By Richard Clarke
This was a game where Arsenal celebrated their past and got a glimpse of their future.
Before kick-off Arsène Wenger was presented with a special book to mark the 10th anniversary of his first game in charge. A few minutes later the Frenchman opened a new chapter for the Club by handing Theo Walcott his first start as an Arsenal player.
The 17-year-old played impressive, inventive 63 minutes before he was substituted. By that time the home side were leading through Jordan Stewart's own goal and Thierry Henry's customary strike on the stroke of half time.
The Frenchman set up another for Emmanuel Adebayor in the 67th minute as the home assumed total control in the second half.
With the likes of Walcott, Cesc Fabregas, Justin Hoyte, Robin van Persie, Gael Clichy and Johan Djourou all on show this afternoon, the future looks bright for Arsenal.
Then again, after racking up six straight wins, the present is not too shabby either. On Saturday night Arsenal were up to fourth.
There was one stand-out feature of the Arsenal team-sheet before the game - the inclusion of Walcott as a starter. The youngster was in fine form having scored twice for England Under-21s in midweek. He took his place on the left side of midfield with Tomas Rosicky switching to the right. Henry and Emmanuel Adebayor were paired up front while Van Persie was left on the bench.
Emmanuel Eboue had suffered a knee injury on international duty so Hoyte took over at right back. William Gallas filled the problem position at left back while Djourou slotted in the centre. Clichy was included for the first time this season but only made the bench. Freddie Ljungberg (calf) and Julio Baptista (hamstring) were injured.
Yet again, before kick-off Emirates Stadium was filled with fans, noise and, perhaps surprisingly, sunshine. The first few games at Arsenal's new ground have been blessed by wonderful weather. And, as Wenger's side have grown accustomed to their new home, results have improved. In his pre-match press conference the manager had suggested one more win would cure any lingering homesickness from Highbury. The three points was rarely in doubt this afternoon. Watford had their moments but Arsenal were dominant from the start.
In the eighth minute, Dan Shittu scuffed a clearance to Rosicky on the edge of the area. The Czech midfielder arrowed in a cross-shot and Ben Foster dived to his right to parry. However Adebayor collected the ball on the corner of the six-yard area and sent in a swivelling shot. Foster kicked the ball off his line.
Arsenal were starting to put their passes together. In the 12th minute, Walcott cleverly sent Fabregas clear. Foster rushed out and the Spaniard easily skipped past but he rolled his shot into sidenetting with the goal gaping.
However Watford have not been playing as poorly as their Premiership position suggests and they could have taken the lead twice in two minutes midway through the half. Marlon King fled down the right and his cross deflected off Djourou at the near post. The ball fell to Ashley Young at the far but his shot cannoned off Kolo Toure and went out for a throw. That was tossed into the area and fell to King, who rifled the ball over the bar when he might have done better.
The double salvo seemed to unsettle Arsenal for a while. Their next chance came just before the half-hour when Adebayor and Fabregas combined to send Rosicky scampering through. Foster saved his toe-poke and Gavin Mahon cleared the danger.
The Manchester United keeper was starting to have a busy afternoon denying the Arsenal strikers. In the end one of his own players would be the first to breach his goal.
In the 33rd minute, Fabregas floated over a left-wing free-kick to the far post. The ball was touched on by Adebayor and Stewart, under pressure from the onrushing Kolo Toure, nodded the ball past his own keeper.
Despite the goal, Watford still posed a threat. King and Tommy Smith might have equalised in the minute that followed.
However, five minutes before the break, Arsenal cranked up the pressure. First Henry skipped past a couple of challenge before firing a low, long-range effort inches beyond the far post.
Then in the 43rd minute, Lehmann's long kick was touched on by the leaping Adebayor. Henry collected, fooled Jay Demerit, sprinted clear and tucked his shot under the body of Foster.
Arsenal went into the break with a comfortable cushion.
Watford brought on a striker, Darius Henderson, after the interval and the young Englishman tried his luck from distance in the early stages. Not to be outdone, Arsenal's young Englishman tried something similar a few minutes later. But Walcott's effort - a classy cut-in and curling shot - was far more impressive. Once again the winger was showing just why Wenger had invested so much money in prising him from Southampton.
The youngster left the field to a standing ovation in the 63rd minute. But by this time Arsenal were in total cruise control.
Four minutes later Henry burst through and unselfishly set up Adebayor for a tap-in. It just gave the points Fort Knox-security but, in truth, they had been under lock and key ever since Stewart's own goal.
Ten minutes from time, Clichy came on for Gallas. It was an important moment. The young left back had been involved in just two games since injurying his foot last November.
Watford had a couple of chances at the death. Damian Francis' header and Stewart's drive both tested Lehmann.
But it was far too little, far too late. Barring a couple of first-half chances the home side had been totally dominant.
Theo Walcott gets his first start
Van Persie goes close
Stewart puts through his own net
Toure celebrates our opener
Thierry makes it 2-0
Our captain takes the plaudits
Adebayor rounds off a great move
Emmanuel turns away in delight
- To buy official Arsenal pictures visit www.ArsenalPics.com.
- Gallas 80
- Walcott 62
- Rosicky 75
- Adebayor Goal!
- Henry Goal!
- Clichy 80
- Hleb 62
- Persie 75
- Smith 45 Yellow Card
- Bouazza 54
- Powell 54
- Henderson 45