Arsenal hold off spirited Watford to condemn Hornets to relegation


Watford suffered relegation from the Premier League despite a brave comeback bid against Arsenal on the final day.

Arsenal held off a valiant comeback from Watford to triumph 3-2 at Emirates Stadium, a result that confirmed the visitors' relegation to the Championship.

An otherwise disappointing Premier League campaign for the Gunners ended on a winning note thanks to a brace from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, though their focus was always on next weekend's FA Cup final against Chelsea. 

Watford, in contrast, had plenty to play for. They kicked off inside the relegation zone but were unable to produce a final-day miracle, not aided by conceding a penalty inside the opening minute. 

Caretaker boss Hayden Mullins – who replaced Nigel Pearson with just two games remaining – watched his side fight hard after falling 3-0 down, yet even a defiant draw would not have been enough to spare them from the drop.

The Hornets were stung early when Craig Dawson's careless barge into the back of Alexandre Lacazette was spotted, albeit only after a lengthy VAR check. Aubameyang duly converted from the spot, though the away team had opportunities to hit back.

Roberto Pereyra had an attempt saved by Emiliano Martinez, while Rob Holding inadvertently blocked a Troy Deeney header with his face, before Kieran Tierney's shot found the net at the other end. 

Watford aided Aubameyang's ultimately failed quest to win the Golden Boot when allowing the striker to control a long throw and convert with an overhead kick from six yards out, though Arsenal returned the favour by gifting their opponents an opportunity to pull one back. 

David Luiz's sliding lunge only made contact with former Gunner Danny Welbeck, allowing Deeney to fire in a much-needed lifeline prior to the half-time interval.

Having rallied from 2-0 down to draw in the reverse fixture earlier in the campaign, there was renewed belief of history being repeated when Welbeck tapped home in the 66th minute. 

However, the forward was denied an equaliser when his clever back-heeled effort was kept out by a diving Martinez, and the game was up once Deeney planted a late header over the crossbar.


What does it mean? Watford collapse a cautionary tale

It is easy to forget that the 2018-19 season ended with Watford reflecting on a mid-table finish and an FA Cup final appearance. A year and several coaching changes since, they are facing up to life in the Championship.

The manager's office would have been better off with a revolving door: Javi Gracia departed early, Quique Sanchez Flores returned with little success and while Pearson offered real hope, his surprise departure left the unfortunate Mullins to go down with the ship.

Auba fires yet again

Arsenal finish outside the top six for the first time since 1995, but Mikel Arteta's early months provide some promise for the future. The Spanish coach will hope he has convinced Aubameyang that his long-term future remains in north London.

Dawson's meek defence

Lacazette had his back to goal as he looked to control Aubameyang's cross, only for Dawson to intervene. The centre-back's foolish challenge put his team immediately on the back foot when they were already up against it.

Key Opta facts 

- Watford have been relegated from the Premier League for the third time - the Hornets also suffered the drop in 1999-00 and 2006-07. 
- Despite the victory, Arsenal have suffered their lowest Premier League finish (eighth) since the 1994-95 campaign, when they finished 12th. 
- This was the first Premier League match to see both sides win a penalty in the opening half since Arsenal against Tottenham in December 2018. 
- Tierney became the first Scottish player to score for Arsenal since Scott Marshall against Newcastle in March 1996. 
- Welbeck is the fourth different player to score at Emirates Stadium for three different clubs (Manchester United, Arsenal and Watford), following on from Eduardo da Silva, Dimitar Berbatov and Younes Kaboul. 

What's next? 

While Watford focus on how to secure a quick return to the top flight, Arsenal know they must defeat Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday if they want to be playing European football next season.

Source Omnisport