Premier League

Arsenal 1-0 Watford: Player ratings as Emile Smith Rowe sinks Hornets

Grey Whitebloom
Emile Smith Rowe's second half goal proved the difference in Arsenal's 1-0 win over Watford
Emile Smith Rowe's second half goal proved the difference in Arsenal's 1-0 win over Watford / Ryan Pierse/GettyImages

Arsenal ground out a hard-fought 1-0 win at home to Watford on Sunday afternoon in Mikel Arteta's 100th match at the helm.

As they have made of a habit of doing this season, Arsenal started quickly. Alexandre Lacazette's scooped shot was pawed to the feet of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang inside the opening ten minutes. But the Gunners' captain took a heavy touch which Bukayo Saka gleefully strode onto and slotted into an unguarded goal, but from an offside position.

Arsenal had a monopoly on possession, but Watford spent the opening half-hour ably frustrating their hosts as they clogged the midfield with a physical and compact 4-5-1.

It took a freakish sequence of events in the 36th minute for Arsenal to win a penalty. As Ainsley Maitland-Niles' sliced shot tumbled out of the sky, Danny Rose barrelled into Lacazette inside the box with the ball barely in shot. Yet, Watford's goal made another narrow escape as Ben Foster contorted his body to deny Aubameyang's spot kick belted down the middle.

In a staccato contest riddled with niggling fouls and stoppages, Arsenal made an effort to try and win the ball higher up the pitch in the second half - in light of their struggles at breaking down Watford.

Ben White snuck ahead of the dozing Josh King to do just that ten minutes into the second half, weaving into the final third before the ball fell kindly for Emile Smith Rowe to finally beat Foster.

As the space between the lines of Watford's rejigged 4-4-2 widened, Arsenal played their way into the box. Yet, as substitute Martin Odegaard began to celebrate finishing off a patient passing move the flag was raised in response to a wholly unnecessary touch from the offside Aubameyang.

The nerves began to jangle as Arsenal took their one-goal lead into the closing stages - tensions reached their peak when Aaron Ramsdale sped out of his area only to watch King skip past him, but find the side-netting from a tight angle.

Juraj Kucka's dismissal in the 89th minute relieved Watford's mounting pressure as Arsenal hung on to extend their unbeaten sequence to ten matches across all competitions.

Here are your player ratings for both teams...

Arsenal player ratings

1. Goalkeeper & defenders

Gabriel Magalhaes
Gabriel frantically appeals for a decision in Arsenal's attritional performance against Watford / Ryan Pierse/GettyImages

Aaron Ramsdale (GK) - 5/10 - One moment of madness went unpunished.

Takehiro Tomiyasu (RB) - 7/10 - Throwing his considerable weight around the pitch as he seemingly enjoyed the rugged nature of the match.

Ben White (CB) - 8/10 - Given the lack of passing options ahead of him, White often drove Arsenal forward with the ball at his feet, starting the sequence which eventually broke the deadlock.

Gabriel (CB) - 7/10 - Left astounded that his thumped header from a first half corner was rebuffed by Foster, Gabriel put out any flickering fires at the other end.

Nuno Tavares (LB) - 5/10 - Tired visibly as the game wore on.

2. Midfielders

Ismaila Sarr, Ainsley Maitland-Niles
Ainsley Maitland-Niles stepping into the role Thomas Partey has occupied to much praise of late / Ryan Pierse/GettyImages

Albert Sambi Lokonga (CM) - 7/10 - Lumbered with the pivotal task of starting Arsenal's attacks and halting those of the opposition, Sambi fared better with the latter.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles (CM) - 7/10 - Stepping in for the injured Thomas Partey, the once want-away academy graduate didn't shrink from the volley of challenges flying around him in a busy midfield.

Alexandre Lacazette (AM) - 6/10 - Floating around the pitch desperately searching for a pocket of space that wasn't entirely forthcoming.

3. Forwards

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Only Ian Wright (six) has missed more Premier League penalties than Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (four) / Richard Heathcote/GettyImages

Bukayo Saka (RW) - 8/10 - The outlet through which most of Arsenal's attacks were funnelled, Saka constantly tried to dribble past his opponent and unbalance the Hornets backline.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (ST) - 3/10 - Squandered three gaping goal scoring chances for the team with a heavy touch, a missed penalty and an unneeded intervention.

Emile Smith Rowe (LW) - 6/10 - Skirting around the fringes of the contest before he broke the deadlock out of the blue.

4. Substitutes

Martin Odegaard (AM) - 6/10 - Cruelly denied a beautiful goal by his own teammate.

Mohamed Elneny (CM) - 6/10

Gabriel Martinelli (RW) - N/A

Watford player ratings

5. Goalkeeper & defenders

Ben Foster (GK) - 7/10 - While his self-confessed fan patrolled the opposition's goal, Foster delivered a shot-stopping performance worthy of Ramsdale's admiration.

Kiko Femenia (RB) - 5/10 - Doggedly tracked Smith Rowe for the majority of the contest only to see his man open the scoring.

Craig Cathcart (CB) - 6/10 - Often the Hornet there to scramble the ball away.

Nicolas Nkoulou (CB) - 5/10 - On his first ever Premier League start, Watford's summer arrival wasn't forced into an overly laborious display.

Danny Rose (LB) - 2/10 - The most impressive aspect of a thoroughly poor display that saw him commit four fouls and concede a penalty before half-time, was Rose's lack of a yellow card.

6. Midfielders

Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Juraj Kucka
Juraj Kucka engaged in one of numerous duels throughout the afternoon / Ryan Pierse/GettyImages

Juraj Kucka (CM) - 3/10 - Snapping around the pitch, the wily veteran enjoyed the bitty, foul-laden battle a little too much, eventually earning his marching orders for one late tackle too many.

Moussa Sissoko (CM) - 5/10 - Hovering behind his midfield colleagues the former Tottenham man couldn't get a foothold in the contest.

Ozan Tufan (CM) - 4/10 - Struggled to exert much of an influence on or off the ball. Unsurprising choice for Claudio Ranieri's first substitution.

7. Forwards

Gabriel Magalhaes, Ismaila Sarr
Ismaila Sarr tangles with Arsenal's Gabriel / Ryan Pierse/GettyImages

Ismaila Sarr (RW) - 4/10 - Forced to swap flanks in a vain search of impacting proceedings.

Joshua King (ST) - 4/10 - A lonesome, isolated figure for much of the match, couldn't capitalise on his one, rare sight of goal.

Emmanuel Dennis (LW) - 6/10 - Forced into focussing on the defensive aspect of his role, which, in fairness, he didn't shirk.

8. Substitutes

Joao Pedro (ST) - 5/10

Cucho Hernandez (LW) - N/A

Ashley Fletcher (ST) - N/A