Mikel Arteta says Arsenal should have killed off Watford with 300,000 passes after going 3-1 up at Vicarage Road rather than allow the hosts back into the game by ignoring the danger they posed on the counter-attack.
While the boss was thankful his side kept up their winning ways, he didn’t hide from the fact the Hornets posed his players questions they too often didn’t have the answer to.
Even after Bukayo Saka swept the Gunners into a 2-1 lead, the Spaniard was seen berating his players on the touchline. He was later asked why he was so irked.
“Because I didn’t like how we were controlling the game,” he said.
“We were allowing spaces against the team who, if we kept allowing that, we were going to suffer. I knew that. We had to put that right and we did it for certain periods.
“Then in the last 25 minutes, we lost it again. We have to show that maturity, understanding and capacity to control the game how we wanted to.
“At 3-1, after, we had to make 300,000 passes in the opposition half and when they have the right moment to come at us, then we can attack them. We didn’t do that. The game was open and you had the feeling that the game was open right until the end.”
Asked to sum up the performance, he added: “I sum it up with the first minute of the game. In the first minute we could have been one-nil down.
“I think we were really good going forward and we had all the right intention and energy to do it and we scored three magnificent goals but we didn’t have the same energy and commitment defensively.
“When that happens away from home, you’re going to suffer and we suffered today. Defensively we didn’t have the right structure, we didn’t detect with enough urgency the moments when they could activate certain spaces, which we knew, and that’s why we suffered. We conceded two and we could have conceded another one or two.”
Having picked up maximum points since returning from the warm weather training camp in Dubai, the Gunners have climbed into the top four for the first time in two months. With games in hand on the clubs around us, we’re in a good place to seriously challenge for a Champions League spot. Arteta isn’t getting carried away and he’s not predicting what will happen next.
“I don’t like to look at the table a lot because we have games in hand,” he said.
“We’re going to play different fixtures and I know the objective and it’s only one, to try and improve tomorrow on what we’ve done today and go into the next match and that’s it.
“I cannot control results and I cannot predict which matches we are going to win, draw or lose, it’s impossible. If I start to do that I think we’re going to lose focus in what we want to do.”