Saturday 21 January 2017

Gunners swat Hornets, but Wenger still won't dream

Arsenal 4-0 Watford

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Published 04/04/2016 | 02:30

Hector Bellerin (2nd R) of Arsenal celebrates scoring his team's third goal with his team mates. Photo: Getty
Hector Bellerin (2nd R) of Arsenal celebrates scoring his team's third goal with his team mates. Photo: Getty
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. Photo: Getty

Arsene Wenger has always been an optimist, but even he would not talk up Arsenal's title chances on Saturday night.

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Arsenal had just produced their best performance in months, thrashing Watford 4-0 to close the gap on Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City.

It should have been a cause for celebration at the Emirates, but Wenger sounded like a man trying to put a limit on the ambition and hope of his players and fans.

When asked about Leicester, the pressure they face and whether they might slip, Wenger would not be drawn on it.

"We have to be realistic - and just prepare for the next game and not dream too much," he said. "We have suffered recently and that will help us to keep the focus."

Arsenal are chasing the two teams ahead of them - and yet Wenger is just as preoccupied with the teams behind him.

Results

"We have to focus on our results and then see how far we can go," he said. "When I say be realistic, we have to look behind, over our shoulders as well. Man City, Man United and West Ham are chasing as well. Let's look over our shoulders - and chase if we can."

It sounded slightly downbeat - at odds with the quality of Arsenal's performance. Arsenal were even better than they were in their last game, a 2-0 win at Everton.

But a sense of regret is understandable, given how Arsenal have rediscovered form only now that Leicester have pulled away from them.

Wenger, certainly not for the first time, praised the application of his players.

"I believe this team has the right mentality," he said. "I have had many teams in my life and this team is top quality. When they play like this it shows that mentally they are pure."

With Danny Welbeck leading the line, with the endlessly bright, intuitive and confident Alex Iwobi patrolling the spaces Theo Walcott usually fails to find, and with Mohamed Elneny providing a smothering comfort blanket of protection to his back four, this was a distinctly more plausible Arsenal set-up.

Iwobi, in particular - making the first goal for Alexis Sanchez, scoring the second and hitting the bar soon afterwards - reminded those watching of what a talent England have allowed to slip through their fingers.

The fact is, this team are much better prepared for the title run-in than the one that started the race.

Independent News Service

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