Arsenal didn’t make it easy on itself even after Emile Smith-Rowe gave the Gunners their first goal that could withstand VAR review, but rode out a passive finish to beat Watford 1-0 at the Emirates Stadium.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had a first-half penalty saved and made a foolish mistake to take a Martin Odegaard insurance goal off the board, while Bukayo Saka had a goal taken off the board by VAR for offside as well.
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Arsenal moves into fifth place with 20 points, level on points with fourth-place West Ham before the Irons plays third-place Liverpool. The Gunners are unbeaten in 10 matches across all competitions and have posted seven clean sheets.
Watford remains just two points ahead of 18th-place Burnley, and lost fiery and influential Juraj Kucka to a second yellow card in the 89th minute.
Arsenal vs Watford final score, stats
Final score: Arsenal 1, Watford 0
Scorers: Smith-Rowe (56′)
Shot attempts: Arsenal, 13-7
Shots on goal: Arsenal, 6-1
Possession: Arsenal, 61%
Three things we learned from Arsenal vs Watford
1. Tremendous first-half sees breaks go against Gunners, Aubameyang greed costs insurance: It can be a game of bounces and decisions, and Arsenal’s first-half saw 71% possession, a 7-2 advantage in shot attempts, a penalty attempt, and a ball in the back of the goal lead to 0-0. Bukayo Saka’s early goal was taken off the board by VAR for offside and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saw his penalty saved by Ben Foster.
And Aubameyang, clearly offside, needlessly slid to get the smallest piece of a Martin Odegaard shot that was certainly going over the line without a Watford man around him. A day to forget, sure? And he ought to by Odegaard dinner, too. For a week. Or two.
2. Smith-Rowe keeps burnishing credentials to give Arteta good headache: Arsenal fans were aggrieved on behalf of 21-year-old Emile Smith-Rowe (and Ben White) when the youngster wasn’t called into the England squad and his terrific low finish to finally make it 1-0 in the second half was his fifth goal to go with two assists in just under 1,000 minutes across all competitions. Finding the right mix with Bukayo Saka, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Nicolas Pepe, Martin Odegaard, and Smith-Rowe without European competition is a headache especially when the three most expensive names on the list are among the weaker shouts of the bunch.
3. Watford needs a playmaker in the midfield: Claudio Ranieri would surely love a strong option in the middle of the park to help the saves of Ben Foster and hatchet work of Juraj Kucka connect to the club’s myriad attacking options. Moussa Sissoko can do some of this on occasion but for Watford is closer to Kucka than, say, Martin Odegaard. Watford has two players in the Premier League’s top 60 for key passes per game, forwards Joshua King and Emmanuel Dennis, and Sissoko comes in next at 66th.
Man of the Match: Ben White
The ex-Brighton center back is a monster, and he executed a very dangerous proposition well when he charged into the final third to pick up an exit bid from Watford, the ball breaking from him to Smith-Rowe for a difficult finish.
Six clearances, three blocked shots, an interception that led to a goal, 10-of-17 duels won, three drawn fouls, and over 100 touches.