Arsenal moved back into second place in the Premier League as goals from Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey secured a 3-0 win at Watford.
Arsene Wenger’s side turned on the style late in the game at Vicarage Road, with three unanswered goals in a 12-minute burst keeping them within two points of leaders Manchester City.
After a drab first half lacking any clear-cut chances, Arsenal broke the deadlock after 62 minutes as Sanchez shrugged of pre-match fears over his fitness to pounce on a loose ball in the penalty area and slot home.
Substitute Giroud added the second from Mesut Ozil’s cutback, before Ramsey secured the points after a mazy run from Hector Bellerin.
Watford’s previously tight defence had no answer to Arsenal’s blitz and found themselves hanging on as the visitors looked to stretch their advantage in the closing minutes, Giroud seeing a bullet header well saved.
Further goals failed to materialise but Arsenal had done enough to seal the three points, while Watford were left to rue a second defeat in their last three outings.
Having demolished Manchester United with a first-half flurry before the international break, Arsenal again started fast, though Theo Walcott was denied by Heurelho Gomes – part of an unchanged Watford line-up – with a close-range header after five minutes, before the Brazilian goalkeeper was on hand again to punch away an effort from Sanchez.
Arsenal’s attempts at controlling possession had limited Watford’s openings but Troy Deeney powered through and tested Petr Cech with a powerful drive after 11 minutes, before he was denied by a crucial Laurent Koscielny challenge soon after.
Having weathered the storm, Arsenal began to press again and should have gone ahead just before the half-hour as Ramsey met Sanchez’s left-wing cross at the back post, but the Wales international volleyed over from five yards under pressure from Gomes.
Arsenal gradually built momentum after the interval and finally had a deserved breakthrough just after the hour as intricate build-up play released Ozil into the area and, despite the German being felled by Nathan Ake, referee Mike Jones waved play-on and Sanchez converted via Gomes’ right-hand post.
Giroud doubled their lead four minutes after replacing Walcott as Ozil kept the ball alive inside the penalty area, and his reverse pass from the byline judged perfectly for the Frenchman to fire into the roof of the net.
Before the hosts could react, they found themselves three goals behind as Bellerin cut in from the right flank and his simple pass found Ramsey, who clipped home with the aid of a deflection off Ikechi Anya.
Giroud went close to making it four with a late header from a Santi Cazorla corner, but Arsenal had done enough as they cruised to their sixth win of the season.
Key Opta stats:
– Watford conceded as many goals in this game (3) as they had in their previous six top-flight matches at Vicarage Road combined.
– Watford striker Troy Deeney has now had the most shots without scoring in the Premier League this season (23 shots inc. blocked).
– 12 of Aaron Ramsey’s last 17 Premier League goals have come away from home (71%).
– Alexis Sanchez has scored in six successive games for club and country; netting 10 goals in the process.
– Since the start of last season only Sergio Aguero (11) has scored the first goal in a Premier League game more often than Alexis Sanchez (10).