Welcome back. It’s Bayern Munich on Tuesday night of course but we’ve got tomorrow to talk about the clash with the German champions so for today, I’m choosing to look back on what was our fourth win from five away Premier League games so far this season at Watford yesterday.
A few of the players have been speaking about the hard-fought, but ultimately convincing, victory at Vicarage Road. First up is Santi Cazorla, who ran the show with typically awe-inspiring close control, speed of thought and precision passing from the middle of the park. The diminutive Spaniard said:
It was a difficult game and a very good win for us. We are second in the league and we need to keep the play at the same level. They played the long ball and they have very good and strong players in front of them, but we came together and it is very important for us to beat these teams and we are very proud of the team.
Santi also described how the game against Watford varied from the 3-0 win over Manchester United before the international break, the importance of scoring first and Arsenal’s title challenge:
It is a very different game. We played against Manchester United last time and it is a different game. They have very good players but today it was physical and with the team it is the most important thing to play well. We need to keep this level for the future. We need to improve the game. It is important to make the first goal but we need more goals and this is the most important thing for the team. We have very good players like Alexis and Mesut which is good. We will try to win the league. Game by game it is important for us. We have a vital game against Bayern Munich and after that we have a big game against Everton.
What a player Santi is. The twists and turns, those ambidextrous, dancing feet, his scuttling slaloms, and far more physically imposing opponents bouncing off him with regularity, simply have to be seen to be believed.
I’m not sure the former Malaga man gets the recognition he deserves and his partnership with Francis Coquelin is a little like Cesc Fabregas and Mathieu Flamini’s in the 2007-2008 season, only way, way better. Both individually and collectively, our current pair are a cut above.
Meanwhile, Petr Cech also discussed the win and pointed out Arsenal must perform at their best regardless of the perceived calibre of opposition, saying:
It is always difficult going away for the internationals and you come back home and everyone comes back at different times. You have only one day to prepare and you play away from home against a good team that was very solid at home in their previous games. We knew it was going to be a difficult game. We needed to be patient to score the first goal. We had a really big game against Manchester United last week before the internationals, so when you win those games [you have to] win another game. We treat everybody with the same respect so the three points are vital for us.
As the season wears on, Cech’s experience and quality is coming more and more to the fore, highlighting the benefits of having a truly top-class ‘keeper between the sticks. Countless times already this season, he’s held onto the ball and helped to take the sting out of periods of opposition pressure, when his predecessors in the Arsenal goal would have distributed too rashly.
A small example of why Cech’s a player who knows all about game management and as he screamed to our BFG, Per Mertesacker, his BFF, at the end of our Community Shield win over Chelsea, it’s all about the ‘small details’.
Finally for today, some words from our Cockney Catalan, Hector Bellerin, who was returning to the ground he called home in a brief loan spell a couple of seasons ago.
The 20-year-old was again a relentless runner, defending with maturity and attacking with the kind of conviction we haven’t seen from any of our right-backs since the Invincible Lauren. He capped his performance with a brilliantly composed assist for Aaron Ramsey’s goal and gave his take on the game when he spoke to Arsenal Player after the game:
It is important when the ball does not go in that you carry on playing your game. I think that Watford were very, very physical for the whole game and they were running out towards the end and we took profit from that. I was a right winger before so it is always nice when I have the space up front to go forward and hopefully I can help the team like that. We scored three late goals and it does not matter as long as you score them. They have very strong players up front and they are a handful especially players like Troy [Deeney] and I think we dealt with them and when we could play with the ball we did that. It is important we got a win here as it is a very difficult venue.
Time will tell obviously, but I think Bellerin may well be proved right in calling Vicarage Road a ‘difficult venue’ come the end of the campaign. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the other big sides struggle on a big, demanding surface against what are organised, direct hosts, making the manner of our victory yesterday, all the more impressive.
See you next week.