Arsenal put a much needed spring in its step ahead of the upcoming international break with a 3-1 win over Watford at Vicarage Road. Arsenal, which had taken just one point from its first two games, cut its opponent apart almost at will in the first half. Santi Cazorla converted an early penalty after a clumsy foul by Nordin Amrabat on Alexis Sanchez and before Sanchez and Mesut Ozil effectively made the result safe with quick-fire goals before halftime. Watford improved in the second half following a formation change, and got a goal back through new signing Roberto Pereyra, but were unable to make the closing minutes truly uncomfortable for the visitors.
For Arsenal it is a vital win, having lost at home on the opening weekend to Liverpool and been held to a goalless draw by Leicester City amid a familiar rash of injuries and supporter unrest at a lack of transfer business. But there is at least some cause for optimism for Arsenal fans going into a two week layoff. Two new signings, Spanish forward Lucas Perez and German center-back Shkodran Mustafi, look to finally be on the way in before the transfer deadline and, even without them, their team was a joy to watch in the first half on Saturday.
While Olivier Giroud remains restricted to a role on the bench after his Euro 2016 travails, Mesut Ozil made his first start of the season and instantly got involved. Inside the first 10 minutes, the German clipped a ball into the Watford area and Amrabat jumped into the back of Sanchez to conceded a needless penalty. Cazorla struck his spot kick hard and low to get Arsenal up and running.
While Amrabat, a winger by trade, continued to look unsuited for the extra defensive responsibility of a wing-back role, he was far more useful going forward. And his cross midway through the first half caused hearts to skip a beat in the Arsenal box when Laurent Koscielny swung a leg at it and necessitated a fine save from his goalkeeper Petr Cech to prevent an own goal.
At the other end Watford’s three center-back system continued to be exposed. It was all too easy for Arsenal to find gaps in down the side and get in behind. And Watford was punished on 40 minutes when Theo Walcott delivered a fine low ball in from the right and Sanchez got lucky with a an effort at the back post that spun just over the line before being cleared.
For a team with Arsenal's quality, Watford again made it all too simple just six minutes later. Sanchez was given ample time by Amrabat to put in a cross and Ozil arrived unchecked in the middle to head firmly down into the net.
It looked like job done for Arsenal and that’s how Arsene Wenger’s side paid for much of the second half. Granit Xhaka, who ran the show in the opening 45 minutes, was unable to exert the same control as the match wore on. Still, much credit should go to Watford, who improved considerably after the restart, helped by the introduction of Pereyra and then of another debutant Daryll Janmaat as manager Walter Mazzarri switched to a 4-4-2.
In the 57th minute, the two new arrivals played key roles in their side getting back into the game. Janmaat’s cross was for from the greatest but it led to a game of pinball in the Arsenal box before Pereyra finally exerted some authority with a controlled finish from 10 yards.
While Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain wasted chances on the break, it was Watford making the running and Arsenal looking far from comfortable. Cech had to be on alert to make a smart double save from Jose Holebas and Odion Ighalo, while Ighalo also struck an overhead kick just over the crossbar.
Had Watford grabbed a second goal at that point it is easy to imagine Arsenal crumbling, which should be a concern for Wernger amid the joy of a valuable three points. Still, Arsenal has avoided falling further behind early pacesetters Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea, while Watford is left with just a single point from its first three matches.