Arsenal’s weekend was as perfect as the goal they conceded


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Watford 2 : 3 Arsenal

Arsenal overcame their Hertfordshire hosts more comfortably than the scoreline suggests.

Although Watford had the ball in the net first, from the moment Arsenal opened the scoring the strangely red-shorted Gunners looked a class above Watford in every department.

The Hornets had scored within seconds of kick-off but the linesman’s flag prevented it from counting. Bukayo Saka was the creator when three minutes later, the ball was in the net at the other end and this time it did count.

He found Martin Ødegaard well but there was no defender anywhere near the Norwegian who was inside the box when he collected. It was good passing and a splendid finish, but sadly relegation quality defending.

A good goal but the highlight of the match came just four minutes later. It was a goal worthy of a better team than Watford. Cucho Hernandez produced the Raleigh of bicycle kicks, demonstrating absolutely perfect balance and execution.

There was nothing the Gunners could do about it and although he was in the same position as Odegaard, there was no fault attached to the defenders. It was a fantastic goal and a fantastic start to the match.

The following eleven minutes of momentary parity however were Watford’s high point of the afternoon. Imran Louza and Emmanuel Dennis looked EPL quality players, which hadn’t always been the case for Watford personnel this season.

Louza fired too close to the Gunners keeper Aaron Ramsdale who collected easily and Dennis waltzed into the Gunners box and the keeper saved, but this time not with total conviction and it took a well-placed defender to clear.

The home crowd were buzzing. Reality was about to descend, however.

Thomas Partey sent an effort wide as the Gunners moved up a gear. A goal was inevitable. Saka dispossessed a dithering defender before finding Alexandre Lacazette who returned the favour, then watched as the former delivered a cool finish to restore the lead.

Seven minutes after half time, the visitors sewed the game up.

This was a beautiful passing goal and there was a no more deserving scorer than the Brazilian playmaker Gabriel Martinelli. His finish was good but no more than the entire team move deserved. Lacazette’s layoff to him was as  gentle as it was perfect.

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Watford had chances but were repeatedly unable to make Ramsdale work. Tom Cleverley did, but Hassane Kamara and Dennis twice should have done better with chances created.

Arsenal’s finishing was woeful with Ben White, Nicolas Pepe and Lacazette all missing while substitute Eddie Nketiah at least hit the post.

The Hornets scored a second when a combination of individual brilliance and perseverance from Moussa Sissoko enabled him to finally poke the ball home. This did no more than put a better sheen on a game where Watford, though better than usual, were very much second best.

They failed to make up any ground on Burnley, Leeds and Everton. Arsenal keep up the pressure on the top four but the performance might please Arteta as much as the points.

What might satisfy him most is that Wolverhampton Wanderers, Manchester United and West Ham all lost and suddenly a place in the Premier League top four looks more likely than not.

In some ways, their weekend was as perfect as the goal they conceded.

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