Arsenal secured a narrow win against Watford to move up to fifth on the table, with Emile Smith Rowe and Ainsley Maitland-Niles putting in big performances.
Arsenal secured a crucial victory over Watford on Sunday, in Mikel Arteta’s 100th game in charge of the team. Emile Smith Rowe’s goal separated the two teams as the Gunners moved up to fifth on the Premier League table. After the matchday concluded, the north Londoners are only three points behind second-placed Manchester City.
Arsenal began the game as they did in their previous two wins. The forwards pressed hard as chances emerged. Bukayo Saka saw a goal ruled out for offside when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should have scored from a decent opportunity.
As the Gunners kept pushing, their first big chance came in the game when Alexandre Lacazette was brought down inside the box by Danny Rose leading to a penalty. Aubameyang missed his spot-kick with Ben Foster making a spectacular stop. The Gabonese international has now missed two consecutive penalties as the first half finished goalless.
Ten minutes into the second half, Ben White won the ball just outside the visitors’ penalty area, and as Watford defenders clattered into him, the ball fell invitingly at Emile Smith Rowe’s feet, who smashed home from outside the box and gave Arsenal the lead. It was also the youngster’s third strike in as many games.
Aubameyang compounded a miserable outing for him personally by first squandering a chance to score, then touching a goal-bound Martin Odegaard shot from an offside position. His blushes were spared as the Gunners held on to secure the three points and climb up the table. Here’s how Arsenal stars rated in their narrow yet convincing win over Watford.
Aaron Ramsdale – 6/10
Ramsdale was hardly troubled by the Watford attackers. One nervy moment occurred in the second half when he misjudged a ball when coming out of his area, leaving Joshua King to find the empty net from a tight angle, only to miss. Otherwise solid on the day.
Takehiro Tomiyasu – 7/10
The Japanese international had a solid game at the back while supporting Saka on the right-wing. Impressed with his vital defensive contributions as he kept a tight leash on Emmanuel Dennis, who never got anything out of Tomiyasu.
Ben White – 8/10
Ben White keeps growing in stature as yet another game passed by without the opposition striker getting anything away from the centre-back. His winning the ball outside the box was crucial in Arsenal’s goal. Overall, the defender was top notch in all aspects of the game.
Gabriel – 7/10
Gabriel is proving a threat from set-pieces, as yet again he came close to scoring. Despite some nervy moments, the centre-back kept the pacy Watford forwards in check, keeping things tight at the back. The clean sheet is a testament to the work rate of the Gunners’ defence.
Nuno Tavares – 7/10
Tavares performed admirably yet again as Kieran Tierney looked on from the bench. His starting position in the first half was that of a winger, often leaving his side with plenty of space. He did improve positionally in the second half as well as defensively.
Bukayo Saka – 7.5/10
A threat all day long on the right side, as Saka looked determined to make something happen every time he got on the ball. Great support in the attacking third, as it was a mature performance with plenty of fancy footwork. Unfortunate to have anearly goal disallowed, although it was the correct decision.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles 8/10
Ainsley Maitland-Niles made more ball recoveries than any other player against Watford (9), while no player made more tackles (5) or more interceptions (2).
Making a claim for a starting spot. 💪 pic.twitter.com/I6KjzVUPoS
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 7, 2021
Named Man of the match and his performance deserved it. Maitland-Niles was an apt replacement for Thomas Partey, as he went confidently into challenges and made some crucial contributions in the forward areas. Had a key role to play in the final third, especially in his team winning the penalty. Positionally he covered the midfield area well as well while also slotting in at left-back when Tavares went forward.
Albert Sambi Lokonga – 6/10
At times he looked physically vulnerable as Watford players could bully him and win the ball back. He improved as the game went on and put in an effective performance that helped Arsenal stay in control in midfield — a second start with Maitland-Niles, which yielded a clean sheet.
Emile Smith-Rowe – 8/10
A livewire in attack, although the impact was slightly lesser in comparison to his previous performances. He made the telling contribution in the game with yet another goal; his third in as many games. He was a threat from counter-attacks while showing game-awareness by dropping deep to receive balls or start attacks.
Emile Smith Rowe’s game by numbers vs. Watford:
96% pass accuracy
3 ball recoveries
1 shot on target
The match winner. 🙌 pic.twitter.com/9hqpmKI06s
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 7, 2021
Alexandre Lacazette – 7/10
Yet another battling performance from the Frenchman up top, although he may have lacked the intensity of the previous two games. Still, he was effective and made telling contributions in the final third, especially winning that penalty only for Aubameyang, who missed the kick.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – 4/10
Aubameyang endured an unusual game. He missed a golden chance in the first half before seeing his spot-kick saved by Foster. Bizarrely put his foot on a goal-bound Odegaard effort from an offside position, which could have increased Arsenal’s lead. A day to forget for the Gunners captain.
Martin Odegaard – 6/10
Looked comfortable on the ball after coming on. Should have had a goal, but Aubameyang’s unnecessary intervention from an offside position denied him the strike. Some of his passes were exceptional as he put in an aggressive cameo performance.
Mohamed Elneny – 5/10
Elneny was tidy on the ball and created one shooting chance for Lokonga after coming on. Kept things calm in midfield as Arsenal saw the game out.
Gabriel Martinelli – N/A
He did not have enough time or impact on the pitch to get a rating.