Watford – Alexis Sanchez continued his remarkable scoring streak as Arsenal regained second place in the Premier League table with a 3-0 win at Watford on Saturday.
The Chile forward opened the scoring in the 62nd minute to record his seventh goal in his last four Arsenal outings.
The 26-year-old also scored once for his country against Brazil and twice against Peru in 2018 World Cup qualifying, bringing his total since September 26 to 10 goals in just six games.
Arsene Wenger’s side have a home date with Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Tuesday and will go into that game having been tested in all areas of the pitch by Watford, who are finding goals hard to come by on their return to the Premier League.
Wins earlier in the day for Manchester City, Manchester United — who temporarily moved above Arsenal into second place — and West Ham United had put added pressure on the Gunners to perform at Vicarage Road.
Laurent Koscielny, back from a hamstring injury, ousted Gabriel in central defence in the only change to the side that had beaten United 3-0 directly before the international break.
That meant Theo Walcott continued up front, with Olivier Giroud forced to bide his time on the bench.
Arsenal applied early pressure and Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes made a smart stop low down after Walcott had met Aaron Ramsey’s cross from the right with a cushioned header.
Sanchez, back from a profitable if lengthy trip to South America to represent Chile, was next to have a go, cutting in from the left and unleashing from outside the box, but again Gomes was able to save.
Watford responded with a fierce long-range drive from Troy Deeney, the captain, that Petr Cech did well to beat away.
Arsenal almost opened the scoring in the 28th minute when a delightful ball to the back post from Sanchez picked out Ramsey’s run, only for the Wales midfielder to volley over.
There was also a close call in the visitors’ penalty area, when Odion Ighalo shot wide under pressure from Nacho Monreal, who was adjudged not to have fouled the Nigerian by referee Mike Jones.
Jones had another decision to make just before half-time when Per Mertesacker and Cech got into a tangle as Deeney chased a long ball.
The ball ended up hitting Cech, who was outside his area, but the official decided no arm had been used, at least not deliberately.
Arsenal dominated the early exchanges in the second period, but Deeney and Ighalo were still causing problems at the other end and Mertesacker was booked for a clumsy challenge on the latter that the home fans felt deserved a harsher punishment.
Etienne Capoue, having seen a shot charged down, went down in the Arsenal box as he tussled with Francis Coquelin in search of the rebound.
But Jones again ignored home pleas for a penalty and Arsenal sped up the other end and opened the scoring through Sanchez.
Jones might have awarded Arsenal a penalty when Mesut Ozil was upended by Nathan Ake, but Sanchez, who had been involved in the build-up, put the loose ball in off a post in a flash.
The disappointing Walcott was substituted straight after and his replacement, Giroud, doubled the lead in the 68th minute.
Ramsey’s ball took a deflection off a defender and Ozil’s pull-back from the byline on the right was despatched high into the net by the France forward.
Ramsey was rewarded for his endeavour with a goal in the 74th minute, beating Gomes with a deflected shot after Hector Bellerin had burst into the box from the right and squared.
Sanchez and Giroud each threatened to swell Arsenal’s lead, but a fourth goal would have been cruel on Watford.