Dignified and generous, Arsène Wenger and Arsenal entertained with some sparkle yesterday. It was a comprehensive victory over outclassed opponents on a day for celebrations to mark the manager's 10 years of success at the club.
Goals by Jordan Stewart, who headed into his own net, Thierry Henry and the outstanding Emmanuel Adebayor carried Arsenal to their sixth successive victory in all competitions and lifted them towards the business end of the Premiership. Watford, all huff, puff and hope, never gave up, but also never looked like collecting their first League victory this season.
The inclusion in the starting line-up of the precocious Theo Walcott, 17, fresh from his two goals in Germany for the England Under-21 team, for the first time, was another sign of Wenger's vision and acumen. Walcott played on the left of a four-man midfield and did well, several speedy runs causing consternation and some adroit passes catching the eye.
"He showed he can make a difference," said Wenger. "If you give him a good ball, you know that nobody can catch him. He did very well, for a 17-year-old, and I liked his passing through the line, too. His strength really is to be on the end of things, as a striker, but he showed a lot of ability."
In an attacking formation that included Henry alongside the tall, athletic and dangerous Adebayor, with support from Tomas Rosicky and Cesc Fabregas, Walcott caught the eye and prompted warm support from the Arsenal fans in a sold out 60,000 full house.
"We had to match them physically because they do well, what they do," explained Wenger. "And then we got the ball down and played when we could and also scored when we could... They are one of those teams that, if you are not focused and concentrated, can beat you and so, for that reason, I think they have a chance to stay up in this League."
Adebayor, a totem for Togo at the World Cup finals, stood tall and shone as Arsenal controlled and then won a game largely played at the tempo they dictated. Watford did have chances, but they were wasted: Tommy Smith firing wide at the end of the first half and then Marlon King forcing a spreading save from Jens Lehmann.
In between, Arsenal stood their ground physically, rolled the ball across the lush grass, created many good chances and provided delightful entertainment. Rosicky, in particular, might have had a hat-trick as he shot from all angles and distances and kept Ben Foster diving and alert while Fabregas, playing like a complete midfielder, yet still only 19, tackled, organised and passed as a veteran.
His pass high towards Adebayor led to Stewart guiding a soft header past Foster after 32 minutes and a through ball for Henry, after 68, enabled the Frenchman to set up Adebayor for a tap-in third.
Between these two, Henry, supplied by an Adebayor flick and some slapstick defending by Jay DeMerit, ran clear to steer a left-foot shot beyond Foster. Three goals hardly spoke fairly for Arsenal's superiority, but with a trip to Moscow looming, the manager was satisfied and there were no complaints from a happy, celebrating crowd.