The two games couldn’t be more of a contrast. When Watford left the Emirates stadium three weeks ago they did so in joyous celebration having caused an FA Cup shock. Today they left north London battered, bruised and on the end of a walloping.
In these instances managers – or a head coach – will try and find a positive. Quique Sanchez Flores will have to search incredibly hard and even then he’s unlikely to find one. He’ll also have some explaining to do to Etienne Capoue and Odion Ighalo after hooking them both before the second half had started.
Watford’s Premier League form is now a big concern. They’ve won twice since Christmas and have slowly dropped down the table. Only their excellent first half of the season is ensuring they aren’t embroiled in a relegation battle.
Another worry is the form of key players. Sanchez Flores tried to shuffle his pack against the Gunners but it made little difference.
He made three changes to the side which was outplayed by Stoke City prior to the international break.
In came Sebastian Prodl, Ben Watson and Almen Abdi, who was making his 100th appearance for the Hornets. Miguel Britos and Jose Manuel Jurado dropped to the bench while Valon Behrami was ruled out with illness.
So could Watford upset the odds again? It was clear from the first minute that was unlikely. Arsenal clicked into gear immediately. The Hornets had no reply and five minutes into the game they fell behind.
It was a disappointing goal to concede. Alex Iwobi was given too much time to pick a cross, his delivery was met by Alexis Sanchez but Heurelho Gomes saved. The ball, however, fell into the path of the former Udinese winger and he forced a shot into the corner.
Watford were rattled and couldn’t keep possession. Ighalo was largely a bystander. Every time the ball came the Nigerian’s way he was unable to hold it up under pressure from Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel.
It meant Arsenal could mount attack after attack. Nacho Monreal headed wide, Iwobi forced Gomes into an excellent save and Danny Welbeck drilled a shot into the side netting via a deflection.
Gomes then pushed a whipped free-kick from Sanchez wide. The Brazilian was doing his bit to keep the Hornets in the game but he could do nothing to stop the Gunners’ second goal.
It came in the 37th minute. Again Arsenal’s pace, movement and quality proved too much for Watford.
Francis Coquelin collected the ball 20 yards out and slipped a pass to Sanchez, who hadn’t been tracked by Capoue. The Chilean cut a pass back to Iwobi who slid the ball into the net. Simple but effective.
Sanchez Flores responded by bringing off Capoue. There was no sign of injury as the French midfielder jogged down the tunnel after being replaced by Ikechi Anya.
At the interval another change was made. Ighalo was taken off, Nordin Amrabat came on. Was Sanchez Flores sending a message to his side and his inconsistent top-scorer?
If he was, it wasn’t taken on board. Two minutes after the restart Arsenal scored a third as Hector Bellerin’s shot from 20 yards deflected off Watson and looped over Gomes.
Moments later Iwobi thundered against the bar and then Gomes was forced to save excellently from Sanchez. It was to be a long half for the Hornets and the travelling support.
The saving grace was that Arsenal eased up. The spent the remainder of the half trying to score the perfect goal rather than being ruthless. It allowed Watford’s defence time to organise and they looked more solid.
Watford’s best chance of the afternoon fell to Troy Deeney soon after but his shot from inside the box was saved by David Ospina. That was the Hornets’ lot.
Arsenal added a fourth in the dying minutes as Joel Campbell picked out Theo Walcott to score from inside the six-yard box. Not that it mattered too much. The game hadn’t been a contest since the fifth minute.
Watford will have their day at Wembley, at Arsenal’s expense, but they’ve yet to hit 40 points in the top flight. As Sanchez Flores said prior to the game, they’re not safe yet.
Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Elneny, Coquelin, Sanchez (Campbell 79), Ozil, Iwobi (Walcott 78), Welbeck (Giroud 68). Not used: Cech, Gibbs, Mertesacker, Chambers.
Watford: Gomes, Nyom, Prodl, Cathcart, Ake, Capoue (Anya 40), Watson, Suarez, Abdi (Guedioura 68) Deeney, Ighalo (h-t). Not used: Pantilimon, Britos, Berghuis, Jurado.
Yellow cards: Nyom,
Referee: A. Taylor.