Call it a renaissance. Arsene Wenger’s zombies clambered on at the weekend, courtesy of a 3-0 win against Javi Gracia’s Watford.
Despite the three goal-margin, it was by no means a rollover. Arsenal had to fight in a testing victory at the Emirates Stadium, with strikes arriving from Shkodran Mustafi, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan giving rise to a scoreline that slightly flattered the hosts.
After flatlining under Marco Silva, Watford’s Spanish coach has done much to stabilise things in Hertfordshire. His players, however, couldn’t take their chances against a team riding high after a 2-0 victory against AC Milan at the San Siro on Thursday.
In a game that probably meant nothing, here are five things we learned.
1 200 Cech’ed off the list
At one point, it looked like Petr Cech would be stuck on 199 Premier League clean sheets forever. Finally, after a disastrous run of form that had seen him make two mistakes in his last game against Brighton, he got it.
It was fully deserved, too, with the Czech goalkeeper saving brilliantly from Troy Deeney’s penalty to help him on his way to the milestone. It was the first penalty saved by the Arsenal goalkeeper since his arrival from Chelsea three years ago.
Cech, who was described as ‘absolutely remarkable’ by his manager after the game, really needed this confidence boost. He was tremendous throughout, making a number of acrobatic saves as Watford threatened.
2 Watford Wandering
Javi Gracia looks like Mat Horne. That’s the most insightful observation one could make about this Watford side, who were committed but uninspired against Arsenal’s red wave.
It’s a shame, too, because the Hornets had arrived in Islington on the back of some decent form, having lost just two of their last six games.
Nestled in tenth place and comfortably away from the relegation dogfight, however, their fans won’t care. Another season of Premier League football awaits.
3 Dorty Duo
When the signings of Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were confirmed in January, some were hesitant. Sure, they had been unstoppable at Dortmund but that was two years ago. But there was no guarantee that their rabid rapport could continue in North London.
On Sunday, though, Arsenal fans glimpsed the possibilities of their rekindled relationship. After the Armenian had slid in his teammate for the second goal, the favour was returned via a cute square ball that gave him his own goal.
These two, it feels, could be the key to an Arsenal resurgence. If they keep playing like they did on Sunday, then Arsenal have the building blocks of a decent attack going forward.
4 Deeney Disaster
In the aftermath of Arsenal’s defeat to Vicarage Road last Autumn, Troy Deeney made headlines with the assertion that Wenger’s side lacked ‘cojones’.
The comments might have been fair but they were deemed disrespectful in the Arsenal dressing room. Whether those comments gave the home side extra motivation is unclear but there may have been a few wry smiles at the nature of Deeney’s performance on Sunday.
The Hornets striker was dreadful throughout, looking leaden against a motivated backline and wasting a penalty. 'Cojones', perhaps, are needed to score against Arsenal. On Sunday, though, Deeney gave no indications that he had any.
5 Empty Praise
Arsenal’s performance against Watford was both brilliant and comprehensive. It’s a shame, then, that barely anybody was there to see it.
The Emirates crowd largely stayed away from Holloway Road on Sunday, in a move that is widely assumed to demonstrate their apathy towards the current regime.
The pressure against Arsene Wenger might have died down after two consecutive wins, but he still faces the fight of his life if he wants to convince a fan base that has largely turned its back on him.
The official figures might have claimed 59,131 supporters, but the empty seats speak for themselves.
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