THREE THINGS LEARNED FROM WATFORD VS ARSENAL
There were a few nervy moments as Arsenal surged to 3-2 win against Watford at Vicarage road. The Gunners end the weekend in the top four, with three games in hand on closest challengers, West Ham and Manchester United. The Hornets stay second from bottom, three points from safety having played three games more than Everton in 17th. This was a match full of beautiful finishes and great attacking play, but also defensive chaos from a bygone era. Here are my three key takeaways from the match:
Bukayo Saka- Full blown Premier league Star
When Mikel Arteta came to Arsenal, the hale-ender he could not leave out of the starting eleven was Bukayo Saka. When Freddie Ljungberg took charge of the Gunners for an ill-fated spell in late 2019, he could not ignore Bukayo Saka. Unai Emery gave the youngster his full debut. The prospect was played at left back, left wing, and even as a third midfielder. However, he has found his home as a silky dribbling right winger in this system. The seeds of this were planted last summer during the European championships. Gareth Southgate saw Saka as a vital instrument for an England side lacking in progression options. Arteta, it seems, thinks the same.
The youngster is beginning to show why so many coaches trust him. He is beginning to make a sustained impact in the opposition box. In today’s game he came away with a goal, an assist, as well as two key passes. When Saka runs at an opponent, he invariably beats them with precise dribbling, an innate appreciation of space and agile body feints that hint at a unique quality.
The West London born forward is on 13 premier league goal contributions so far this season and must be in with a shout for the PFA young player of the year award, if he continues this form. Arsenal will need to match the trajectory of their new fully blown premier league star, Bukayo Saka. A new contract in the summer beckons.
The first Watford goal from Cucho Hernandez was special. Something out of absolutely nothing, the sort of strike that can sometimes happen in a premier league game. However, Mikel Arteta and his coaching staff will not be happy to see that although his team outshot Watford by 16 to 13 shots, the Hornets created more situations by which they could amass shots on target. Watford ended the game with 7 shots on target to Arsenal’s 4. It was reminiscent of the end to end games that the gunners could sometimes have under Unai Emery, however along with wastefulness, there was some frailty associated with tracking runners from deep and reducing dangerous situations.
The second Watford goal, scored by former Spurs midfielder Moussa Sissoko is a run from deep that isn’t tracked well enough by the midfield and Ben White was not strong enough to cut out the chance. Arsenal are going to have to demonstrate an ability to hold their concentration. As the youngest squad in the league at 24 (average age), there will be moments that inexperience will show itself. The Gunners have a tough run of games in the quest for a top four finish, conceding two goals against the opposition gives them a great chance. This week’s training session for Arteta is self-explanatory.
Kieran Tierney bedding in?
The growing influence of Martin Odegaard is very good for this team. One thing it has enabled is a side much more capable of attacking through the centre and down the right hand side of the opposition. Kieran Tierney has gone from one of Arsenals sharpest options going forward to one of a few.
The Scotsman is renowned for his rampaging runs from deep and dangerous crosses into the box. This season it is a different story, there has been more emphasis on the Glaswegian full back to pressure higher up the pitch, especially in the attacking third. They have increased from just over 1.18 per 90 to 2.08 per 90 . This means that Tierney is higher up the pitch earlier and is rarely on the overlap as much as he used to be, he also is more exposed to teams attacking down his side with overloads as he recovers. Watford found it easy to attack down the right hand side. The left back is first choice because he continues to make very good decisions in possession. Nuno Tavares has shown great physical potential and will probably continue to play a part off the bench, but if he can improve his security, then the competition for the left back slot becomes a battle.