So, barely seconds after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had put Arsenal two goals up, Watford were awarded a penalty. Up stepped Troy Deeney, the man who had so much to say about us and our character after the 2-1 defeat at Vicarage Road earlier in the season.
He had come on and won a header and scored a penalty which made him feel like he could go on television afterwards and slag off the club in a way which footballers very rarely do. Whether there was truth to what he was saying was irrelevant really. As fans we’re more than aware of our own foibles and failings, and while some were quick to side with him for social media juice, most took exception to what he said.
We can say that, you cannot. That’s just how it works. Everyone knows it, and when you’re a player who shoots his mouth off like that there’s a danger it will come back to bite you in the arse, and so it proved yesterday. And what a massive arse it is too.
This motormouth, this belly with legs, was facing a goalkeeper who had never saved a penalty since he joined the club. It’s not as if we’ve been parsimonious with them either, conceding lots of them and giving him plenty of chances to set the record straight, but until yesterday he hadn’t managed it.
Which made it all the sweeter when Deeney shot, Cech went to his right but stuck out a big hand to deflect it away, and the ball was cleared to safety. There was a louder cheer for that than any of the goals, because of everything that was behind it. Cech’s record, the context of the game, and Deeney as the pantomime villain who chose to say what he said earlier in the season and was reminded that sometimes it’s best to be gracious in victory.
Maybe in the enjoyment of seeing this corpulent blabbermouth fail to display his ‘cojones’, we’ve overlooked just how important that save was. Either side of half-time Watford were the better side, putting us under increasing pressure, and although we’d taken a two goal lead, being pegged back immediately would have made things a lot more nervous. And we don’t do well with our nerves really.
Shkodran Mustafi had given us the lead with a goal very similar to the one he scored in the North London derby. Mesut Ozil curled in a free kick from the right, his German compatriot rose highest to head home and it was one nil to the Arsenal. We probably should have scored more, with chances for Ozil and Aubameyang that weren’t taken, but the visitors were threatening at times too.
It was more or less against the run of play when Henrikh Mkhitaryan drove through midfield to set up Aubameyang to round the keeper and score, but perhaps it illustrated that our attacking options are such that we’re capable of creating that kind of danger even when our backs are to the wall a bit. That’s a positive.
The penalty save deflated everything about Watford bar Deeney’s enormous arse and ego, and the Watford captain showed just what kind of a guy he is with a snide foul on Granit Xhaka late on that went unpunished. In the meantime, Arsenal should had had a penalty but Martin Atkinson somehow let the challenge on Mkhitaryan go without awarding the most obvious spot-kick you’ll see all season.
The Armenian’s reaction was to keep plugging away and he made the game safe with the third goal, set up by his former Borussia Dortmund mate – leaving them each with a goal and an assist to their name. The only slight complaint you might have about the day is the fact that our final change saw Jack Wilshere come on rather than someone like Reiss Nelson, who really could have benefitted from the minutes far more.
Apparently he threw his bib away in reaction to Wilshere coming on, and although he is one of the most highly rated young players at the club, we are yet to convince him his future lies with us. Even just a few minutes in a game that’s won will help in that regard, especially as it would have been more or less a like for like substitution, so to be overlooked for a player like Wilshere – who is probably going to leave this summer – doesn’t exactly send him the right message.
Still, in the context of the day, it’s a minor issue, and the most important thing is that we won. Not because it makes any real difference to where we are in the table, but because keeping some momentum going ahead of Thursday’s game with AC Milan is good. I know there were lots of changes to the team but I think we underestimate the importance of winning games consecutively, and there’s still work to do against the Italians.
Afterwards, Arsene Wenger said:
It was difficult, but overall, it gets us a little bit out of that negative spiral that we were in. We need some more games. We had a nightmare week, so overall we still have some work to do. But we are on a good way.
I’m not sure our nightmare has been just a week, and it’s too early to say if we’ve turned a corner. In any case, we’re more than capable of turning a corner then plunging straight down an open manhole, but it’s much better to be facing Milan off the back of a victory rather than another disappointing result which requires us to refocus and deal with the fallout that accompanies every bad game these days.
Also, a word for Petr Cech who finally got his 200th clean sheet. He’s been waiting a long time for it, with the manager even admitting it had weighed him down a bit, but it’s a fine achievement and to do it with a long overdue penalty save against someone like Deeney makes it just that little bit sweeter.
Finally, Ivan Gazidis and Raul Sanllehi met with fans yesterday at the Fans Forum, and there were some very interesting bits to come out of it – particularly in relation to the new man’s experience with managerial change. Read the report here.
James and I will be here later this morning with an Arsecast Extra for you. If you have any questions or topics you’d like us to discuss, send to @gunnerblog and @arseblog on Twitter with the hashtag #arsecastextra – we’ll have that up for you before lunchtime.
Until then, have a good one.