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Emile Smith Rowe leads Arsenal resurgence with win over Watford | premier league

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Emile Smith Rowe and Ben White may not be considered ready for England but they are doing a good job of ensuring Arsenal makes their case for a top four spot. A sixth win in eight league games unbeaten means a concerted incline to Champions League places, deemed unrealistic in most quarters at the start of the season, cannot be ruled out. It wasn’t an elite quality performance but, against rudimentary visitors who were willing to do anything to spoil, it was enough to suggest that Mikel Arteta’s players develop the tools to overcome adversity.

Few teams will show up in the Emirates and offer as little quality as Watford, although their approach has not been millions of miles away from paying off. Recently, Arsenal ripped apart teams by beating their press and tearing up the spaces left behind, but Claudio Ranieri was not born yesterday so the home side had to make their way through a congested and deep opponent and did not have everything it needed. its own way. But the home side have found a way to find their way and, in the final break in domestic action, fifth place in the Premier League will look more than satisfactory.

Arsenal deserved the points, although Smith Rowe’s 56th-minute winner’s manner enraged Ranieri and he scored a point. The oldest manager in the division had strong words to offer to the youngest, who was managing his 100th game, after the final whistle. He believed there had been a ‘big foul’ on Ismaila Sarr by Ainsley Maitland-Niles in the build-up, but also said Arsenal failed to return the ball to their players after sending him off to enable treatment of Ozan Tufan. The resulting throw-in indirectly led to the goal and Ranieri made his displeasure known.

“I told him there was no respect in that action,” he said of the post-match confrontation with Arteta. “Everyone expected an Arsenal player to return the ball. Give us the ball, we shot the ball because there was an injured player. It’s very strange.”

Arteta brushed off the complaints and suggested Arsenal were more guilty than sinning. “I have to defend my players, my team and my club,” he said. “We think we’re the most honest of all and at some point we can even be naïve. If he felt like that, I have to apologize, but I’m sure there was no intention of taking advantage of it.

He preferred to dwell on the result, which was tackled after Smith Rowe swept Ben Foster 20 yards away. Watford had half-cleared a cross but White, stepping forward to intercept in front of a flat-footed Josh King, regained possession from 40 yards. The slalom runs have become a safe bet for the Whites, who have a series of majestic performances; he deflected Juraj Kucka and, while Moussa Sissoko then stopped him with a half challenge, the ball fell well for Smith Rowe. The shot, hit for the first time, suffered a slight deflection and allowed the playmaker to score in three consecutive league games.

It came at a time when Arteta might have been tempted to use his substitutes, but the manager felt his starting players were rewarded for their candidacy. “It was clear that we were going to have moments of frustration,” he said. “You have to be consistent with the actions to win the game and we have never lost sight of it, which is why we won.”

Emile Smith Rowe leads Arsenal resurgence with win over Watford |  premier league

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s penalty was saved by Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster. Photograph: Micah Crook / PPAUK / Shutterstock

At halftime, Arsenal had every reason to be nervous. Their total dominance of the opening period had rarely brought clear chances, but they still should have taken the lead. Bukayo Saka believed he had deflated Watford in eight minutes, converting after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang touched down, but the forward had edged Foster and there was only one defender between the ball and the goal. VAR denied the celebrations, which had been carefully choreographed between Saka and Smith Rowe, and a long, rambling and grimy stint of play ensued.

Danny Rose, who had a scorching spell against Saka, inexplicably dragged Alexandre Lacazette as he sought to tame Nuno Tavares’ mistaken shot.

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It was a blatant act of awkwardness, but Aubameyang’s penalty, neither in the middle nor in the corner, was superbly repelled by a combination of Foster’s rear arm and leg. A kick from Aubameyang had met a similar fate in their previous home game against Aston Villa, but on that occasion he buried the rebound. “He will stay on penalties if he’s happy to do it,” Arteta said nonetheless.

Foster also saved Gabriel Magalhaes well before the break, but couldn’t do much on Smith Rowe’s strike. Watford rarely seemed to respond, their only chance having come when King exploited White and Aaron Ramsdale’s hesitation but could only find the side net from a tight angle. Kucka, whose ability to scold and disrupt was largely effective, passed the mark late and was fired. The recovery of Arsenal, galvanized by its future international selections, is accelerating.

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