Arsenal’s Game Against Watford Warranted A Change In Team Dynamic

Mandatory credit: Ronnie Macdonald
Mandatory credit: Ronnie Macdonald /

Arsenal beat Watford three nil on Saturday evening. The scoreline showed a convincing, easy win. But the performance over ninety minutes showed something completely different. The victory was by no means straightforward or easy. But perhaps it could have been made a lot easier had Arsene Wenger taken a different approach.

The international break was very kind to Arsenal for once. There were no major injury concerns and a lot of our players scored and played well for their national teams. Many felt that the break came at a rather inopportune time for Arsenal. It was perhaps felt that we were not getting the chance to build upon a morale boosting, and resounding, victory against Manchester United.

From a score perspective, Arsenal picked up where they left off; running out three nil winners against Watford. The performance was slightly different, however. We did not blitz the opposition in the opening twenty minutes.

In the first half we struggled. There seemed to be a sluggishness about Arsenal’s attacking movements. There did not seem to be the same kind of passion or desire as there was against Man United. Mesut Ozil was very quiet for instance.

The game against Watford was never going to be simple. Prior to this game they had only conceded one goal at home; an incredible statistic. Their defence is well disciplined and organised, and was always going to be difficult to break down.

What was required from Arsenal was a resilience in the face of such defensive strength. Too often have Arsenal struggled against a well organised defence. It was key for Arsenal to grind out a victory if needed; to build upon the victory against United and not allow it to be a fruitless one by succumbing again to a tenacious defence.

Ultimately that resilience paid off. The team looked completely different in the second half. We started to play with more pace. We attacked on the break with power and numbers, and it made a difference as our first goal game from a good break where we threw players forward. Ozil certainly could have won a penalty, if it was not for the magnificent Alexis being in the right place at the right time.

The little Chilean is in unstoppable form and is scoring for fun now. It is difficult to say that he should be substituted earlier in games. Ultimately though he needs a break and a rest from all the football he has been playing. We don’t want to see him burnt out too early in the season.

Goals from Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey sealed the win, taking us back into second place. It was good to see Ramsey score again. Hopefully we will start to see more goals from him in the coming weeks, even if he is not playing in his favoured central position. Giroud took his goal well too, and should provide him with a much needed confidence boost.

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Speaking of Giroud, as much as I feel he is not of the quality to be first choice at Arsenal, I do believe that this particular game was crying out for his type of gameplay from the start. The problem with Arsene Wenger is that he sticks religiously to the same formation regardless of opposition. This means that currently we are forced to play with only one striker spearheading our attack; with the choice being either Walcott or Giroud.

Both players bring something to the team. The options give Arsenal an ability to switch things up now and again. Walcott is good against teams who play with an open defence and a high line, giving him space to run in behind the defensive line and utilise his pace. Giroud on the other hand utilises his size and strength to hold the ball up and bring other players into play effectively.

Giroud is best utilised against a tight, compact defence who play with a deep line and look to hit Arsenal on the counter. He can make a nuisance of himself. He doesn’t have pace and so he doesn’t look to run in behind the defensive line, but against a team like Watford, this isn’t necessary.

One of the negative aspects of using Giroud is that his lack of pace and movement does not play to the strengths of Ozil and his vision in a pass. In these instances then, would it not be best to utilise a player such as Oxlade-Chaberlain on the right wing instead of Ramsey? Or just as effectively, use Theo on the right. This gives Ozil the pacey players that he thrives off of, but still gives us the option of having a brute like Giroud holding up play and bringing our midfield players into play.

Another option of course would be to use an entirely different formation now and again; such as 4-4-2. Sanchez and the Ox on the wings, with Giroud playing up front with a partner in Theo, could be used to devastating effect against certain teams.

Arsenal FC
Arsenal FC /

Arsenal FC

This, however, doesn’t ever seem to be a valid option for Arsene Wenger. So why not then realise that Giroud would have been the better option against a defence like Watford? The problem is that Wenger rarely studies the opposition in a level of detail that is needed to realise this.

Ultimately the win was a good one, it showed that we can at times grind out a good, solid victory against a tight, disciplined defensive team. This type of win is essential if we are going to challenge, or indeed win the Premier League.

What is also needed, however, to successfully challenge for the title this season is a realisation from Arsene Wenger that the same players can not be played in every game to the same effect.

Arsenal need to win games ugly. We need to struggle for most of the game before finally grinding the opposition down. But what is also needed is a realisation from the man in charge that different players are needed for different games. This realisation could have made the game against Watford that little bit easier.

Next: Is Giroud Moving Towards A Starting Role Again?

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