Out of Nowhere
Arsenal vs Watford was the exact opposite of what we have come to expect from Arsenal in 2018. The Milan game was a surprise, as many hadn’t predicted Arsenal to win, certainly not by two goals to a clean sheet, at the San Siro. But the rot had to stop eventually, and it wasn’t unlike Arsenal to actually turn up when the pressure was high.
Many may have expected Arsenal to slip back up against Watford. After a midweek resurgence, it would have been textbook Arsenal to undo their good work at home to weaker opposition.
Maybe it was the Troy Deeney comments from earlier this season, perhaps it was the usage of Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang together, but whatever it was, Arsenal need to grab hold of it and not let it go for the rest of the year.
What’s interesting about how Arsenal played on Sunday is the conversion of chances into goals. Both sides had 11 shots throughout the game, Arsenal hitting the target with 7 compared to Watford’s 4.
It is never a guarantee when Arsenal are involved that shots on target equals goals, as we found out against Man Utd earlier in the season, when we unleashed 16 shots on target against David De Gea, 4 times as many as United. Despite that, we managed to lose that one 3-1.
It is excusable, therefore, to not expect wins to be handed to Arsenal, even when dominating the shot count. What Arsenal did against Watford, and also Milan, was create clear cut, gilt-edged chances.
Tellingly, in the last two games, Arsenal have scored two goals by rounding the keeper. To knock a ball into an empty net is the ultimate display of domination from one team to another, and Arsenal have found the way to do so in both of their last two performances.
What may have made Arsenal stand out against Watford in comparison to the dross they delivered against Brighton, is that they made 21 tackles against the Hornets, twice as many as the opposition. Against Brighton, they managed only 10 tackles, pitiful in comparison to Brighton’s 23.
That essentially sums up the difference in mentality. Possession, passing success and total shots were all higher against Brighton, but the passion and desire required to make twice as many tackles as your opponents is what makes teams win games of football.
Granted, the quality shone through too, as exemplified by Ozil’s assist to Ramsey and Mkhitaryan’s assist to Aubameyang, who complemented it with an inch perfect run and front flip.
On to the Next One
The point is, Arsenal put in the effort against Watford and Milan, which is why clean sheets were kept. We also did well to put our chances away, which has been lacking this season, but the defensive effort in keeping out the opposition is what wins games.
Arsenal have the acid test against Milan on Thursday as we hope to win our first home knockout game in Europe since the vain dismantling of, you guessed it, Milan in 2012. But if we keep up performances and effort levels from the last two games, then we could reach our first European quarter final in 8 years.