Having won as a combination of 7-0 last year, the match at Watford was expected to be easy. The first half was the level of fluidity and clinical-ness that the fans expect from the team day in day out. The likes of Alexis Sanchez picking up a goal and two assists, and him linking up with Ozil on multiple occasions was beautiful to watch. This is exactly the type of performance we want Arsenal performing at.
However, after the start of the second half, the likes of Granit Xhaka on a few occasions seemed to still be adjusting to the how the rest of the team moves, while Rob Holding still showed raw moments, which can be expected from a 20 year old. Especially after allowing Pereyra a conciliation goal, the team really seemed to lose a lot of control to Watford. Most notably, Nacho seemed to have a rough day. Him and Bellerin could be argued as the best left and right backs in the league for the last year and a half, respectively. On numerous occasions however, Monreal was exposed on the left flank, until he was replaced by Kieran Gibbs.
At the end of the day tho, as Theo put it, our team had a bit of everything today. But then again, it was against Watford, a team we beat 3-0 and 4-0 last season. Despite the electric performance in the first half, and while I certainly do not expect our team to score on every move forward and not conceal a single goal, when you are up 3-0 in the first half, assuming you are tactically sound and on top of your game, you ideally want to put more goals in the back of the net. Especially at the first month of the season, this can really give everyone a taste of scoring a goal, which can make a difference on chances that truly count, which can fall on anyone at any time during the course of the season.
Getting a clean sheet for Petr Cech would have been great too. We have a massive goalkeeper talent pool right now with Cech and Ospina, but we really haven’t been able to keep the goals out. Against Liverpool, things were ugly. Against Leicester, Cech was at his best. Against Watford, this should have been a clean sheet. The single goal allowed was more a lack of concentration on our side and shooting ourselves in the foot than the other team having the talent to score. In these cases, are when I think that this team really needs mature defenders on all defensive fronts. Bellerin has a lot of experience under his belt despite his age, but Rob Holding still needs much more experience through substitution appearances or experiences via the Cup.
I think Rob Holding is definitely coming along well however, despite all my criticism of him. I definitely think he is molding into Koscielny’s successor (hopefully this does not jinx him) and he seems to be on the same level, if not has surpassed, Chambers. England NT definitely has something to look forward to in the back since the Terry/Ferdinand pair, in Holding and Stones (I really hope it is Holding and Chambers). Regardless though, a signing like Mustafi can only bring you good both in terms of the team’s performance and providing the competitiveness and experiences that raw talents like Holding and Chambers needs. Statistics show Mustafi outperforming Eric Bailly in La Liga, and while not every talent will transfer over well to a different league, just look at how much of a rock Bailly has become in Manchester United. Hence, the imminent arrival of Mustafi is something I think we can definitely be excited about after the international break.
Speaking of other teams, I think the first three games of the season prove that last season was definitely a fluke, with big teams choking. Another Leicester story probably will not happen, as Man City, Chelsea, and Man Utd are off to a great start with three wins out of three. Despite playing great against us on opening day, Liverpool is below us, which makes you question how bad of a start we were off to.
We don’t have a game until September, when we face Southampton at home. By then, Mustafi and Lucas Perez (and maybe a James Rodrigues…?) will definitely make the team look better than what it is right now, so that is definitely something to look forward to.
A first win of the season finally, and hopefully many more like this throughout. Five points behind already, but technically we can still turn things in our favor as we still have two matches left against all three.