Aubameyang scores, Mkhitaryan flounders as Arsenal ride fortune at 10-man Watford
Arsenal clung on to a 1-0 win against 10-man Watford to climb back into the Champions League places.
Watford were the architects of their own downfall after a huge Ben Foster error to gift Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang the game's only goal was swiftly followed by a Troy Deeney red card.
It will be a huge relief for Arsenal to have finally recorded their first clean sheet on their travels this season. They owe plenty to Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who came off the bench to produce a brilliant late block to deny Watford an equaliser.
The clean sheet could provide the defence with a confidence boost ahead of their crucial trip to Naples in the Europa League later this week.
This ought to have been far more comfortable than it was. Arsenal never really made their man advantage tell, and when they did create chances their finishing was wayward.
The Gunners will need to be better than this if they're to prevail in their three remaining away league games this season.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Unai Emery will be pleased that he managed some rotation and still came away with the three points. Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil shared the game, while Sead Kolasinac and Alexandre Lacazette spent the entire game on the bench. However, he will be disappointed his team did not win this game more comfortably.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Bernd Leno, 7 -- Despite Arsenal having a man advantage from relatively early in the game, Leno was still called upon to make some decent saves. In the first half alone, he reacted well to keep out efforts from Craig Cathcart and Etienne Capoue.
DF Shkodran Mustafi, 6 -- Deployed as right-back, Mustafi was essentially asked to keep it simple. Unusually for him, he managed it.
DF Laurent Koscielny, 7 -- In a week where Arsenal play three times, Koscielny's stamina will be tested. However, Emery knows they simply cannot afford to be without him at the moment.
DF Konstantinos Mavropanos, 5 -- With Sokratis Papastathopoulos suspended, Emery elected to throw in the younger of their Greek defenders. Arsenal fans have built up Mavropanos in his absence, but this outing showed he is still raw with much to learn.
DF Nacho Monreal, 7 -- Starting in his favoured position as a full-back, Monreal put in a committed display. He was probably somewhat relieved not to be up against the pace of injured countryman Gerard Deulofeu.
MF Granit Xhaka, 5 -- On his return from injury, the Swiss international looked somewhat rusty. He will need to be far better in Naples on Thursday night.
MF Lucas Torreira, 6 -- It was the Uruguayan who has caught by Deeney's elbow, and consequently became a target of boos from the Watford fans. Perhaps Emery felt that was playing on his mind, and that might have contributed to the decision to withdraw him at half-time.
MF Aaron Ramsey, 7 -- In the last few weeks, Arsenal have grown absolutely reliant on Ramsey's energy in midfield. This game was no different. Playing initially as a No. 10, he was free to pop up anywhere in the final third. At half-time, Emery switched him to a deeper role and he became even more integral to Arsenal's approach play.
MF Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 4 -- Somehow, Arsenal's creative midfielder managed to make just 12 passes in the first half, completing nine. It was quite surprising to see him survive Emery's half-time substitution. His night got worse when he missed a great chance after an Alex Iwobi cross.
MF Alex Iwobi, 7 -- In the first half, the Nigerian almost created a second goal for Aubameyang with a low cross and had an effort at goal tipped over. However, his decision-making was also questionable -- a better choice on one counter-attack in particular might well have resulted in a goal. He improved in the second half and ought to have had an assist after an excellent cross for Mkhitaryan.
FW Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang, 7 -- The Gabon international deserves enormous credit for earning Arsenal's opener by chasing down what appeared to be a lost cause. It was his first away goal in the Premier League in 2019. However, he probably ought to have added at least one more.
MF Mesut Ozil, 7 -- Introduced for Torreira (45) to help Arsenal exert control.
MF Matteo Guendouzi, 7 -- Came on for Mavropanos (59) as Arsenal switched to a back three.
MF Ainsley Maitland-Niles, 7 -- Introduced for Ramsey (67) and provided an injection of energy on the right flank. He made an outstanding block to prevent Andre Gray from nabbing annabbing equaliser.