Arsenal Versus Watford: Back To Reality


As all the excitement and furore of the cup draw fades into yesterdays chip paper and the giddy delight of our unexpected routing of the Saints dissipates, so normal service is resumed this evening. Arsenal in the Premier League, at home, expected to win.

The fear of a come down after a big cup victory may be founded in superstition or there could be some statistical evidence to support it. Did we lose after Ludogorets? After Slavia Prague? I can’t recall and it really doesn’t apply here anyway, given the number of expected changes it might as well be two different teams under discussion.

The ease and style with which we demolished Southampton might put a small pressure on the first teamers who will line up tonight, maybe somewhere in the back of their minds they’ll want to show that they too can turn on the style. I doubt it though. These are the kind of projections that amateur writers like me invent for players having no idea what they think on any subject. It is far more likely that being the professionals they are and given the squad based nature of modern football they do not draw the lines as clearly between first and second string.

Take, as an illustration, the form of our Gallic heartthrob. A lot of people like to pretend they know, for a fact, that Giroud responded to the pressure of an in form and free scoring Alexis and that made him play better. Competition for places is the popular mantra. I can far more readily believe that the careful management by Arsène Wenger to ensure his talismanic centre forward was fully rested after a long summer of competitive sport saw him return refreshed, reinvigorated, and simply more able to produce his best.

All this, of course, is simply speculation. None of us know a thing about what goes on in the minds of the players. Not a thing. Their press comments are pure PR and other than that we have nothing to go on. It’s why I get so riled when people tell me that players didn’t think they had to try, or assumed they could just turn up, or didn’t want it badly enough. It seems to me there are games where they’ve given their all and lost or drawn in the end and they’ve been written off in the above terms. On another day precisely the same effort and approach brings a late, late winner and they’re praised for their determination. Two identical performances but people judge only on results and make up the reasons.

So don’t tell me they’ll have a point to prove to our second string nor that Watford will be a push over. None of us can see into another man’s heart, none know his innermost thoughts so it’s best to let these blokes get out there and hoof the ball about a bit and just cheer them on.

I see some speculation that Danny Welbeck will start again tonight. This would be a huge shock. Arsène has the kind of squad he’s always wanted and has no need to risk players returning from long injuries. He has shown nothing but patience as the recently recovered feel their way back to fitness and sharpness, and I would be amazed if Welbeck’s ‘huge offensive potential’ is on display this evening.

Of those who started on Sunday there are a couple you’d expect to see again tonight and three others who made a strong case for inclusion, namely Theo, Lucas and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. It is ridiculous to try to rank one above the other, I’m aware of this, but it won’t stop me joining in the fun. Many people want to ignore Theo’s contribution and pretend he did nothing beyond the three touches which put the ball into the net. Likewise they want to elevate Alex’s performance in a more central role into a revelatory experience.

We all have our favourites and we all get excited by specific aspects of someone’s game, it’s human nature and there’s nothing wrong with that. My pick of the three is Lucas Perez. Pure prejudice on my part and in no way do I denigrate the others. I like the intelligence with which he plays the game and I particularly like players who bring out the best in those around them. It’s a gift Giroud has, Mesut has, and it’s one the greatest of them all had in a frightening abundance.

I could watch Lucas’ sublime pass to Danny Welbeck for his opening goal a thousand times and not tire of it. Players who make me gasp and smile are the ones I prize most of all. It’s why I like Aaron and Alex Iwobi, it’s why I loved Tomáš, and it’s why we all revere Dennis Bergkamp. Lucas Perez has the potential to enter such hallowed company. Will Arsène find space for him tonight? Somehow I still doubt it. I can’t see beyond Alexis, Giroud and Theo up front. Similarly it seems unlikely that the Aaron / Coquelin axis will be disrupted, no matter how good The Ox looked at the weekend. But then what do I know?

Make sure you get the dog walked early tonight as kick off is at 7:45. I’ve been down and pre-recorded my radio show so I’ll be here to share the excitement. If you’re at the match I trust you’ll be in good voice, if not I hope you find a good quality stream without the pain of the English commentary. That’s all from me, I’m off to check on my compost bin.

About steww

bass guitar, making mistakes, buggering on regardless.

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127 comments on “Arsenal Versus Watford: Back To Reality

  1. I now see all those that so often are critical of subs not being made till the 70th minute are now blasting wenger for bringing on lucas too soon. Only reason they are not complaining about theo on for second half is that boo boy giroud was the one to come off.


  2. Rich, can only agree with every word. Just seen it again on MOTD, we were certainly the authors of our misfortune in the first half, not setting up a wall for that free kick defies any explanation……and not covering the left flank.
    But, when you see fouls on ozil, identical to the Xhaka fouls , nothing given.
    I think many of us suspect what is coming from Atkinson…..if needed, this weekend. but we shall see and judge after the event….let’s see if Untolds ref preview is as predictive as usual.
    But like you Rich, I am at ease, I want Wenger to sign on, I believe there is a deal in place should he want…..but if he doesn’t, I hope we get the most cynical streetwise bastard in football as his replacement. Not because I believe in or like to see in that sort of thing, but because after many years managed by a purist, a romantic who wants to play the game as he loves it, yet faces the forces of unlimited money, corruption, media agenda, bullying, agent whoring , referee selection….karma deserves us no less. Koeman it is then!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Rich I understand exactly where you are coming from on the ref thing, I almost walked away after the Everton game,
    I am convinced and have been for some time, that Arsenal need to be a lot better than the other top sides, if we are to win the title, simply cos the negative effect the PGMOB have on us is worth a large chunk of points.

    But on nights like tonight, I too can admit that the biggest impact on the game was our starting 11, the attitude stunk the place out, how many more fucking times are we going to see this sort of apathy from them in the first half of a game, especially against teams that would be described as being of the lesser kind, there seems to be an attitude from them that they think its going to be easy, we just won 5-0 away at southampton, this is only watford, then once we get hit for the opening goal, its panic stations, not a calm head to be seen, and suddenly its 2-0, and we just about stumble to half time. low and behold, its as if we are a different team, the attitude is right, the tempo is right, the fight is there.
    yes the ref was one eyed, but that first half performance was a disgrace from our players, until the reasons for it are remedied then refs will have to do little to derail us.


  4. the defending on the second goal was hopeless


  5. anicoll, it honestly fascinates me how you can still be a supporter of Wenger yet think the refs are normal.

    It’s the difference for me between thinking ‘you’re a hero to me, but it’s probably time to go’ and ‘you’re a hero, best man for the job, and I’ll keep hoping you can find the way to overcome this hideous obstacle and get us another title which would mean the world to me’

    Don’t want to create animosity over it, as I think you’re a good bloke, and don’t even, in a way, really want you to agree with me, but still…it’s hard for me to understand how we can see it so differently.

    As a reference point, my biggest moment of doubt/ anger etc of Wenger era was Anderlecht away. We won somehow but I thought the performance was horrific, and the ref had jack shit to do with it.

    I feel our squad now is far superior to then. Good enough that with normal refereeing we would be…I don’t even know where, I can’t imagine normal refereeing for us, but we’d be better off, so much better off.

    Worse Utd squads have won the league, and it was not about character or talent or managerial genius (unless playing the game with maximum ruthlessness, complete hypocrisy and zero principles counts as genius)


  6. That was bad, so so bad in the first half.
    Second half was much braver. But Watford dug in.
    Rain helped them, not us.


  7. Matt Macey has gone on loan to Luton for rest of the season


  8. Wenger alluded to the bad attitude of the team in the first half, that the players played like they thought they only had to turn up and it would be an easy game. Its unacceptable.


  9. Also, Arsenal are typically shite on a rainy night.


  10. I have played over that defending in the first half……I just don’t get it..that lack of a wall was bizarre….. Bournemouth match was similar, with different mistakes, have seen the same against Swansea, Watford last year, Southampton and others…is it training, organisation or what….can anyone help a troubled soul?


  11. Team news: Updates on Ramsey and the Ox

    Arsène Wenger has provided updates on Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after the two midfielders suffered knocks in the defeat to Watford.

    The Wales international made way midway through the first half, to be replaced by the Ox who himself was limping during the second half.

    The boss revealed the latest to the media, saying:

    on Aaron Ramsey…
    It’s a calf strain. I don’t know how long he will be out for, but it’s a calf strain.

    on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain limping…
    He got a kick on his knee, yes.

    on whether Oxlade-Chamberlain is a doubt for the Chelsea game…
    No, I don’t think so. I think he should be alright.
    Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to http://www.arsenal.com as the source

    Read more at http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20170131/team-news-updates-on-ramsey-and-oxlade-chamberlain#4h4mV7fWlHgrGIE5.99


  12. Mandy, Wenger seemed to put it down to a poor attitude, the players were not in right frame of mind, not focused. For me that is the worst thing about it, and that its not the first time we have seen it. 10 of them rested at the weekend, so they could put it all in tonight, but they just came out lacking in so many ways in that first half. just not good enough from them at all.

    the worrying thing is that we have seen the teams confidence is fragile, and now that w have lost, our next game is a worry.


  13. Mandy, Eduardo

    I’m a slowish thinker/ typer so only just seen your comments. I know you’re both good judges of football so am glad to see you’re with me on whatever the hell I wrote last (but one).

    (Mandy, I wish Jambug was still around on Untold, where for whatever reason I’m engaged less and less, as he was a real favourite of mine there!)

    That’s my rough impression from twitter and here having not seen it : pgmol shite but a very disappointing display from us.

    It’s probably easier for me to be sympathetic to players from here- not seeing it- because I cannot imagine exactly what it is like to lose out on nearly every call on a particularly off night. However, when i watch, I’m a ridiculously harsh judge who is constantly trying to tell myself to be less harsh.

    My view is that only a bloody good childhood, adolescence and early adulthood saved me from being the worst kind of WOB!

    I feel every missed pass or small mistake so intensely and am hit hard by any setback, but I think those strong foundations help me have a good enough (hopefully and just about) perspective on football events.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Ed, If Wenger is saying it is an attitude problem, he should threaten said players with the team who played at Southampton. Limited opposition, but some hungry performances in that game. But of attitude is an issue in this game, that is a real problem.
    But attitude aside, we seem to have a problem starting games.


  15. for my tuppence worth, the reason we see in Wenger’s words, the players “not mentally ready”, is down to the hierarchy of selection, Wenger will unlikely drop players when they do this, they changes we see v Chelsea are likely ones we would have seen if we had won tonight, and other than changes for injuries, I don’t think we will be surprised by the team selection. Bellerin is likely to be back in as a starter, ox will now likely replace the injurer Ramsey, that is if ox is fit.
    Wenger like most managers, has what he sees as his best 11, and normally plays them when fit, So some of them not being mentally ready for watford, will not cost them their place in the side for cfc game.


  16. Anyway, just to illustrate the WOB I have to fight in me, can we dispense with those profusely happy training photos until we’ve got ourselves a motherfucking title again.

    Maybe you can still have optimum focus while finding time for plenty of laughter and joy but I’d prefer them to look like people for whom there is no professional joy until something big is won and who are always brim full of a smile-retardant awareness of all the challenges and pitfalls of the premier league.

    Stupid, I know, but I’d prefer they humoured me on that foolishness


  17. anyone who thinks refs do not treat Arsenal players differently watch the foul by rodwell v spurs, and watch xhaka’s sending off v swansea.

    also Monreal got booked for diving tonight, when he got an arm across his face, I’ve seen many penalties given for far less this season, even against arsenal alone.


  18. Rich that aint going to happen, even relegating fighting teams will show their players smiling and joking in training. The idea of sackcloth and ashes is not something the modern top flight pro would ever consider.


  19. Seems that Vardy not getting the same penalties this season

    Liked by 1 person

  20. the odd thing about Wenger’s hierarchy of selection is that he sticks with players over and over, and tries to play them into form, and as I said he will let them away with this poor attitude, right up till something seems to snap in him and the player is not just dropped, he is dumped, often never to be seen again.
    I expect most of us on here have a lot of last gameitis in us, after the 5-0 at the weekend, most of us would have selected at least a couple of the star performers from that game, maybe ox, theo, danny if fit, lucas, but we probably all expected Wenger to stick with Ramsey, iwobi, giroud, and i would say that the only surprise in the selection for most of us tonight was gabriel in and not bellerin. and we probably all think that its just a match fitness thing, and bellerin will be back v cfc, well that is if he is not carrying an injury.


  21. vardy’s penalties have gone to Chelsea and spurs this season.


  22. ‘You have to be 100 per cent every time’

    Arsène Wenger was understandably frustrated after we slipped to a 2-1 defeat to Watford at Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night.

    Afterwards he faced the media, and was asked about missing the opportunity to make up ground on leaders Chelsea.

    This is what he had to say:

    on other teams dropping points…
    I’m responsible for the results of the team. I’m frustrated that we did not win. What the other teams do doesn’t matter. What you want is to win the games and I’m very frustrated that we did not win the game, of course. We played at home, we had a great opportunity and we have a start like we did. Of course it’s frustrating and the players will have to learn from that and respond very well and very quickly in a very convincing way.

    on also starting badly against Bournemouth…
    But in the Bournemouth game we played 48 hours before. That was not the case this time.

    on whether his frustration is amplified as a result of his touchline ban…
    I don’t know. It’s very difficult to know. It would be an easy excuse. I think, honestly, we prepared well, we warned that Watford would come and make it very physical and I have no basic regret, looking at the preparation, in the way that we prepared for the game. And did we think subconsciously that we will turn up and it will work? I don’t know. But from the stands I agree with you that our first half was not at the level that we wanted.

    on whether Chelsea’s power will cause us a problem…
    No, I don’t think we have a physical power problem. I think we were not mentally ready to deal with the duels that we usually do. You don’t make 47 points in the Premier League after 23 games if you have no physical power. But you have to switch it on at 100 per cent every time in the Premier League, that’s what it is about.

    on whether we have to beat Chelsea to have a chance of catching them…
    We want to respond and win the game of course. First, we have to analyse why we didn’t start well. There are some situations in our team which were not completely clear at the start of the game, and we have to analyse that well.

    Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to http://www.arsenal.com as the source

    Read more at http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20170131/-you-have-to-be-100-per-cent-every-time-#2mxfHTP2BOjLtVOS.99


  23. ‘We just didn’t start the way we wanted’

    Arsène Wenger felt his side were unlucky to be beaten by Watford on Tuesday night after a poor first-half showing at Emirates Stadium.

    He faced the media after the game, and this is what he had to say:

    on not being able to get going in the first half…
    It was not good in the first half, especially in the first 20 minutes. We were beaten in the duels, they were sharper than us and on top of that we were a bit unlucky because I felt we were unlucky to concede a free-kick and then it was deflected too. After that we responded. We didn’t start the way we wanted, in the second half it was all us, and we were unlucky to lose the game as well. We did not deserve to lose this game.

    on whether Arsenal did enough to score in the last 20 minutes…
    In that period we lost a bit of patience in our build up and exaggerated the individual game a little bit. Every time we were passing the ball quickly, we created dangerous situations. I felt we, as individuals, felt like we wanted to be the saviour a little bit too much. On top of that, they gained time intelligently. It’s the usual thing that you see when a team tries to protect a result, they interrupt the flow of the game.

    on Gabriel’s performance at right back…
    We knew that we had to be strong in the air with their direct challenges. Hector Bellerin has just come back from injury and is not completely, in my opinion, recovered. We knew that their main danger was from set-pieces and every time Gabriel has played recently, he has done extremely well in this position. I don’t think he was at fault for any of the goals. You have to look somewhere else.

    on whether Watford could have scored more goals in the first half…
    I didn’t see the other two chances they could have scored. You must have seen that better than me, so you can explain it to me.

    on Petr Cech saving two efforts…
    He cannot let every shot in! We hit the bar and they made fantastic saves thanks to Gomes as well. If you look at the chances, we are unlucky to lose the game.

    on leaving Theo out after scoring a hat-trick at Southampton…
    He played in the second half. If you look well at his history, he has not played for five and a half weeks. He was stiff still yesterday. I kept him out of training yesterday. We have three games this week. We know well, do not think we are completely stupid in the way we make decisions. I think it was a good, normal decision.

    Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to http://www.arsenal.com as the source

    Read more at http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20170131/-we-just-didn-t-start-the-way-we-wanted-#GY8AkQ5aoyUduDvp.99


  24. that game tonight was a carbon copy of our defeat to watford in the fa cup last season, team not “mentally prepared” at the start, went 2 down, put in a real shift in second half, pulled one back, but not enough.


  25. Arsenal players out on loan

    Moore Bielik Chambers Bola
    Wilshere Toral
    Campbell Crowley Mavadidi
    subs Macey, Pleguezuelo, OConnor, Bennacer, Zelalem, Hinds, Asano


  26. New post up


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