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."

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Richard Clarke 28 Dec 2006