Alex Iwobi comes off the bench to spark Arsenal to victory over Watford
Arsenal won their seventh game in succession in all competitions on Saturday, with two late goals in the space of two minutes seeing them beat Watford 2-0 at home.
Watford proved stubborn opponents for the majority of the contest and, following a string of missed chances for Alexandre Lacazette, the visitors could have stolen in front when Isaac Success clipped the post on 74 minutes. But Unai Emery's substitutions helped transform the match and the lively Alex Iwobi had a hand in both goals. His cross was inadvertently turned home by Craig Cathcart on 81 minutes and he then supplied Lacazette, whose cross found a grateful Mesut Ozil for the second on 83 minutes.
Seven wins in a row and Arsenal are still nowhere near their best level. Even if Emery still has a lot of work to do, the ability to battle for results is a highly welcome one. Iwobi's impact was very encouraging and Bernd Leno made some important stops after he came on for the injured Petr Cech. Oh, and Rob Holding was excellent.
There are still abundant issues for Emery to address: prime among them is the fact that too many players are being used in unfamiliar positions, producing disappointing performances. Aaron Ramsey, at No. 10, and unlikely wingers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ozil are all struggling to varying degrees.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- It is hard to know whether to credit Emery for his excellent substitutions or to wonder whether it meant his starting XI was wrong. But either way, he was willing to change things up -- even if it meant upsetting Ramsey -- and seven wins on the bounce shows he is getting results. He just needs to think carefully about his starting XI and shape after another slow start in a match.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Petr Cech, 6 -- Looked to be standing up well to the physical challenge posed by Watford until his hamstring popped while taking a goal kick in the dying minutes of the first half.
DF Hector Bellerin, 5 -- Watford focused on attacking his wing with Ozil offering little protection. He looked vulnerable and also struggled to exert an influence in the final third.
DF Shkodran Mustafi, 5 -- A needless foul on Andre Gray in the first half demonstrated his poor decision-making. Not in good form.
DF Rob Holding, 8 -- Came into the Premier League starting XI due to the fitness problems of Sokratis Papastathopoulos and coped well with the threat of Troy Deeney. This was an excellent performance by the youngster, with one particularly stunning block on 72 minutes to stop a shot on target.
DF Nacho Monreal, 6 -- Was pinned back by Watford's attacking thrusts but defended well.
MF Lucas Torreira, 6 -- A second successive league start proved more testing for the summer signing and he showed a lack of discipline at times, especially when losing his head and going in late on Deeney to earn a booking. Still, lots of promise.
MF Granit Xhaka, 6 -- Another mixed bag. Had a good chance when firing a firm drive at goal in the first half, but he struggled a little with his weight of passing.
MF Aaron Ramsey, 5 -- Took the captain's armband after Cech's injury but lasted only 17 minutes of the second half before being brought off to his evident unhappiness. Looked lost in an advanced role, and after a week when his future was in the spotlight, this was a poor showcase of his talents.
FW Mesut Ozil, 6 -- Scoring Arsenal's second goal gave his performance a veneer of acceptability but there were plenty of issues too as Ozil kept dropping deep and switching flanks in a futile attempt to influence the game. A candidate to come off, but stayed on and scored.
FW Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 4 -- Had a shocking afternoon. Barely affected the game from a wide role and his touch was off. Emery has some thinking to do about his starting position.
FW Alexandre Lacazette, 6 -- Wasted a glut of good chances and was too honest when staying on his feet after Christian Kabasele caught him in the box early on. But Lacazette gave an impressive all-round display, finishing aside, and after putting off Cathcart with his presence for the first goal, he teed up Ozil for the second.
GK Bernd Leno, 7 -- Made two smart saves after his unexpected introduction.
MF Alex Iwobi, 8 -- Had a role in both goals: setting up the first when his cross was turned in by Cathcart and playing in Lacazette to tee up Ozil for the second. Excellent.
FW Danny Welbeck, N/R -- Won the ball for Arsenal to prompt the move that delivered the second goal. Having a very good season.