By Richard Clarke
Older, stronger, better - that's Arsène Wenger's assessment of his side compared to 12 months ago.
The New Year is always a time for reflection and assessment and the Boxing Day fixture at Watford proved to be a useful yardstick for the Arsenal manager. Before the game, he was fearful his team would struggle in the wake of that whopping 6-2 win over Blackburn three days earlier. However Arsenal's young side ground out a doughty yet deserved 2-1 win.
"Last year we didn't win these sorts of games so we have improved on that side," Wenger said afterwards. If you are a small team in your mind and you win 6-2 I guarantee that 90 times out of 100 you will lose the next game.
"I said before the game that to win by one goal would be a great result and this victory shows the team have grown up.
"It was important for us to win away from home because I feel we have improved in recent weeks. We have won in a great way against Tottenham and Blackburn and I feel that the team has become mature.
"Of course we still have much to do but it is a pleasure to work with these players because they want to improve and there is a great spirit in the side."
Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 28 Dec 2006