- Arsenal moves back into top four
- Away win is Arsenal’s first since Feb. 9 at Huddersfield Town
- Deeney sent off in 11th minute
All it took was one Ben Foster error for Arsenal to secure a rare road victory in the Premier League this calendar year.
[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored for Arsenal, blocking and re-directing a long pass from Foster into the Watford goal, which was enough for a 1-0 Arsenal victory at Vicarage Road, Monday evening. With the win, Arsenal jump back into the top four of the Premier League table.
Watford, on the other hand, stayed in 10th place with 46 points.
The entire game changed around a 98-second span early in the first half. First, Ben Foster’s first touch got away from him and before he was able to make a clearance to his forward line, Aubameyang chased him down and blocked the clearance. The ball ricocheted into the net, giving Arsenal the 1-0 lead.
Less than two minutes later, Watford’s captain was given his marching orders after leaving an elbow or forearm in Lucas Torreira‘s head as Troy Deeney passed him. Deeney protested but the referee’s decision was final, leaving Watford down to ten men.
The Hornets still created chances through the rest of the game, finishing with six shots, two of them on target. But Bernd Leno held steady and kept Arsenal their first clean sheet since Arsene Wenger‘s last performance.
In a one-minute, 38-second span, Watford’s expectations for its match against Arsenal were completely flipped on their head.
[WATCH LIVE: Watford v. Arsenal]
First, goalkeeper Ben Foster‘s lackadaisical touch in the six-yard box allowed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to close him down, resulting in a block that saw the ball ricochet into the net. Then, 98 seconds later, Watford captain Troy Deeney was shown a straight-red card after an assistant referee spotted Deeney leave an elbow into the head of Arsenal central midfielder Lucas Torreira.
That left Watford down a man and down a goal. Perhaps to make matters worse, Watford manager Javi Gracia doesn’t have a star like Gerard Deulofeu available on the bench to add that attacking spark that Watford will need without Deeney on the pitch.
Watford host Arsenal at Vicarage Road on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), as the teams who are based at training centers in the same street north of London are both aiming for European qualification.
WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE
On the back of reaching the FA Cup final (for just the second time in club history) Javi Gracia‘s Watford will be flying high as they chase a top seven finish.
As for Unai Emery‘s Arsenal, they remain in the hunt for a top four finish but Emery has faced Gracia’s teams in the past and knows this will not be an easy task in a busy week for the Gunners who face Napoli in the Europa League on Thursday.
In teams news for Watford, Ben Foster, Christian Kabasele, Daryl Janmaat and Adam Masina all come into the starting lineup.
Arsenal start Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang up top, while Dinos Mavropanos also starts and Granit Xhaka has recovered from injury. Mesut Ozil, Matteo Guendouzi and Alexandre Lacazette are all on the bench.
Watford host Arsenal at Vicarage Road on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), with both teams pushing hard for European qualification.
WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE
The Hornets are still flying high after reaching the FA Cup final last weekend, as Javi Gracia‘s men will play Manchester City at Wembley on May 18 after their stunning semifinal comeback against Wolves. They are also in a great position to finish seventh and qualify for the Europa League, as Everton, Leicester and Wolves all lost at the weekend.
Unai Emery‘s Arsenal lost at Everton last time out, but they followed that up with an impressive defeat of Napoli in the UEFA Europa League quarterfinal first leg and the Gunners are very much in the hunt to finish in the top four.
In team news Watford are without Jose Holebas, Domingos Quina and Tom Cleverley who are all injured, while Arsenal’s Sokratis is serving the first of a two-game suspension after picking up 10 yellow cards and Granit Xhaka is struggling with a groin injury.
What they’re saying…
Javi Gracia on Watford focusing on Europe: “Our final is against Arsenal – not in May. This is the mentality we will keep and then at the end we will see the position and the points. But in this moment, our final is on Monday. My feeling is that the players are really focused on the next game. In this moment, I prefer to keep the same attitude we had during all the season, trying to give importance to the next game.”
Unai Emery on Gracia, Watford: “I know Javi Gracia and above all his teams are very organized with a big commitment to helping each other. They are very difficult teams to battle because defensively they are very strong and this is now at Watford. They are a very organized team, with a big capacity offensively because they create a good movement and a good idea, a good style to take that. I want to play matches against Javi Gracia and Watford because I think they are doing a big season.”
This is a big week for Arsenal with the second leg of their Europa League quarterfinal at Napoli on Thursday, then they host Crystal Palace on Sunday. Emery will rotate his squad and Watford will be high on confidence after they reached the FA Cup final for just the second time in club history. I’m calling this a draw. 1-1.
Watford’s climb up the Premier League table may have caught teams off guard, but Manchester City would be foolish not to appreciate what their opponents in the FA Cup Final can do over 90 (and then 120) minutes.
[ RECAP: Watford 3-2 (aet) Wolves ]
Down 2-0 with under 10 minutes to play in Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal against Wolves at Wembley Stadium, Gerard Deulofeu sandwiched a brace around Troy Deeney‘s stoppage time penalty to clinch their second spot in an FA Cup Final.
The Hornets are in the middle of a surprising fight for seventh in the Premier League, but could earn a Europa League spot regardless of where they finish by upsetting Manchester City back at Wembley on May 18.
Here’s Deeney, who’s been with the club for 123 goals and nine seasons, from the Championship to the top flight and an upcoming final.
From the BBC:
“I’ve said on many occasions that this team has something special. We’re not the most talented, we’re not all that, but the hard work and desire at 2-0 down… many teams would’ve called it a day but we kept fighting and kept going and brought the little man on, who produced a bit of magic.
“We’ve got room to grow, there’s not a ceiling on us yet a a team. For a club of this size, let’s enjoy this moment.”
Deeney is just one feel-good story in the bunch, as 38-year-old backup goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes made a number of fine saves in what could be the final run of his long career.
“The boys kept so cool,” Gomes said. “Troy Deeney can deal with any pressure, once more he did that for us. It was amazing and he deserves it as well. … It’s about the group, the team. I will not knock on the manager’s door to play in the final. If he needs me I will be there, if not we are well served by Ben Foster.”
A big task awaits the Hornets, but they’ll be ready and know that a comeback is always possible.