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Arsenal 1 - Watford 0 match report: 3 points are 3 points

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The Gunners really should have done more against 10-man Watford, but a win is a win.

Watford FC v Arsenal FC - Premier League
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s hustle goal was all Arsenal needed to see off 10-man Watford.
Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Let’s start by focusing on the positives, shall we? Arsenal got all three points from a tricky away match. They kept their first away clean sheet of the season. Bernd Leno was fantastic (again). Ainsley-Maitland Niles made a marvelous defensive play to save a goal. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang showed why you always chase down the keeper and pressure the clearance.

Most importantly, Arsenal moved back into fourth in the table on goal difference with a game in hand on Chelsea, and the Gunners still control their Champions League qualification fate.

Now for the negatives.

Actually, one more positive. It was noted dunce Troy Deeney, he of the when I play Arsenal I think, “let me whack the first one and see who is up for it,” quote who got himself sent off by, well, whacking Lucas Torriera, the first Arsenal man he saw. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

But Arsenal went 80+ minutes without scoring against 10-man Watford. That is not good. At all. Both Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were wasteful in front of goal, often failing to hit the net and force a save. The Gunners seemed happy to concede possession up a man instead of getting on the ball, slowing the pace, and grinding out the match. Watford managed way more half-chances than a mid-table team, playing down a man, should have generated. Truth be told, it was another shoddy away performance from the Gunners

Some of the blame has to fall to Unai Emery. Bringing on Mesut Ozil at halftime was a good move, designed (I’d think) to kill off the match by getting another goal or two. I’m not sure I would have taken Lucas Torreira off, but there is Thursday’s match at Napoli to consider.

When Watford fought back, however, things began to fall apart. Swapping Matteo Guendouzi for Dinos Mavropanos was alright. The centerback looked overmatched today and Arsenal have plenty of experience playing with a back three. But when the back three, complete with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi at wing back started getting shredded, Emery was forced to bring Ainsley-Maitland Niles on for Aaron Ramsey to swap back to the back four. Arsenal changed formation twice in ten minutes and used all of their subs before the 70th minute to do so.

Of course, you could also look at it as Unai Emery was quick to realize his mistake and make a change to fix things rather than compounding it by doing nothing. I’d rather he just not make the mistake in the first place. It’s not hard to figure out that a wing back pairing of Mkhitaryan and Iwobi leaves something to be desired defensively.

But as the headline says - 3 points are 3 points. There is no “aesthetics” column in the table. Arsenal got the job done. On to Napoli on Thursday in the Europa League.