Sometimes in football you need a big dollop of luck to see you through, and a second helping never goes amiss.
For the most part Arsenal have had to get by without good fortune this season – especially on the road, relying instead on their own skill to get them through games when the going has been tough.
Others (cough, cough Liverpool) have had a seemingly endless stream of rainbow-spewing leprechauns propping up their season, leaving Unai Emery’s side to look on enviously from the shade.
It was more than a little satisfying, therefore, to enjoy a few slices of the good stuff ourselves on Monday night as we bagged an extremely valuable three points at Watford courtesy of a few stand out moments of, well, luck.
The first came in the shape of Ben Foster’s leisurely clearance when Pierre Emerick-Auabemyang closed in on him like a rocket from five yards. Goalkeeping errors are rare for the most part so for the combination of Foster’s indolence and favourable bounce to combine for the opening goal was a perfect pick-me-up for a nervous Arsenal team.
The stars aligned still further shortly after when Troy Deeney – still desperate to prove his own testicular fortitude – forearm smashed Lucas Torriera in the face with the ball a good 10 yards away.
It was stupid in the extreme from someone as experienced as Deeney but borne out of the child-like desire he has to prove himself every time he plays Arsenal. He wanted to rattle someone in an green shirt to make his mark but ended up committing the most needles and bizarre foul possible.
The red card that resulted was extremely satisfying and handed Arsenal all the initiative they needed.
Given our track record away from home, it was as close to a ‘gimme’ as the Gunners were ever likely to get. Emery would not have counted on the home side imploding when he set his side up for the match, but implode they did.
All the visitors needed to do was stay patient and allow the opportunities to arrive but, in truth, they made heavy weather of things.
They were ponderous at times and a little gun shy at others, reluctant to over commit in attack and picking the wrong options when finding themselves in good positions.
Aubameyang had two or three decent chances to take the pressure off the Gunners but could not apply the finish, which served only to spread nervousness across the back line.
In fairness to them, Arsenal’s defence coped relatively well under the high ball, I suspect because a lot of work had been done on the training ground leading up to the game, but they were under pressure for large portions of the match and that simply should not have been the case.
The midfield struggled to really get a grip on the game. They had plenty of possession but tended to be wasteful and negative, choosing to play safe or down blind alleys, thereby making it easy for the host’s 10 men.
Henrikh Mhikitaryan was industrious on the wings but wasn’t as clinical in attack as he might have liked (two good chances spurned), while his reluctance to defend consistently caused us problems in the wide areas.
Alex Iwobi was equally as industrious but just as stolid in the final third, meaning two of Arsenal’s attacking prongs were blunted and a pretty predictable at times.
By the end, the final whistle came as more of a relief than a reason to celebrate, but the points were safe at least. The Gunners needed to find at least two wins on the road from their final five away matches and victory at Watford was one chalked off.
However, success was more a question of good fortune than good play and questions will remain over Arsenal’s incomprehensible constipation when playing away from home.
Most of them appear to be completely different players when in spearmint green rather than red. It’s a mind-boggling quirk that both Arsene Wenger and Emery have grappled with an, as yet, have been unable to find an answer to.
For now, however, Arsenal can content themselves on a sweet slice of luck that propels them back into the top four and into the Champions League driving seat. There’s still lots more work to be done before they are home and hosed, but getting an away win and a clean sheet on the board were vital and they managed it in the end.