Tottenham managed to turn a tough day at the office into a walk in the park as a much-improved second half saw them coast past Bournemouth and take another giant step towards securing a top-four place in the Premier League.
A revitalised Dele Alli levelled things up after Junior Stanislas got Bournemouth off to a bright start, before Son Hyeung-min took over the game in the second 40.
The South Korean – who is fast becoming one of the Premier League’s leading lights – scored twice after the break and Serge Aurier added the gloss to a 4-1 victory.
Below are our ratings as Spurs put a thick line under their Champions League heartbreak against Juventus.
Hugo Lloris – Stanislas’ wonderful finish had him rooted to the spot – that was one of the only times the ball came his way. 5
Serge Aurier – Mishit a few crosses – his distribution needs a lot of work – but the one he did get right was beautifully judged for Alli, who bundled in the equaliser. Finished the job off at the death Does not fill you with confidence defensively. 7
Davinson Sanchez – Still finding his feet in the English game, looks ungainly up against nippy attackers. Shows confidence to come out of defence with ball – but is passing quality is less Vertonghen, more Chris Smalling.
Jan Vertonghen – Took command of an otherwise suspect Spurs backline. Lloris faced very few shots and Vertonghen was one of the reasons why – putting his body on the line. 7
Danny Rose – Not a great outing. Adam Smith ghosted past him as if he wasn’t there to supply Stanislas and hacked down Callum Wilson to earn a booking. The rested Ben Davies was a miss. 4
Mousa Dembele – Didn’t take command of midfield as Bournemouth managed to bypass him, especially as they found a lot of joy down Spurs’ flanks. Tidy when in possession, though. 6
Eric Wanyama – There have been prettier players to grace a Spurs shirt but the Kenyan is first in line when it comes to hard work. Produced five tackles and also blocked several shots in a display full of heart. 7
Christian Eriksen – Not his flashiest performance of the year and it didn’t need to be. Cool in possession, drew numerous fouls and allowed Son and Alli the time and space to deliver the goods. 8
Dele Alli – With his equaliser, he ended a 15-game goal drought in all competitions. His aggression always teeters on the edge of recklessness, but channeled it positively here. Clumsy finish but did well to pick out Son (for the South Korean’s equally clumsy finish …) 8
Son Heung-min – It is a measure of the man’s confidence that he chose to round Asmir Begovic from a rather tight angle instead of trying to find Lamela in support. A real thorn in the side even apart from his two goals. Should we start talking about him as one of the Premier League’s best players? 9
Harry Kane – Around about this time every two years Wayne Rooney had an injury scare before the World Cup. Now the new England talisman has taken on the proud tradition. Didn’t even have a shot before his ankle forced him off in the 34th minute … get well soon. 5
Erik Lamela – Came on early and was on the periphery of the action compared to Son, Alli and Eriksen, helped mesh the attack together well all the same. 7
Kieran Trippier – Shored up the right-hand side and found the time to deliver the ball that eventually led to Aurier’s goal. 7
Moussa Sissoko – Added some ballast to midfield at the death. N/A
Shkodran Mustafi, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were the goal scorers on the day while Petr Cech denied Troy Deeney from the spot to pick up his 200th clean sheet in England’s top division.
The performance left us with plenty to ponder and here’s three things that stand out.
OZIL IN HIS ELEMENT
Mesut Ozil was in his element against Watford and why wouldn’t he be? The Hornets were competitive but accommodating, the encounter had little bearing on Arsenal’s season, Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang supported him ably and there were barely enough fans to get on his back.
Watford allowed enough room for the German to exploit. He duly went about orchestrating play and show-boating with a lay-off off his shoulder here and a nonchalant flick there. With the element of pressure removed from the equation, Ozil thrived, registering his 50th assist in his 141st Premier League appearance, becoming the fastest player to reach that mark in England’s top flight.
The former Real Madrid star encapsulated what makes Arsenal so frustrating as a team, showcasing the capacity to play some breath-taking football when there’s little at stake only to have that swagger and panache desert them in the face of greater challenges when the heat is on.
DEPLETED DEFENCE A CONCERN
Arsene Wenger would’ve been pleasantly surprised by his team’s display at the San Siro in their Europa League clash with AC Milan last week. A professional 2-0 win away from home against the Serie A outfit was received very well indeed following their defeat to Brighton.
However, their depleted resources at the back is genuine cause for concern. Despite the clean sheet against Watford, their vulnerability in defence was palpable. Rob Holding started alongside Mustafi at centre-back and while he did make a couple of eye-catching interventions, he also switched off at times, particularly when he allowed Richarlison to run in behind him in the first half.
Meanwhile, Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ shaky performance wouldn’t have filled Wenger with confidence. The young full-back endured a torrid time at right-back up against the trickery of Richarlison and ended up conceding the penalty as well with a clumsy challenge.
With Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin injured, the Gunners will have to be far more compact as a unit in the second leg against Milan at the Emirates Stadium to guard against any possibility of a Rossoneri comeback.
AUBAMEYANG FINDING HIS FEET
Having scored Arsenal’s second, Aubameyang now has three goals in five Premier League outings. He was unable to make an impact against the likes of Manchester City and Tottenham but given the right service, he’s shown he can flourish at the Emirates.
The Gabon international is renowned for his pace and got in behind Watford’s back-line time and again. Ideally, he should’ve had at least another goal, particularly from Sead Kolasinac’s excellent fizzed delivery across the six yard box in the first half, but the signs are promising.
He’s coming to grips with Arsenal’s play and how he can benefit from it with his movement, his clever slant run to get on the end of Mkhitaryan’s perfectly weighted through ball for his goal was indicative of just that. The composure to round the keeper and score spoke volumes of his calibre as one of Europe’s leading marksmen, as did his awareness to pick out Mkhitaryan for the third goal.
It’s just a shame the 29-year-old is cup tied and unable to aid Arsenal in their quest for Europa League glory.
Aguero wrote: “During yesterday’s training I had a discomfort on my left knee. The club’s doctors told me I’ll be back with the team in approximately two weeks. Now it’s time for a full recovery!”
Manchester City, of course, are sitting pretty in the Premier League table, 13 points clear at the top.