Watford 0-1 Arsenal: Premier League – as it happened

Ben Foster conceded a ludicrous goal before Troy Deeney earned himself a ludicrous red card to gift Arsenal a scarcely-deserved win

And that’s all from me. Cheers!

Ben Foster talks to Sky:

I’m gutted for the lads. They were brilliant. I thought we were the better team, really pushing for it and Arsenal were happy to hit us on the counter-attack. I’ve said sorry to the lads. I think I should have just Cruyff-ed him to be honest, but it’s not my style.

Daryl played the ball back to me. I wanted to drag it onto my left and then hit it out wide, but before I know it he’s bloody on to me. God, he’s fast. Fair play to him, he’s absolutely rapid. I’ve got to do it a bit quicker, you’ve got to just get rid as soon as you can. It’s not the time to muck about. I’m definitely not a modern goalie. I’m happy to put it in row Z. I just thought I had a bit more time than I did.

On the red card:

Troy’s not happy about it in there. Said it was absolutely nothing, didn’t mean to do anything and that’s all I can say.

Here’s Sachin Nakrani’s match report:

More from Aubameyang. The result will be pleasing, for sure, but I don’t think there’s any reason to take confidence from their performance.

These three points give us a lot of confidence, because now we know we can win games away. That’s great, tonight, to win three points and to go home with this victory.

Here’s a bit of Aubameyang’s reaction:

We knew that it would be a tough game, and I think everybody knows what’s the target for us this season, to get in the top four, and we knew that this game is really important to stay in the competition for the top four.

[For the goal] I was confident I could get there. It was a long time I wanted to score a goal like this, and today it came true. It was a good goal. For me, I like it.

Watford were the better team for most of the game, I think. There just weren’t quite enough people in it.

That was as encouraging as an idiotically-given-away defeat can be for Watford, and as unimpressive as a desperately-needed-away-win gets for Arsenal. It was a compelling game, but none of the actual, in-game action really had much impact on the result, which was decided by two very poor mistakes from players who should know better.

Final score: Watford 0-1 Arsenal

90+4 mins: There’s time for one more Aubameyang offside sprint before the referee blows his whistle, and Arsenal have a rare away win!

90+3 mins: ... but in the end the ball loops to Leno, and time is nearly up for Watford.

90+3 mins: Most of Watford’s nine outfield players are in the penalty area, as Janmaat prepares for a throw.

90+1 mins: Watford very nearly find a way through, but the ball doesn’t fall to Gray, or Capoue, or Hughes, and when it finally rolls to Success his attempted pass, or perhaps shot, is miserably weak.

90+1 mins: There’ll be about three minutes of stoppage time.

90 mins: A late three-on-two break from Arsenal is snuffed out by a combination of Capoue and Cathcart.

88 mins: Arsenal keep the ball for a while, working it down the right and then across to the left. It ends with a good chance for Aubameyang, who bursts onto the ball on the edge of the area, runs into the box and then blasts wide with his left foot!

86 mins: The night’s final substitution sees Ken Sema come on, replacing Masina.

85 mins: Despite those Watford chances, there has been a significant drop in intensity in the last 10 minutes. Watford are still pushing, but their belief, and their energy, is running out.

83 mins: And another! Janmaat crosses from the right and Hughes beats Mkhitaryan to the header, but the ball loops over the bar.

80 mins: Chance for Watford! Success nods the ball on and Gray bursts past Maitland-Niles, goes past Leno and tries to turn it into the net, but Maitland-Niles gets back to put himself in the way!

Andre Gray’s shot is well blocked by Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
Andre Gray’s shot is well blocked by Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Photograph: Marc Atkins/Getty Images


78 mins: Guendouzi makes a nice run behind the defence on the right and is found with a chipped pass, but his low centre is to nobody in particular, and in the end Xhaka’s shot is saved. “Robert Pires would look like a hard man in this Arsenal midfield,” says Duncan Edwards. “Every time they face a robust challenge its as if someone is disrupting their aerobics class.”

75 mins: Great chance for Arsenal! It’s another fizzing centre from Mkhitaryan, and Aubameyang meets it at the near post, but he pokes the ball over the bar!

Aubameyang misses from close range.
Aubameyang misses from close range. Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA


74 mins: The quality of Watford’s crossing has been very poor. Twice Success, who doesn’t even have the excuse of tiredness, has given the ball away with rubbish passes infield, and now Gray crosses to nobody.

70 mins: Watford push forward, but Hughes’s volleyed cross is cut out. Arsenal push forward, but Iwobi’s low cross is cut out.

68 mins: Mkhitaryan fizzes the ball across goal towards Ozil, but the German doesn’t seem particularly keen on sprinting so doesn’t reach the cross. Arsenal bring on Maitland-Niles, and take off Ramsey.

67 mins: Watford have come into the game again after a difficult start to the half, but they are starting to take serious risks in defence as they seek an equaliser. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t another goal in this game.

65 mins: Aubameyang is played in, but he was standing just inside Watford’s half and is thus offside.

64 mins: Janmaat finds Gray in the area, but the striker can’t bring the ball under control and it runs off the pitch! What a great chance that nearly was and probably should have been.

62 mins: Watford hit the bar! Doucoure lays the ball off to Masina, who from at least 30 yards smashes a shot that Leno gets nowhere near, and crashes against the angle of post and bar!

Bernd Leno is beaten by Adam Masina’s shot but the ball crashes against the bar!
Bernd Leno is beaten by Adam Masina’s shot but the ball crashes against the bar! Photograph: David Klein/Reuters


61 mins: Another Mkhitaryan shot, this from just outside the area. It’s absolutely wild, high and wide.

60 mins: Kabasele leaves the field for a couple of minutes to change his boots, and for a while Ozil and Aubameyang are both waiting for any kind of through-ball, with only Cathcart anywhere near either of them. Arsenal can’t quite find a way through Watford’s nine men.

59 mins: And Watford bring Isaac Success on for Kiko Femenia.

59 mins: Arsenal make their second change, bringing Guendouzi on for Mavropanos.

58 mins: Another chance for the away team. Mkhitaryan plays a one-two with Ozil and then spears a shot well wide from just inside the area.

57 mins: What a chance for Arsenal! They break, and have four forwards to Watford’s three defenders. Iwobi crosses to Mkhitaryan, who looked to be about to tap in a volley from six yards, but Foster comes out quickly and gets a leg in the way!

Ben Foster’s leg denies Arsenal’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Ben Foster’s leg denies Arsenal’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Photograph: Matthew Childs/Action Images via Reuters


56 mins: Janmaat carries the ball across the edge of Arsenal’s area, and then shoots into Gray’s legs.

55 mins: Jim Hounslow has done some actual refereeing training. “I’m studying for my referee exam on Wednesday,” he writes. “This looks like a ‘strike or attempts to strike at an opponent (includes head butts)‘ rather than ‘Violent Conduct’ which uses excessive force or brutality. In the case of strikes the referee determines to be careless, reckless or use of excessive force. I would have cautioned him.”

54 mins: Capoue gets booked, for going into a challenge on Mkhitaryan with a high foot. The Arsenal player really did make a big show of very limited contact, though.

53 mins: Iwobi curls the ball in from the left-hand corner of the area, but Aubameyang just fails to get a boot to it at the near post, and then it curls only just past the far post.

51 mins: Iwobi tricks his way past Doucoure on the byline, but in doing so tricks his way off the pitch.

49 mins: Arsenal have dominated the early moments of this half. Indeed, Watford have barely got a kick.

46 mins: Peeeeep! And they’re off!

The players are back out, with Arsenal replacing Torreira with Ozil for the second half.

“There’s no way that was a straight red but that needed to happen to Deeney so as to reset the karmic balance,” says Jerome Bishop.

Half-time reading: here’s a piece about a match played 95 years ago yesterday, and a time when two of this season’s relegation candidates were engaged in the tightest title chase of all time:

Some clarification from Rick McGahey: “I think you are joking about a ‘reasonably gentle forearm smash’ (although you can never tell with English football fans and their tolerance for physical play), but just to be pedantic (it is The Guardian after all), here’s what Fifa means by ‘excessive force’: ‘Using excessive force means that the player has far exceeded the necessary use of force and is in danger of injuring his opponent.’ Since hitting Torriera in the head wasn’t necessary at all (never could be), red card is just fine by Fifa standards.” Yeah, I get that. But I think Fifa have worked some unnecessary grey area into their wording here. It looked to me like a red card, because Deeney jabbed his forearm into Torreira’s head, but he was not in danger of injuring his opponent, so perhaps I’m wrong.

Half time: Watford 0-1 Arsenal

45+2 mins: Arsenal don’t deserve anything from that half. They have been terrible, and for large parts outplayed by 10 men. However, they have been gifted a lead and they’ve still got it.

45+1 mins: There will be one minute of stoppage time. It starts with Aubameyang getting the ball in the area, twisting this way and that and then shooting into Hughes.

44 mins: “So if I understand correctly, Deeney (a) decided ahead of time to whack an Arsenal player, (b) announced his intention to the referees, and then (c) actually went out and did it,” summarises Peter McMurry. “And now he’s complaining about a red card? There’s got to be some Spanish aphorism about brains v cojones that’s appropriate here.”

41 mins: Watford attack nicely, and when Femenia crosses from the right Mustafi heads the ball just before Kabasele can volley it. On the plus side, he denies Watford a goalscoring chance. On the down side, he gets volleyed in the head.

40 mins: As Gary Naylor points out, you actually should be allowed to do a reasonably gentle forearm smash. Fifa’s laws state: “A player is guilty of violent conduct if he uses excessive force or brutality against an opponent when not challenging for the ball.” So a bit of force is fine.

37 mins: Doucoure flicks the ball over an opponent’s head and passes to Gray, who I’m pretty certain is not offside, but the lino has his flag up. Gray should have been played in on goal, in which case the official’s mistake would have been significant, but instead the pass was played behind him.

35 mins: Arsenal have been dreadful so far. Obviously the game has kind of been handed to them, but their own contribution has been extremely weak. “Let’s have more fun!” suggests Hubert O’Hearn. “In what way are Emery’s Arsenal better than later Wenger? Monsters at home/helpless away; flat track bullies/contenders meat and drink; artful yet indecisive; and no one knows what to do with Mesut Ozil. Discuss.”

32 mins: Capoue’s free-kick is heading for the corner of the net, but turned round the post by Leno!

31 mins: Hughes runs from his own half to the edge of the D, and then falls over. I didn’t see a foul, but the referee did.

30 mins: “Couldn’t be more neutral on this match if I was a Swiss girl named Heidi, but honestly, never a red card,” argues Hubert O’Hearn. “To quote the late Jimmy Cannon on the ‘invisible knockout’ in Clay v. Liston II: ‘I was at ringside, I saw the punch, and it wouldn’t have crushed a grape.’”

I think that if you smash someone in the face just a little bit, it’s still a face-smash.

28 mins: This is quite fun. We can only imagine how much fun it might have been had Watford not gone down to 10 men.

26 mins: Arsenal counter-attack and briefly have a three-on-one, but Iwobi dallies and then shoots into Cathcart, and when the ball bounces back to him he lashes in a shot, which Foster pushes over the bar!


26 mins: Watford are on top at the moment. They win a corner, and as it comes in Leno gives Gray a shove. Watford fancy a penalty, but don’t get one.

25 mins: Key Deeney quote here, from last season’s “cojones” rant. “Let me whack the first one and see who wants it,” is a perfectly decent tactic, unless the referee spots it:

I have to watch what I say, but it’s [having] a bit of cojones, is what I’ll say. Whenever I play against Arsenal, I’ll go up and think ‘let me whack the first one and see who wants it.’

24 mins: Chance for Watford! Gray escapes down the left, but Monreal spots Doucoure’s burst into the area and is on hand to clear the pull-back.

22 mins: Torreira wins another free-kick, and has made himself very unpopular with the home fans. I still think the decision to send Deeney off was the right one. “Interesting foul from Troy Deeney,” says Gary Naylor. “I suspect (and I think Deeney has said as much in the past) that he was testing the waters with an early ‘orange’ fully expecting that a yellow would come. It didn’t, and rightly so. Falls into the ‘too clever by half’ drawer.”

Lucas Torreira goes down again - this time fouled by Watford’s Abdoulaye Doucoure.
Lucas Torreira goes down again - this time fouled by Watford’s Abdoulaye Doucoure. Photograph: Matthew Childs/Action Images via Reuters


20 mins: The free-kick is lifted into the area, it comes off Kabasele and drops to Cathcart, whose volley goalwards is saved!

19 mins: Massive cheers as Watford get their first free-kick of the game, when Torreira brings down Capoue. “Off! Off! Off!” shout the home fans.

17 mins: Iwobi gets down the left and crosses, Aubameyang reaches it at the near post, but the ball deflects wide off Cathcart.

17 mins: It has been a mind-boggling implosion from Watford, who had started the game so well but have gifted their opponents a goal and a man advantage. Bizarre decision-making from two very experienced players.

14 mins: Hughes tackles Mkhitaryan, who collapses to the floor and rolls around clutching his ankle. The referee tells him to get up, and so he stops rolling around, gets up and trots off, completely fine.

12 mins: I think that’s not a terrible call. Deeney ran past Torreira and as he did so pushed his forearm into his opponent. It wasn’t very violent, but it was entirely unnecessary.

Deeney pushes his forearm into Torreira and sees red.
Deeney pushes his forearm into Torreira and sees red. Photograph: Joe Toth/BPI/Rex/Shutterstock


Troy Deeney gets sent off!

11 mins: The referee, or his assistant, has seen something the cameras have not. There was apparently a coming together with Torreira. Arsenal claim there was an elbow, and the referee brings out a red card!

Troy Deeney walks.
Troy Deeney walks. Photograph: David Klein/Reuters


11 mins: Aubameyang closed down the keeper well there, but that is just a hideous goal to concede.

GOAL! Watford 0-1 Arsenal (Aubameyang, 10 mins)

Arsenal take the lead, and that is an absolute gift! Janmaat passes back to Foster, whose first touch is poor, and whose clearance hits Aubameyang’s ankle and rebounds into the net!

Ben Foster’s clearance hits the ankle of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for Arsenal’s opening goal!
Ben Foster’s clearance hits the ankle of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for Arsenal’s opening goal! Photograph: Marc Atkins/Getty Images


8 mins: Xhaka’s ridiculous collapse when Masina lays a flat palm gently against his back earns Arsenal a free-kick, and a bit of a breather.

7 mins: It’s been a fine start for the home side, who seem to be winning all the 50/50 challenges, and a fair few 60/40 and 70/30s as well.

5 mins: That leads to a Watford corner, from which they pressure the Arsenal defence for a while, until Hughes shanks a volley wide.

4 mins: Femenia slightly overhits a pass to Gray, and Mavrapanos cuts it out to end a briefly very promising Watford attack.

2 mins: Gray closes down Leno, and forces the keeper into a panicked clearance. The crowd roars.

1 min: Peeeeep! Watford get the game started!

Arsenal are in their third kit, which for those who haven’t seen it is “a modern green base colour with navy detailing”.

And out they come!

The players have gathered in the tunnel.

Javi Gracia has a pre-match chat. He says his team will start with a back three, which is a significant departure for him:

With the players we have we can change shape during the game. It depends on different circumstances. [Emery] came to see us many times but I think it’s not the most important to know each other. The most important is what is happening on the pitch and at this moment the main protagonists are the players. I think we’ll see a good game and I hope we’ll have a good result at the end for us.

I think the absence of both Pereyra and Deulofeu is very significant for Watford. The Argentinian has been in mediocre form for much of the season, but either of those players can conjure a goal at any moment, and without them their attack is rather prosaic.

Here’s the Press Association’s team-news-based update:

Arsenal made six changes for their Premier League clash at Watford as Konstantinos Mavropanos made his first start since May.

The Gunners face Napoli in the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final and travel to Italy defending a 2-0 lead.

Unai Emery is likely to have one eye on that fixture with Mavropanos starting as well as fellow recalled players Shkodran Mustafi, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alex Iwobi and Bernd Leno, while Granit Xhaka recovered from a groin problem to be included.

Watford meanwhile made four alterations from their victorious FA Cup semi-final win over Wolves as Ben Foster, Christian Kabasele, Daryl Janmaat and Adam Masina came in.

Moody sunset photograph of the day:

Watford's Vicarage Road
The sun sets behind Vicarage Road before the game between Watford and Arsenal. Photograph: Joe Toth/BPI/REX/Shutterstock

Good stat from Bill Edgar in the Times this morning: if Watford do not beat Arsenal tonight it will ensure that this will be the first top-flight case of three seasons in a row with the same teams filling the top six places (in any order).

Six changes for Arsenal, including Bernd Leno in goal. Ozil and Lacazette both drop to the bench.

Watford are also much-changed: Adam Masina comes in at left-back, Christian Kabasele is at centre-back, and neither Roberto Pereyra or Gerard Deulofeu are fit.

The teams!

These are today’s teams:

Watford: Foster, Janmaat, Kabasele, Cathcart, Masina, Femenia, Capoue, Doucoure, Hughes, Deeney, Gray. Subs: Gomes, Britos, Mariappa, Success, Sema, Chalobah, Navarro.
Arsenal: Leno, Mustafi, Koscielny, Mavropanos, Monreal, Torreira, Xhaka, Mkhitaryan, Ramsey, Iwobi, Aubameyang. Subs: Cech, Elneny, Lacazette, Ozil, Maitland-Niles, Guendouzi, Kolasinac.
Referee: Craig Pawson.


Hello world!

Watford won this fixture last year, a riproaring 2-1 victory sealed by Tom Cleverley’s stoppage-time strike which prompted Troy Deeney, scorer of his side’s other goal that night, to deliver his sermon about Arsenal and their issue with “cojones”. So the Gunners will be wanting to make amends for that.

Arsenal won their home game against Watford in September, two goals in three late minutes bringing them a 2-0 victory. They only had two shots on target that day (Watford had five) and most observers declared that the visitors should have won it. So the Hornets will be wanting to make amends for that.

Then there’s the matter of Arsenal’s away form this season. They have the division’s third-best home record, accumulating three points less than Liverpool have at Anfield and four points less than Manchester City have at the Etihad. There are nine teams that have won more points away from home (though Arsenal have played two fewer away matches than most top-flight teams) and of the Gunners’ five away wins three came against teams in the relegation zone. The highest-placed team they have beaten away from home this season is Bournemouth, in 12th. So they will want to make amends for that.

Factor in the fact that the managers are former teammates, having spent a year together at Real Sociedad, and paid-up members of a mutual appreciation society. “He’s a good friend and it’s good to see him again, we are very close,” says Javi Gracia. “We sometimes talk away from football and spend time together. We had dinner, their coaches and with our coaches,” says Unai Emery. “They are my friends, not only Javi Gracia but also his assistant Zigor Aranalde and Iñigo Arteaga.”

Plus Watford want to finish seventh, and to be in full form for next month’s FA Cup final, while Arsenal want to finish in the top four. Thus, and to summarise, there’s plenty riding on this. Should be a good ’un.