Watford 2-3 Arsenal: Gunners survive a late scare to beat relegation strugglers and strengthen their grip on the top four… after brilliant goals from Martin Odegaard, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli had put Mikel Arteta’s side in complete control
- Arsenal secured their fourth consecutive Premier League win to go fourth in the Premier League table
- Emmanuel Dennis found the back after just 17 seconds but his goal was disallowed after he was ruled offside
- Martin Odegaard scored Arsenal’s opening goal of the game in the fifth minute to give the Gunners the lead
- Watford forward Cucho Hernandez responded quickly to level the score with a sensational overhead kick
- However, Bukayo Saka restored Arsenal’s lead once again to see them go 2-1 up in the first half of the game
- Gabriel Martinelli added to Arsenal’s tally with a fine finish after a lovely move from the away side
- Watford’s Moussa Sissoko scored Watford’s second goal of the game in the 87th minute but it wasn’t enough
The late scare and anxious closing spell can go down as proof there is plenty of work ahead for Mikel Arteta but his Arsenal team continue to grow, and with them so does the belief that a Champions League return is a realistic target.
Ultimately, they had too much for Watford. Quite how they turned it into such a nail-biting finish is a mystery but Arteta’s team won for the fourth game in a row in the Premier League. They are well set with games in hand, and no other distractions.
Young guns Martin Odegaard, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli are creating and scoring, and centre forward Alex Lacazette is playing as well as he has played in Arsenal colours. Leading the line intelligently and unselfishly, he has proved the perfect foil for those around him since Pierre Emerick Aubameyang was axed and then sold.
Bukayo Saka was on the scoresheet as Arsenal beat Watford 3-2 in a crucial victory in the battle for a top-four spot
Gabriel Martinelli scored Arsenal’s third goal of the afternoon, with the Brazilian finishing off a lovely move from the Gunners
Emmanuel Dennis (above) found the net after just 17 seconds but his goal was disallowed after he was ruled offside
Martin Odegaard (right) scored Arsenal’s opening goal of the game in the fifth minute to give the Gunners the lead
Watford forward Cucho Hernandez responded quickly to level the scores with a sensational overhead kick
At the back, they remain fragile and Watford, who contributed to an enjoyable game, might have pinched a point had they been more clinical in front of goal but Arsenal are playing fluent and attractive football going forward, and scoring goals freely.
The contest opened in brisk fashion, with Emmanuel Dennis sinking the ball into the Arsenal net within 16 seconds of kick off, only to find the Watford forward was half a yard offside as he slipped clear of the back four.
Arteta’s side had the lead within five minutes, a finish coolly rolled inside the far post by Odegaard after combining clearly with Saka in a silky move of flicks and feints, albeit with minimum resistance on display.
Watford’s Moussa Sissoko (above) scored Watford’s second goal of the game in the 87th minute but it wasn’t enough
MATCH FACTS AND RATINGS
Watford 433: Foster 6: Femenia 6.5, Cathcart 6, Samir 6, Kamara 5.5; Sissoko 7, Louza 6.5 (Kayembe 64, 6), Cleverley 6 (Kalu 90); Hernandez 6.5, Dennis 6, Pedro 6.
Subs: Bachmann, Etebo, Masina, Sema, Kabasele, Sierralta, Kucka.
Goals: Hernandez 11, Sissoko 87.
Manager: Roy Hodgson 6.5
Arsenal 4231: Ramsdale 6; Soares 6.5, White 6, Gabriel 6, Tierney 6; Partey 6.5, Xhaka 6; Saka 8, Odegaard 7.5 (Holding 90), Martinelli 7 (Pepe73, 6); Lacazette 7.5 (Nketiah 79).
Subs: Leno, Tavares, Lokonga, Elneny, Swanson, Hutchinson.
Goals: Odegaard 5, Saka 30, Martinelli 52.
Bookings: Soares, Nketiah.
Manager: Mikel Arteta 7
Ref: Craig Pawson 6
This would become a theme of the game. Arsenal were defending as if trying to avoid contact when Watford levelled, six minutes later. Dennis and Moussa Sissoko hauled Hodgson’s team forward and Kiko Femenia clipped over a cross from the right.
Cucho Hernandez met it with a spectacular scissor kick, sent flashing past Aaron Ramsdale in the Arsenal goal. As with Odegaard, it was a first goal since December for Hernandez and one laced with technical quality.
Briefly, the game tilted one way then the other. At times, Arsenal appeared in complete control and yet ever vulnerable to Watford’s pace and movement up front. All at a healthy tempo, it made for breezy entertainment.
Twice, Thomas Partey tried his luck from the fringes of the penalty area without testing Ben Foster and, at the other end, Ramsdale fumbled another effort by Dennis before it could be scrambled to safety.
The visitors restored their lead on the half hour. Tom Cleverley stepped in to intercept a pass from Gabriel Magalhaes only to dwell on the ball in a dangerous area, and allow Saka to nip in to take it from him, in a dangerous area. Saka traded passes with Lacazette, collected the return and whipped a shot past Foster.
Seven minutes into the second half they stretched ahead with a third, scored by Martinelli after another piercing, one-touch move. Saka’s quick throw passed from Cedric Soares to Odergaard to Lacazette, who nursed it back towards Martinelli and he found the top corner of the net from just outside the penalty box.
Lacazette and Ben White wasted good opportunities to take the game further away from Watford, who refused to give in and continued to cause Arsenal problems at the back.
Dennis fluffed a wonderful chance when a low cross from Femenia found him unmarked at the back post. He miscued completely, slicing his effort high into the air.
Arsenal substitute Nicolas Pepe struck a post before Sissoko did reduce the deficit in the 87th minute, muscling his way into the penalty area and squeezing a low shot past Ramsdale from a tight angle.
Renewed hope lapped around Vicarage Road and Samuel Kalu, who came off the bench to make Watford his debut, tested Ramsdale in stoppage time, but it was too little too late and the signs are not encouraging for Hodgson.
Watford have not taken a single point at home since they beat Manchester United in November and games are disappearing fast.
Things got heated towards the end of the game as Arsenal looked to run the clock down but the away side held on for the win
There you have it! 3-2 and Arsenal have moved into fourth place in the Premier League table. Arteta celebrates with a fist pump.
95mins: Tensions are really running high now! Hernandez is given a yellow card and Arteta is pacing his technical area. He can hardly look as time continues to tick on.
93mins: It’s all get heated out there. Eddie Nketiah has been shown a yellow card. While, Cedric Soares goes down with cramp.
91mins: Stoppage time hasn’t been Watford’s friend this season. They have conceded a flurry of goals. They will be looking to change that today.
90mins: 5 minutes of extra have been added. That means Arsenal are just five minutes away from securing their place in fourth position in the table.
98mins: Kalu is finally making his debut after sitting on the bench since his arrival.
Meanwhile, Arsenal bring on Holding to replace Odegaard.
87mins: Talk about proving me wrong! Out of no where Watford have only gone and scored.
It all started with a strange ball from Xhaka – who played the ball square rather than forward.
As a result, the ball found it’s way to Sissoko – who beat White in the six-yard area and slipped it into the far corner of the goal.
84mins: Arsenal are asserting their dominance. Watford are struggling to find the answer. I’m calling it now, 4-1 final score. It’s only a matter of time…
81mins: Meanwhile, Pepe has made a huge impact since coming on. His shot rolled past the back post just moments after Nketiah’s first touch saw him beat Foster with a shot that rattled the post.
80mins: Some questionable decision making from Watford. They have to do better in choosing when to shoot and when to pass.
They’ve just missed another goal scoring opportunity after failing to choose the correct answer! Plus, Dennis has to do better after providing another sloppy pass into the box.
79mins: Eddie Nketiah comes on for Lacazette
78mins: Although, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before Arsenal have a break through. Pepe has just come on and fired one past the back post.
77mins: Credit were credit is due. Watford’s last line of defence have been particularly strong – denying Arsenal from several goal scoring opportunities.
75mins: Frustrating evening for Dennis. He’s caught offside once again as Watford launch another dangerous counter-attack.
73mins: Arsenal appeal for a penalty after Lacazette goes down in the box. However, ref waves for play to continue.
Had Lacazette not been looking for a penalty…he could have engineered a shot and probably scored!
72mins: Gabriel Martinelli, who is one of Arsenal’s three scorers, is replaced by Nicolas Pepe. As a result, Saka has been shunted to the left.
71mins: How has he missed that! Dennis has got to score that for Watford. Femenia drilled the in from the right. It landed perfectly onto Dennis’ left but he failed to connect with the ball.
69mins: Arsenal’s second corner of the game. Ball is played into the near post, flicked onto the back post and cleared for another corner. However, Arsenal failed to find the back of the et despite it falling nicely to White – who tried to chip it in.
66mins: Arsenal come close again! Odegaard played Saka in, near the penalty spot, but Kamara made an exceptional tackle to prevent the score-line changing to 4-1.
64mins: The fans aren’t happy with the one. Boos echo around the stadium as Imran Louza is replaced by Edo Kayembe.
Louza did give the ball away for the third goal…but was it a harsh call from Rodgson? Could he have made a more positive substitution to help Watford in attack?
62mins: Huge chance for Watford but just couldn’t get the final shot off!
Watford countered will down the right hand-side, advancing up the pitch in acres of space. Hernandez carried the ball well before and teeing up Dennis, who struggled to get a shot away after being closed down.
60mins: Amid all that chaos, Cedric Soares picked up a yellow card – the first card of the day.
I mean…it wouldn’t be a true Arsenal game if there weren’t some cards flying around right?
58mins: Real end-to-end stuff here! Arsenal launched another dangerous attack orchestrated by Odegaard before Hassane Kamara managed to fire off a shot for Watford.
56mins: Chance for Watford after a clumsy mistake from Ramsdale – who played the ball straight into their path. However, he recovered well and saved Tom Cleverley’s shot.
54 mins: Watford appeal for a penalty after Joao Pedro went down following slightest bit contact from Odegaard on the edge of the box. The ref waves for play to continue. VAR can’t even check it as it’s just on the edge of the box.
Personally, I don’t there was enough in it for a foul anyway. He was simply looking for something that wasn’t there.
51mins: Arsenal make it 3-1, adding another wonderful strike to the goals we’ve already seen today.
Mikel Arteta acted as the ball boy to get play going quickly for Arsenal. A series of quick passes down the right lead to a lovely flick from Odegaard, a lay-off from Lacazette, and a wonderful finish from Martinelli.
48mins: Not a stat Watford will wat to hear…but they’ve been losing at half-time 11 times this season and only managed to secure one point from those games.
46mins: If only they could have got a shot away! Ramsdale came bolting off his line after Watford lured him out. However, his clearance went straight to Sissoko, who couldn’t quite find the space to pull off the 40-yard chip.
The second half is back underway and Arsenal have taken control once again.
Players are making their way back onto the pitch ahead of the second half at Vicarage Road. Watford are going to have to put some serious work in to pull this one back.
As it stands, Arsenal head into the half-time break fourth in the Premier League, well on their way to their fourth consecutive win.
46mins: Wasteful chance from Watford. Their forward game has disappeared since they went behind. They will have to change the after half-time.
45mins: All Arsenal need to do is keep hold of the ball for the remaining few minutes to head into the half-time break 2-1 up. But, they have different plans. They are pushing to make it 3!
44mins: Arsenal get their first corner of the game after Martinelli unleashed a fierce shot that was subsequently blocked.
41mins: Gabriel Magalhaes and Ben White are providing Arsenal with a strong presence at the heart of their defence. Watford will need to change their line of attack to get some success.
40mins: Things are getting heated between Arsenal and Watford!
Watford need to get a hold of their frustrations. They’ve started the game well and are clearly causing problems for Arsenal. Losing their heads could lose them the game.
37mins: Arsenal awarded a free-kick from 35 yards out…however, the cross from Martinelli that has too much on it.
36mins: Lovely spell of possession from Arsenal – playing it around with ease as they slowly creep up the pitch. Watford are growing impatient, fouling Lacazette in the middle of the park.
33mins: Arsenal are playing well but Watford have had twice as many shots on target as the Gunners. Roy Hodgson’s side need to start converting to be in with a chance of causing an upset!
30mins: Beautiful goal from Arsenal. Saka dispossessed Cleverley just outside of the box and played it straight to Lacazette who played it back to him with a lovely back heel. The young star then slotted it home to make it 2-1
28mins: Watford causing Arsenal’s defence more trouble – attacking down the right hand-side with Dennis and Louza running free. However, the cross into the box was poor.
Nevertheless, the ball came out to Sissoko – who tried a long shot that balloons into the crowd.
26mins: Remember…this time last year Arsenal were 10th! It’s going to be another year without a trophy but it is a good step in the right direction
25mins: Watford secure another free-kick (taken by Louza). His shot is on target and Ramsdale spills the ball. However, Arsenal were quick to react and clear the area.
24mins: The Gunners have won three and lost two of the previous Premier League matches Martin Odegaard scored in.
23mins: Watford earn another free-kick after Gabriel gave away a clumsy foul. However, Watford do little to test Ramsdale.
21mins: When you see Watford play like this, it makes you think…how have they lost seven home games in a row? They’re giving Arsenal a real battle and the Gunners are hoping to play Champions League football next season
19mins: Cleverley played a couple of ambitious passes from left-half to the right wing to see Watford threaten Arsenal’s defence but nothing comes of it.
16mins: Good effort from Arsenal – could have been 2-1 but wasn’t meant to be.
Dennis crossed the ball low across the box. Odegaard took a couple of impressive touches before finding Partey who thumped his shot just wide.
13mins: Femenia, who provided the cross set up Cucho Hernandez’s goal, looks dangerous once again! He plays the ball down the right but Tierney spots the danger and comes to collect it
Incredible finish. That is what Watford need to do. Get Kiko Femenía high up the pitch because he has a fantastic delivery.
He clips the ball into the penalty spot and what a goal. Deary me. Sensational.
Exactly what Watford needed because they were getting outplayed.
11 mins: What a finish and what a game we have on our hands!
Sissoko does well on the right causing Arsenal all sorts of problems before finding Femenia – who fired the ball into the box. Hernandez launches himself into the air and completes a sensational overhead kick.
7mins: Martin Odegaard brings down Emmanuel Dennis just outside the box. Free-kick for the home side. However, they manage to little with it.
6mins: As it stands, Arsenal are now in fourth and if they manage to hold onto this lead they will stay there! Safe to safe they are playing with the confidence of a fourth place team
4mins: Bags of composure there from Martin Odegaard who slipped it into the bottom left corner of the goal just four minutes in.
The goal came after a lovely passage of play that saw Odegaard complete a one-two with Bukayo Saka on the right before continuing his run into the box – where he received it again a slotted it home from 12 yards or so.
3mins: Credit to Arsenal, after what could have bee a horrific start have some elegant possession.
2mins: Watford’s intensity has the home fans out of their seats, singing and chanting away. This has to be a real wake up call for Arsenal.
17 seconds: WOW! What a start that would have been for Watford. Emmanuel Dennis has shown he will be he danger manager for Waford today – having put the ball in the back of the net just seconds into the game.
However, the flag went up following Joao Pedro’s pass.
And…we’re off! Hoping for a good fixture here today. There is a lot on the line for both teams
The players, staff from both clubs, the match officials and the fans are showing their support for Ukraine with a round of applause.
Kick-off is close at Vicarage Road and both teams need the points for different reasons.
A victory for Watford will lift them above Burnley into 18th and level on points with 17th-placed Everton. While a win for Arsenal will take them above Manchester United into fourth.
Warm ups are done! Players are in the tunnel ready to go…
Jamie Redknapp on Sky Sports: ‘When Roy came into the club you knew he’d shore them up at the back, make sure defensively they were very sound.
‘But you look at Emmanuel Dennis, that’s where the goals are going to come from. He has that something special, he can light a game up, real pace, good in the air. He’s a bit of a firecracker and can get himself in trouble but in terms of ability and quality.
‘He’s the player Arsenal, when they’re working out how to stop this team, he’d have been the first one on the list. He’s a very talented player.’
Arsenal will be frustrated to be without Emile Smith Rowe again.
He’s is currently their top scorer in the Premier League this season with nine goals. He is also on the brink of becoming just the second Arsenal player aged 21 or under to reach double figures in number for appearances in a Premier League season.
Meanwhile, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has appeared to take a dig at Arsenal by saying he is ‘at home’ at Barcelona following his move last month.
Watford boss Roy Hodgson will face Arsenal once again this afternoon. As it stands, he has won just one of his 12 Premier League home games against the Gunners – with his last victory coming in 2008 when Fulham won 1-0.
Meanwhile, his final game in charge of Crystal Palace saw him lose 3-1 to Arsenal.
Arsenal captain Alexandre Lacazette will wear a blue and yellow armband in support of Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.
It’s almost five years since Arsenal last played Champions League football. Their last CL game saw them lose 5-1 at home against Bayern Munich on 7 March 2017.
Arsenal have four games in hand over West Ham and three over Manchester United but Arteta is playing it cool.
‘The reality is that we are not fourth, we are sixth still and if we win those games – and we have to win those games – we know what we have to do to get there,’ said Arteta.
Meanwhile, Watford have made three changes from their goalless draw at Manchester United.
Cucho Hernandez has replaced Ismaila Sarr – who has been ruled out with a hamstring problem – while Kiko Femenia and Joao Pedro come into the squad for Jeremy Ngakia and Joshua King.
Mikel Arteta has named an unchanged side for Sunday’s Premier League trip to Watford. He has kept faith in the players that helped secure a 2-1 win over Wolves.
However, he was unable to select either Takehiro Tomiyasu (due to a calf injury) or Emile Smith Rowe (who contracted Covid).
Cristiano Ronaldo will not be playing in the Manchester derby, according to Laurie Whitwell, who covers the Red Devils for The Athletic.
Watford have earned just seven points from 45 available against Arsenal in the Premier League (W2 D1 L12).
However, four of those points have come in their last three home games against them (W1 D1 L1).
WATFORD XI: Foster, Femenia, Cathcart, Samir, Kamara, Cleverley, Louza, Sissoko, Cucho Hernandez, Denis, Joao Pedro.
Subs: Bachmann, Etebo, Masina, Sema, Kabasele, Kalu, Sierralta, Kucka, Kayembe.
ARSENAL XI: Ramsdale, Cedric Soares, White, Gabriel, Tierney, Partey, Xhaka, Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli, Lacazette.
Subs: Leno, Holding, Pepe, Tavares, Lokonga, Elneny, Nketiah, Swanson, Hutchinson.
Hello and welcome to Sportsmail’s coverage of Watford’s Premier League clash with Arsenal.
The Gunners will be looking to move into the top four with a victory this afternoon, while Watford will be eager to pick up points in their fight for survival.
Follow along right here for the build-up, team news and updates.
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