Result: Arsenal 1 – 0 Watford
Competition: Premier League
Date: 7 November 2021
Venue: The Emirates Stadium
Arsenal: Ramsdale, Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tavares, Maitland-Niles, Sambi, Smith Rowe, Saka, Lacazette, Aubameyang
Subs: Leno, Cedric, Holding, Tierney, Elneny, Odegaard, Pepe, Martinelli, Nketiah
Arsenal celebrated Arteta’s 100th game in charge by extending their unbeaten run with a 1-0 win against Watford at home.
They had to withstand a constant barrage of fouls from Watford but eventually broke the deadlock in the second half with a long range drive by Emile Smith Rowe.
The win took Arsenal up to fifth place as the Gunners kept pace at the top end of the table.
Arsenal named an almost unchanged side from the big win at Leicester, with the only change being Maitland-Niles for Partey, the latter of whom was sidelined with a tight groin.
With this high energy line-up, the home side looked to cap Arteta’s 100th game in charge in style.
While fans were hoping for a quick start from the Arsenal for Arteta’s century of games in charge, the home team were very patient in the build up thought they stroked the ball around with the confidence of a team who were on an unbeaten streak.
Tavares pushed high up the left while Maitland-Niles filled in at left back, the latter occassionally stepping in to midfield to cover passing lanes. It was during one of these forays into the centre where he pinched the ball from a Watford player and fed it towards goal.
An exchange between Lacazette, Aubameyang and Saka produced what seemed like a goal on 5 minutes, only for the effort to be chalked off for offside.
That moment prompted Watford to shore up their play. They kept organized, disrupted Arsenal’s flow with niggly fouls and hit the counter quickly. Arsenal couldn’t find their rhythm nor could they craft a decent chance on goal.
It was on the 33rd minute when it looked like Arsenal’s luck would change. Danny Rose flung a forearm at Lacazette in the penalty box while challenging for an aerial ball which left the Frenchman floored. Arsenal earned themselves a penalty but Aubameyang could only hit the ball straight at Ben Foster who saved acrobatically.
The home side has one more chance at goal in the first half with Gabriel heading down superbly on goal from a corner, only for Foster to save it off the line.
Arsenal badly missed Partey’s invention and needed an extra creator to pry open the Watford defence.
The match continued in similar fashion – Watford resorting to rotational fouls on Arsenal while the Gunners relied on Lacazette’s and Saka’s nimble feet to dribble past those tackles.
Saka’s infield dribbles caused the most issues for Watford as Rose and co. struggled to stop the young England international. It was Ben White’s dribble, however, that produced the first goal of the game. White won the ball high up the pitch and attempted a run right through the heart of Watford’s defence. Sissoko blocked his run but the ball fell to the feet of Smith Rowe just by the D line.
Arsenal’s No. 10 made no mistake with a first time shot that rifled past Ben Foster. 1-0 to the Arsenal and that was three successive games in which Smith Rowe has scored for the team.
As is customary in recent weeks, Lacazette made way for Odegaard around the 65th minute mark and the Norwegian wasted no time in making his impact felt. He pressed high and distributed the ball well in search for a second goal.
He was even close to goal on the 73rd minute when he received a cutback from Saka and made a clever dribble and sidestep in the penalty box. Odegaard expertly sidefooted the ball towards the far post. It looked like it was just going to curl inwards and Aubameyang tapped in to make sure, only to realize he was offside.
It wouldn’t be an Arsenal game without a “hearts in mouth” moment. Ramsdale had a rush of blood to his head close to the end of the match as he rushed out to clear a ball and clashed with Ben White. It left Joshua King with an open goal from an acute angle and thankfully, he could only guide the ball into the side netting.
The substitution of Elneny and the late suspension of Watford’s Kucka secured the win for Arsenal as they headed into the Interlull with full confidence.
Up next, the mighty Liverpool.