By Walter Broeckx
Some rotation as could be expected with this match sandwiched between the Europa League matches. No Sokratis as he is suspended but also a few players getting some rest. Maitland-Niles, Kolasinac, Özil and Lacazette among those who started on the beach. Xhaka returned after injury and the most notable starter is probably Mavropanos who comes in at centre back. It will be interesting to see if we put our money on the Europa League and go for a slightly lesser team in the PL?
Arsenal: Leno, Mustafi, Koscielny, Mavropanos, Monreal, Torreira, Xhaka, Mkhitaryan, Ramsey, Iwobi, Aubameyang.
On the beach: Cech, Maitland-Niles, Kolasinac, Elneny, Guendouzi, Ozil, Lacazette.
Leno in a bit of trouble after a ball was played to him and he took a bit too much time but he could kick out of play. Watford with some early pressure after a corner but the shot is well off target. Arsenal seem to overplay a cross and Watford play it back to their keeper. Aubameyang rushes towards the keeper at full speed and blocks the attempted clearance and the ball goes in the net. GOAL! 0-1 after 10 minutes.
Seconds later the ref pulls out a red card against Deeney for an elbow that was missed by the camera’s but not by the ref or his assistant. It was an elbow against Torreira seen by the assistant. Still 0-1 after 15 minutes. Too much cojones Troy?
Iwobi send away by Ramsey with a good low cross to Aubameyang but a defender deflects his goal bound shot. A free kick falls in front of a Watford striker who has a dangerous shot that is kept out by Leno and the post. Doucoure plants his studs against Torreira but the ref just gives the foul and no further card. Mavrapanos misses his interception and Gray escapes but Monreal can clear his cross. Watford apllying some pressure now as Arsenal have trouble in clearing the ball. Gray tries to block Leno twice at a corner without the ref doing anything. Arsenal can clear and counter but Foster saves the effort from Iwobi. The corner is cleared and a shot from Xhaka is half blocked so no problem for the Watford keeper. A dangerous attack from Arsenal but Ramsey cannot control the deflected cross and Watford can clear. Hughes dribbles himself and goes to ground and gets a free kick for Watford. Leno makes a great save. That would have gone in. Super save. Still 0-1 after 30 minutes.
Arsenal trying to keep the ball and make Watford run but we don’t really get forward that way. Arsenal overplaying it a bit in the Watford penalty area and not taking the shot. Not much movement up front so Ramsey goes for a shot from distance but not even near the target. Mustafi with a brave header after a Watford free kick. We really should score that second goal to get some breathing room. Arsenal playing too much with the handbrake on. Too much of an Italian job in mind? Ramsey with a good cross to Aubameyang who turns twice but Watford can block. Hughes tries to burry Ramsey but doesn’t get a card for that wild challenge from behind. Still 0-1 after 45 minutes.
Özil came on at the start of the second half in the place of Torreira. Arsenal keeping the ball for more than 3 minutes at the start before a Watford defender can touch it. Not that we created anything but as Johan Cruyff once said: when we have the ball, the other team can’t score. Iwobi with a low cross but Aubameyang just can’t touch it and the ball goes just wide. Capoue with a strong challenge on Mkhitaryan and he gets a yellow card. Arsenal playing at pedestrian speed most of the time. Iwobi then on a quick attack and his cross finds Mkhitaryan but somehow the keeper makes the block. Özil to Mkhitaryan but his shot is off target. When we up the tempo we get chances. After 58 minutes Guendouzi comes on for Mavropanos. That will mean a reshuffle at the back I think. Still 0-1 after 60 minutes.
Özil with a cross to Mkhitaryan but once again his shot not even near the target. A cracking shot from Masina goes over after having chrased the crossbar. FFS score that second goal Arsenal will you….. Gr&y is almost played in but he misses his control after some sloppy play from Arsenal in midfield. The second ball falling to Watford too many times for my liking. Ramsey with a cross to Özil who tries a curious shot but it is blocked. A low driven cross from Mkhitaryan finds nobody in the middle. After 67 minutes Maitland-Niles comes on for Ramsey. Aubamyeand caught offside a few times now. Mostly a sign that the balls don’t come quick enough. The ref lets a few fouls on Arsenal players go now. Iwobi almost away but he can’t fin Aubameyang. A low cross from Mkhitaryan finds Aubameyang but he misses from 3 meters out. Still 0-1 after 75 minutes.
Xhaka with a shot from distance but the keeper could stop it. Gray gets a chance out of nothing when Arsenal defend sloppy but Lucky Maitland-Niles is there to block the goal bound effort. We are playing with fire at times. The refs now also determined also to give every contact against Arsenal. Watford with a header but over. Hughes finally gets a yellow card when he kicks Monreal on the ankle. Aubameyang on a run in the Watford penalty area but he shoots wide. Guendouzi gets away but he can’t find Özil and Watford can clear. 3 minutes of added time.
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Watford with some late pressure but Monreal can clear twice. Koscielny intercepts a cross and Leno can catch. Aubameyang escapes but he was offside. The extra time is over now and the ref blows the end of the match.
Arsenal win a match where you could see us caught in two minds : go for the win completely but don’t waste too much energy. Arsenal is back in the top 4 now level with Chelsea but with a better goal difference and a match in hand.