with the trip to Watford offering some respite from the transfer market shenanigans. They are all but done, according to Arsène, the deals for Mustafi and Perez edging over the finish line.

That he even responded to questions at his press conference with anything other than a straight bat is a sign that they are waiting for the ink to dry. Time for it to still go wrong, of course, but the official site needs their photographs and today’s matchday so it seems likely an announcement will be tomorrow or Monday, particularly with Mustafi joining up  with Germany’s squad next week.

He was forced to deny they were panic buys and the German is now a second choice after Arsenal didn’t “land” Omer Toprak of Bayer Leverkusen. Because there was a lot of noise about that one when the Mustafi deal first surfaced, wasn’t there? Good grief.

The usual ‘judge me in May’ angle emerged. It will probably happen before that the way this season has started and those more immediate matters are at hand today.

After last week’s tame draw at Leicester, it’s decision time for Wenger with Mesut Özil likely to return although according to the manager, Olivier Giroud “is still a little fraction behind physically”.

Having made a cameo appearance at the King Power, it would a surprise if Giroud starts. I think Aaron Ramsey’s injury will have introduced an element of caution into Wenger’s thinking and another appearance from the bench is most likely.

At this early stage of the season, it’s tough to call this a ‘must-win’ match but it is, five dropped points already underlines the importance of today.

We offered little in attack last week and that’s the key issue to resolve. The return of Laurent Koscielny steadied the defensive ship which was vital. I’m old school in that respect, influenced by the thinking of Howe and Graham – get the back four sorted and then work up the pitch solving problems.

Facing a strike partnership, Holding and Koscielny will both be fully occupied. Wenger praised the work of Igahlo and Deeney last season, with the latter drawing praise from the Frenchman. Last weekend saw Watford outplay Chelsea for most of the first half but a failure in front of goal denied them any points. They will have worked hard to rectify that weakness and with our own attack blunt, the defence needs to keep a clean sheet.

For that reason, I suspect that Francis Coquelin’s indiscretions last week will be forgiven. He and Xhaka offered the defence more protection than they are used to and I think that partnership will continue today. Whether it is the long-term answer Wenger is thinking of is another matter. A more cerebral duo in the centre with Elneny or Cazorla seems more likely but until we are in any kind of form, it’s a case of grinding out results.

To do that we need goals. We didn’t look like scoring any last week, let’s be honest. That may be solved with the return of our creative spark, Mesut Ōzil, who certainly made us look livelier when he came on as a substitute last week. Equally, Theo Walcott failed to make an impression and I would be inclined to return him to the bench and draft Santi Cazorla in on the left.

It keeps Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the XI which won’t be a universally popular decision but I think he offers more to the side than Walcott, particularly on the right.

The line-up in those circumstances will be:

Cech; Bellerin, Holding, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Coquelin; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Özil, Cazorla; Sanchez

Which means it isn’t the one Arsène will choose. My guess is that Walcott will start with the smile once more wiped off Santi’s little face as he sits on the bench.

Whatever line-up he chooses, a win is imperative if we are to avoid the same fate as Chelsea and Manchester United before them. Going into the international break with just one point from nine would be disastrous for European ambitions, at the very least.

It’s why I expect a more energetic Arsenal performance today. Five points at this stage of the season is really neither here nor there for a top four finish. More than six is; it puts the club on the back foot and our form this year hasn’t been the sort to fill you with confidence that we’re ready to move through the gears. Not yet, at least.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

177 thoughts on “Watford Preview, Signings & A New Hope

  1. C says:

    Limestonegunner,

    Agree, Ozil has the intelligence to match Sanchez and because of that we can get thr best out of Sanchez at CF. Sanchez has that pace, power, hunger and ruthlessness to play at CF we just need to change our style of play which in this match we have.

  2. C says:

    Holding has done well too, take nothing away from him.

  3. C says:

    Birdkamp,

    I think Theo on the RW has always worked especially with players that have the quality of pass like Ozil, Santi and Xhaka. The problem for him is that he isn’t the type to beat his man one on one, but he still has enough quickness and pace to spin and beat a FB and runs thr channels to get on the end of things. He will struggle when we play slow or lateral, but playing in a tempo and high pressing team he can be good to really good in thr RW.

    As I say that, he whips another cross begging for Ox on the far post to tap it in but Ox isn’t there.

  4. C says:

    In a match like this you want Ox to run run run.

    Fuck Ozil is a joy to watch.

  5. C says:

    Bellerin puts ANOTHER brilliant ball across begging for Ox to finish at the back post and again he isn’t there. Why isn’t Ox busting a lung to get to the back post? Its fucking frustrating because he could have had 2 easy tapins.

  6. Mean Lean says:

    You sure we don’t play good football anymore?

    I’m enjoying this that’s for sure

  7. C says:

    Fuck me!!!!! 3-1, off some sloppy defending from Kos and Holding as the ball is bouncing around.

  8. C says:

    Deeney does put himself about and fouls but never maliciously, good player for Watford.

    We need to up the tempo and grab another.

  9. C says:

    Ozil plays Theo in and the chip was a bit too much.

    A player down after a Theo tackles, who would have thought?!?

  10. Mark in GC says:

    C,

    Why are you dragging holding into this lol That was a pretty piss poor clearing header by Kos

  11. C says:

    Maybe Le Coq or Elneny.

    Ox, why o fucking why, 3 on 1 and you try the chip, play Sanchez or Theo in on. Thats the decision making process he lacks and so desperately needs to find.

  12. G4E says:

    Wenger, fucking manage the game….Make some changes you freak.

  13. Mark in GC says:

    C,

    Remember that night against milan? Seems a long time ago now.

  14. C says:

    Elneny and Jack on for Ozil and Ox. Good subs if Jack is effective.

    Theo looks to have moved left with Jack going to the RW.

  15. C says:

    Maybe Giroud for Santi or Theo just to give us that outlet and push Sanchez wide and Jack centrally.

  16. C says:

    Gibbs coming on for Nacho. Gibbs focus and defend, don’t worry about attacking.

  17. Mark in GC says:

    Holding though I’m really impressed. Calmness beyond his years.

  18. C says:

    Basel has a good showing on the pitch in Behrami, Eleney and Xhaka.

  19. C says:

    We struggle to see out matches which is strange given our posession qualitt. Slow it down and now keep possession.

  20. C says:

    Xhaka is different quality to any other midfield pivot we have and if fit he starts along with Ozil in midfield.

    Elneny buzzing around winning possession. Good showing today, dropped off in the 2nd half and Watford had some chances.

    Sanchez picked the wrong option, Theo was in acres of space at the back post.

  21. C says:

    Theo and Sanchez along with our midfield have been the difference this match. Adding Perez who is another runner and worker on the flanks or at CF, its still early days but maybe a change of style with quicker movement and play.

  22. C says:

    Jack sees yellow, almost forgot he was on the pitch.

  23. Viceologist says:

    Well that was a much more promising showing…really liking what Xhaka brings to the side. Those pin point passes really help move possession to the attacking third quickly.

  24. ArseneWenger says:

    They fighting hard for his spot. He put in a lot of defensive work today. That’s something he’s gotten a lot better at.

  25. Birdkamp says:

    Point to make about the difference between Holding and Chambers’ start at AFC.

    Chambers looked promising but was making big mistakes, vs City in the CS and Besiktas in those qualifiers, that weren’t getting punished. Holding just looks like he’s been in the team for years. That’s really exciting. Hopefully we can give him enough football to keep improving.

  26. Limestonegunner says:

    Holding did well but did show some bad decisions and inexperience. One time, for example, he played the ball square across the field to Kos when it would have made sense to go back to Cech and the Watford striker almost nipped in clear on goal. Things like that come with experience and that would have been a costly mistake leading to a possible Watford goal fairly early on. Might have changed the game. I am glad we bought Mustafa and think he should have come much earlier, ideally. AW gambled today and it worked. But it was a real gamble playing such an attacking lineup. Thankfully the early goal from the penalty and our determination to hold off the Watford surge for 10-15 mins before we scored again changed the complexion of the game.

  27. Limestonegunner says:

    And Chambers mistakes were as CB were more giving away fouls for free kicks. The mistakes we tend to remember were when he was played at RB and he just didn’t have the pace, I think. It is very early to declare Holding a more promising player than Chambers. It may be true but the evidence really isn’t yet so decisive. Hopefully they both develop well. But one from those two and Mustafi adapting successfully would be good for our back line long term.

    I thought Monreal was really looking at loose ends today, speaking of our defenders. Gibbs should take heart that he could win back some starts. Montreal has been surprisingly shaky so far this season after a very consistent and excellent last couple of seasons. Age catching up a bit? Just early season inconsistency as he tries to find form?

  28. Birdkamp says:

    LG, that’s surprising. Was it so attacking? I’d expect Xhaka and Cazorla there most weeks. Cazorla at deep mf has coincided with our best runs in the last couple of years. He’s shown he’s got great defensive positioning , while Xhaka gives you plenty of bite to go with the passing. I don’t think it lacks anything defensively, apart from maybe a touch of mobility. But mobility’s not essential in mf.

    Also, on Holiding, I think that’s a lot of scrutiny on a single square pass, considering it’s the second match he’s ever played in this partnership.

    Compared to say, Bellerin, who’s getting skinned a couple of times a game at the moment for instance. Which isn’t to do HB down; just for contrast.

  29. C says:

    Limestonegunner,

    I’m not worried about Nacho, think its more early season than anything. For the most part he was solid but had a couple shaky moments today but the same could be said of Kos as well. Gibbs did well in his cameo, think he will get a chance with CC and Fa Cup plus the odd PL appearancr to be a solid #2.

  30. Birdkamp says:

    LG, no it wasn’t fks from Chambers at CB. Well, that’s not what I remember. There were real moments of naivety; things that showed he wasn’t really reading the game properly yet.

  31. Birdkamp says:

    Actually, Bellerin’s been pretty sloppy so far, losing it while he’s deep in the opposition half. It’s stuff you have to balance with the good stuff I suppose, but it might be something to keep an eye on.

  32. C says:

    Birdkamp,

    I’m not too worried about either FB to be honest, think both have showed that from time to time they might get skinned but I think that is nothing to be worried about as I can’t think of a FB in world futbol that doesn’t get skinned from time to time.

    The possession thing I think will come as well as the team kind of “resettles” especially as they are still learning Holding and Xhaka who have both shown good so far in their defensive work and positioning.

  33. C says:

    Arsene has confirmed what we already knew, that both Mustafi and Perez have been signed. Well done to Arsene for getting the deals done, wish they would have come in before the season but well done to him for getting them done. Perez will have a couple of weeks to work with the players that weren’t called up to their national team so I fancy him to start after the international break. Arsene said:

    “We have bought two players Mustafi and Perez. They will integrate into the team now and we will help them join squad.

    “We had to work very hard to get signings done. We have not got any plans for anyone else now.”

  34. Birdkamp says:

    C,

    Oh, I wouldn’t drop him or anything. It’s probably a symptom of early season and the team settling. But if you really want to inspect his game there are definitely things that need to improve if he wants to get to the next level: Footwork in defensive one-on-ones and distribution especially.

    As it stands, he’s offering a big outlet down the right, so it’s a kind of give and take.

  35. Highbury says:

    I am completely sold on Holding. Terrific start to his Arsenal career.

  36. Limestonegunner says:

    It was one example to illustrate that he got away with some mistakes today, which is to be expected in a young player, Bird. I could list rate with a couple others but I am not trying to tear the boy down as he has done well. I am only pointing out that your previous comparison is heaping rather a lot on two decent starts and perhaps being a little unfair to Chambers.

  37. Highbury says:

    With Mustafi on board, surely we are seeing the end of Per. I have been banging about this for almost a year now, so I am happy. That said, even Mustafi has to be on top of his game to dislodge Holding who has impressed me beyond measure.

  38. philmar says:

    C:
    Birdkamp,
    As I say that, he whips another cross begging for Ox on the far post to tap it in but Ox isn’t there.

    An example of Chambo being either lazy or switched off. He doesn’t have the required concentration levels for 90 minutes

  39. Limestonegunner says:

    As far as the characterizing of the lineup as rather attacking (which I was excited to see), it is at least as much about having Ox wide left away as it is about the central midfield pairing.

    But about the midfield pairing, I am not sure we have enough to go by to expect any pairing consistently at this point. And when Ramsey is back it might even change. But since we have had different combinations we’ll just have to see and perhaps we might get some insight from AW about his thinking and generally it may vary tactically.

    I was concerned with Holding being young and Watford playing two strikers but quite happy to see us playing a more attacking and quick set of forwards. That is why I also credited Santi and Xhaka for creating and setting up our attacks quickly from deep.

  40. Limestonegunner says:

    I agree with you, Bird, that Bellerin was a bit sloppy. Unfortunately with Debuchy not even in the squad there is little competition. When we need to be more solid and hold a lead at the end of a game for example, Mustafi might be able to play there once our other CB’s are healthy or if Holding continues to be decent.

  41. Birdkamp says:

    Limestonegunner,

    Even if it is a small sample there were a lot of warning signs, and I was pretty happy when we took Chambers out of the side. There’s none of that with Holding – OK, Vardy tested him and there was an iffy lateral pass, but nothing fundamental to suggest that there are big things missing from his game at this very early stage. That was what I was trying to compare.

    I still think Chambers can have a career at AFC. And even with him the promise was obvious. It’s definitely going to take a loan now though. I think he can be as good as Stones – honestly.

    And on Holding, yeah, his game-time is going to be limited, but I hope we can give him enough football to nurture him. Gabriel was very frustrating at times last season, and given Holding’s upside I think AW may have some tricky decisions to make about backup. Especially when he rests the full-backs, which he apt to do occasionally. I assume Mustafi will fill in on the right, which makes room for another CB. Even without more injuries the third pick could get 15-20 matches this season depending in competitions.

  42. Limestonegunner says:

    The flip side is that his pave and final ball, interplay in opposition half is so good that we’ll live with it. But I hope he doesn’t get complacent and keeps working on his defending and work in our half.

  43. Birdkamp says:

    Man I’m also prone to sloppiness when I write quickly.

  44. C says:

    Birdkamp,

    Yup, he certainly isn’t the the finish product and I think he will develop more and more as he matures. I think the footwork in one-on-one situations is something that will come because he is so quick and has so much pace, he understands that he can get beat and in most situations and then quickly recover; a mate of mine was like that in our early days and by the time he went off to University, he was able to sort out his footwork.

    The thing that is so interesting about Bellerin is that he is one of the few wingers that have actually developed into a quality FB defensively and that is the one thing, that you make reference to in taking the step to the next level. He has established himself and taking that next step will be to not rely only on his pace and quickness. HE has the making of a top 5 modern European RB though and that isn’t even being bias.

  45. C says:

    I will say this though, Sanchez at CF with Ozil drifting behind him is a true joy to watch! Having that futbol IQ and ability to execute the pass to match Sanchez’s movement is something to build on and look for too! Ozil scored a goal and even better, it was a header!

    It was also good to see Theo showing some fight and hunger out on the RW. It wasn’t just the attacking stuff but his high pressing, he nicked the ball off of teh Watford CB and if not for a tackle (that resulted in a yellow) Theo was in on goal. His movement coupled with Sanchez was really good and if they can find some consistency, we have something to build on.

    Xhaka is a different class of DM and to be honest, something that we have missed for quite some time. Not just the long diagonals and strength to maintain possession but his defensive work and really wanting to put in tackles and get interceptions is a joy to watch and something all those that have been crying out for a midfield boss should be happy!

  46. Highbury says:

    Agree 100 percent, Al. Early days, yes, but you can see that Holding has the technique and temperament to be a great defender.

  47. Dexter says:

    Yessss! Result! Well done you Gunners!

  48. Limestonegunner says:

    And we said the exact same things about Chambers after his first preseason and first few games at CB. Hopeful signs certainly for Holding. And hopefully Chambers might still come good.

  49. C says:

    @Big Al

    I’m watching Juve, and yea they sold Pogba but my god are they loaded not just in attack but in midfield. Pjanic, a fully fit and hungry Khederia, Matuidi on the way , Asamoah, Alex Sandro, Hernanes to play with their attacking players in Dybala, Higuain, the workman like style of Mandzukic

  50. Dexter says:

    Really like how Holding has started his Arsenal career.

  51. Limestonegunner says:

    I am happy with Xhaka, C. Adjusting well. We’ve needed these qualities for a long long time in midfield. If he keeps it up, we will be able to play Cazorla more often alongside him.

  52. Dexter says:

    Didn’t Chambers start at RB for us? I also think he played OK as a CB when playing alongside a more experienced defender. I agree with bird, he can become a top player.

  53. Limestonegunner says:

    I do agree that Holding might get some games ahead of Gabriel in partnership with Kos. They seem to have a better balance.

  54. C says:

    Limestonegunner,

    The best thing about Holding is the fact that unlike Chambers, Mustafi is on the way and he is ONLY 24 years old but with vast experience(think he has the most interceptions from a defender in La Liga the past 2 season from what i have read) so Holding won’t be required to play and will actually become CB3 until Mert and Gabriel come back and then he will have a fight on his hands. But certainly looks more assured defensively at CB in the early days of his Arsenal career.

  55. C says:

    Limestonegunner,

    Agree about Xhaka or we could put Elneny or Le Coq and be more solid defensively and not lose that deep playmaker the way we did last season when Santi was lost

  56. Adam Singh says:

    Be interesting to see what happens after the international break with Giroud and Perez. Neither Walcott or Ox have played that well for me so far. So I could see a front three of Sanchez, Giroud, Perez then again Sanchez has done so well in the middle and Wenger has said he likes him playing there. I guess we now have six players (including Iwobi) competing for three positions which can only be a good thing. But Walcott and Ox need to up their game as they have some serious competition.

  57. Wavey says:

    It’s amazing what you miss when you are out for the day. Looks like a good result and I’m looking forward to seeing on MOTD.
    Today was really a must win, as we needed to really get off the mark after a pretty poor start. It sounds like the missing ingredient in the first couple of games was Ozil, it’s going to be important that he stays fit.
    It looks like we have picked up a great potential in Holding and the acquisition of Mustafi should mean that we are in good shape in defence. In pretty good shape in defence and midfield, but a world class striker is still needed to cap it off.

  58. Phil says:

    Good win today.
    Does Ozil get an assist for the pass that lead to the penalty? It was a beauty.
    As was his run to score

  59. Phil says:

    as to the Holding / Chambers chat, I think Holding is a mile ahead.
    Yes he has only played the 3 games, but he looks like a proper defender.
    Far more disciplined positionally. He is a talker.
    Why does he remind me of a young Tony Adams?
    Dangerous to label someone so early, I know.

  60. Phil says:

    And, well done to Wenger and the club for getting 2 new players in.

  61. HenryB says:

    Oh stop it, phil, and good morning to you!

    Those refreshingly upbeat comments have made me enjoy my morning coffee all the more — I am feeling light-headed. 😀

  62. Wavey says:

    Morning all,

    Finally watched the highlights on MOTD this morning. A great first half performance and even Walcott was a bit unlucky not to score. What happened in the second half? MOTD didn’t even show any half chances from Arsenal in the second half, so where did our attacking players go?
    Their goal was another howler from our defence with us still having problems with our clearing headers. They either have to have distance, or go out of play rather than inviting the pressure from the other team. It’s always harder to set yourself in defence from a mistake by one of your own players.
    The international break gives us the time to bring the new players in and Perez will at least have some time to get to know some of his team mates.

  63. Wavey says:

    Really, really hate the strip we played in yesterday. Looks like Chelsea, I keep expecting to see Samsung written across the chest.
    Why couldn’t we wear our home strip, it wouldn’t have clashed.

  64. G4E says:

    I have to give it to Walcott, he ran his socks off in this game and I appreciate the effort.

    Holding is a real defender, you can see that, Chambers is hampered by his slowness, he doesn’t have the pace nor the positional skills of a defender.

    I’m happy with the two signings, excited for Perez. I think he’s a good player and will get some chances to score with Ozil, Alexis, Cazorla, Xhaka, et All.

    In all, a good win and we need to get our physical fitness up to play the 90 minutes and the 33 games.

  65. andy1886 says:

    Wavey,

    It’s all about marketing. They want to sell the third kit, the home and away will sell anyway.

  66. Wavey says:

    andy1886,

    I think they might struggle as it look way too much like a Chelsea knock-off. Especially as the away crowd they are trying to tempt have been getting more and more restless. They must fork out enough already without buying that as well.

  67. Michael says:

    Come on Yogi, the day doesn’t officially start until we get your post 🙂

  68. Phil says:

    Henry,
    I am very happy to have your day a little brighter with my biennial compliment of Wenger!

  69. Phil says:

    Agree re the strip, Wavey.
    Nothing quintessentially Arsenal about it all. Just another ugly horrible piece of kit designed to flog merchandise.

  70. Dexter says:

    Really hoping Theo can stay injury free. He was excellent yesterday again.

    I am looking forward to being at the next home game now!

    Cech
    Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Nacho
    Xaka, Santi
    Theo, Mesut, Perez
    Sanchez

    Ospina
    Debuchy, Holding, Gabriel, Gibbs
    Coquelin, Elneny
    Iwobi, Ramsey, Ox
    Giroud

    That’s two strong 11s and no room for Chambers, Jack, Danny, Per. I think the first two could do with loans tbh. it will be interesting to see who AW selects for the game vs Southampton and also Nottingham Forest in the league cup.

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