Emile Smith Rowe scores again as Gunners overcome Watford to go fifth
Arsenal see out bad tempered match to leapfrog Manchester United and go six points behind Chelsea
Sunday, 7th November 2021 — By Tom Foot at the Emirates
FA Premier League
ARSENAL 1 (Rowe 57)
THE slow and steady rise of Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal continues with the team mocked and humiliated just a few weeks ago now resting above Manchester United in fifth place.
The Gunners claimed victory over Watford with a solid if a little sluggish performance crowned by the ever reliable Emile Smith Rowe.
Like many of this goals, he was first to react when a ball fell loose and struck first time into the bottom corner from just outside the box.
After the match Claudio Ranieri accused Arsenal players of “lacking respect” for failing to return the ball after Watford had put it out of play.
Manager Arteta responded by apologising to Ranieri but insisting there was “no intention to take advantage” and that his players were “honest”.
Ranieri’s criticism pretty rich as the visitors had little to offer except persistent fouling – 18 offences were blown up for by ref Kevin Friend. There were nine bookings in a bad tempered affair that including a second yellow for Juraj Kucka.
The main reason why Arsenal are back in the hunt for a Champions League place again is the defence now looks confident after the big summer spending on Ben White and Aaron Ramsdale. Also, Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka are so effective in taking the ball forward.
Time after time the two young England players are coming up with the goods, despite their early years.
Meanwhile, question marks are hanging over the two Arsenal front men – 32 year old Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and 31 year old Alexandra Lacazette. Both looked off the pace today, although Lacazette gets warm applause for running his heart out. The strikers on the bench, Martinelli and Nketiah, are not really up to the standard.
Aubameyang saw his penalty saved in the first half and where his poor touches let the side down. Unlike against Villa a fortnight ago, he couldn’t get to the rebound. You have to worry about a striker’s confidence when they go down the middle from the spot.
Saka had brushed in what looked like an opener on seven minutes. VAR replays showed how a terrible touch from Aubameyang meant the ball dribbled to the midfielder who was in an offside position.
Martin Odegaard also scored with a tidy finish within minutes of coming in the second half, but the goal was flagged offside after Aubameyang turned the ball in.
The shot looked goal bound without the striker’s intervention. Replays appeared to show Odegaard marginally offside in the build up. VAR confirmed the linesman’s flag was correct and the goal was ruled out.
Arsenal did not start with quite the same intensity that saw them crush Spurs and Villa. But they dominated the early stages with most of the play coming down the Gunners’ right side.
Saka was giving Danny Rose a torrid time much to the delight of the ex-Spurs player’s critics in the stadium.
The chubby Rose had mauled Lacazette over in the box for the Aubameyang penalty but somehow didn’t get booked. Minutes later, he escaped a card for another challenge on the Arsenal number 9.
Kucka almost scored on 40 mins after waltzing through the Arsenal midfield but other than that Watford barely threatened Aaron Ramsdale’s goal.
Their best chance came in the dying stages when Ramsdale and White ran into each other, leaving Josh King with a shot at goal from an acute angle. He hit the side-netting but the Gunners could easily have dropped two points for failing to put the match out of sight.
Nuno Tavares had a great game and Kieran Tierney will be wondering if he will get back in the first team. Ainsley Maitland-Niles will be pleased with his performance, taking the place of injured Thomas Partey.
It was a bit of a struggle, but Mikel Arteta’s 100th game ended with another win and a clean sheet. Next stop Anfield after another international break.
Arsenal: Ramsdale, White, Gabriel, Saka, Rowe (Elneny 87), Saka (Martinelli 90), Maitland-Niles, Tomiyasu, Tavares, Lokonga, Lacazette (Odegaard 69), Aubameyang
Subs not used: Leno, Tierney, Holding, Soares, Pepe, Elneny, Nketiah
Watford: Foster, Rose, King, Nkoulou, Cathcart, Tufan (Pedro 57), Sissoko, Femenia, Sarra, Dennis (Hernandez 74), Kucka
Subs not used: Bachmann, Ngakia, Ekong, Cleverley, Masina, Fletcher, Sierralta