Arsenal 1 Watford 0
Claudio Ranieri, the Watford head coach, accused Arsenal of showing a lack of respect after Mikel Arteta’s side scored their winning goal in controversial circumstances at the Emirates Stadium.
Emile Smith Rowe’s second-half strike came just moments after Watford had kicked the ball out of play due to an injury to Ozan Tufan. Rather than subsequently returning possession to the visitors, Arsenal went on the attack and eventually found the net through Smith Rowe’s driven effort.
Ranieri and Arteta were involved in a tense exchange on the touchline at the final whistle, with the Watford head coach clearly incensed by the nature of the deciding goal. Ranieri also felt there was a foul in the build-up to Smith Rowe’s strike.
“We put out the ball and everybody expected the Arsenal player to give it back,” said Ranieri. “Give the ball to us. We put the ball out because there was an injured player, but after this it was very strange. My opinion is there was also a big foul, but nothing happened and then they scored a goal. It was very strange.”
Asked what he had told Arteta at the final whistle, Ranieri added: “I told him there is no respect in that action.”
It had been a feisty afternoon even before the goal. Danny Rose conceded a remarkable penalty, which was missed by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, by charging at Alexandre Lacazette’s neck with his elbow.
Arteta defended his players, saying Arsenal are generally the league’s most honest team and are often guilty of being naive in moments such as those which led to Smith Rowe’s strike.
“I have to defend my players, my team and my club,” said Arteta, who was overseeing his 100th match as manager. “I would say that we are the most honest team and in some stages, we can even become naive. But still if he (Ranieri) felt like that, I have to apologise if that is the case. But I am sure there is no intention to take any advantage.”
The victory moved Arsenal into fifth place in the Premier League and extended their unbeaten run to 10 matches. It has been a remarkable turnaround since the start of the season, when they lost three consecutive games, and Smith Rowe’s goals have been crucial to Arsenal’s resurgence.
The 21-year-old has now scored in three league games in a row for his club, having been challenged by Arteta last season to add more goals and assists to his game.
Smith Rowe’s intervention saved the blushes of Aubameyang, who followed up his penalty miss by snatching a goal away from Martin Odegaard in the second half when the Norwegian’s shot appeared to be goal-bound when Aubameyang stuck out his studs in an offside position.
Aubameyang has now missed his last two penalties. “He will stay on penalties if he is happy to do so,” said the Arsenal manager. “You will miss if you take penalties. This is part of your career, and we will try to help.”
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