Arsenal picked up where they left off before the international break with a superb win over Watford at the Emirates.
All the talk before the game was about getting a result, and righting the wrongs of the FA Cup reverse, and the team did that, and then some.
They wanted this win – that much was clear. The intensity that has been lacking at crucial times this season was abundant, and, for a change, there was some efficiency in front of goal.
For lengthy periods of the first half Arsenal were superb. The passing was crisp, with plenty of one touch drop-offs, and had some real incision about it.
There were times, particularly mid-way through the half, where they lost a little direction, preferring to pass in triangles in the corner where beating a man, or putting in a cross, may have yielding something better, but their patience was admirable, they didn’t force the issue too hard, and they were rewarded with two quite superb goals.
Heading into the international break, I touched on Alexis Sanchez’s struggle for goals to go with his industry. It was great, therefore, to see a few things come off for him.
Put up against right back Nathan Ake, he had plenty of joy, both in running at his man and in eluding the youngster’s slack marking. A goal and an assist was an excellent return for him.
As far Alex Iwobi, much will be said and written about him in the aftermath of this game, as it was after the win at Everton. Another goal and another assist. He has all the guile of Mesut Ozil, but has the power and confidence to burst between the lines with the ball at his feet, too.
It’s still very early days for him, but he has shown some great touches, an eye for a pass, and a willingness to find space in the box, too.
He is delivering the kind of performances that many had expected of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and he is adding some end-product too.
Defensively, the back four were pretty sound. Gabriel continues to improve, showing the value of a run of games for a player’s confidence and form. He recorded three interceptions and seven clearances. In truth, however, he was rarely troubled.
Watford played like a team waiting for the summer break, their status secured for another season. They were poor and got what they deserved.
In front of the defence, Mohamed Elneny was stand-out, with an excellent contribution from Francis Coquelin, too. They appear to work superbly well with each other and it may well be difficult for the players returning from injury to usurp them. Time will tell.
Getting so far ahead in the second half saw a little touch of complacency creep into Arsenal’s game in the second half, but they can be forgiven for that on this occasion.
There will be sterner tests ahead in the coming weeks, however.
It was good to see Hector Bellerin’s efforts in getting forward rewarded with a goal, albeit aided by a deflection, early on in the second half.
That goal killed the match as a contest but there was still time for icing to be added to the cake. Substitute Theo Walcott did well to latch on to fellow-sub Joel Campbell’s low cross at the near post, steering the ball past Gomez in the Watford goal late on.
All said and done, it was an excellent performance, no less than what was required. There are the first signs of some momentum building but what is important now is that they continue to add to it. The dream of the title, however vague, remains alive.
Arsenal 4 Watford 0
Sanchez (4), Iwobi (38), Bellerin (48), Walcott (90)