3.47pm EDT 15:47 Half time: Watford 0-1 Arsenal 45+2 mins: Arsenal don’t deserve anything from that half. They have been terrible, and for large parts outplayed by 10 men. However, they have been gifted a lead and they’ve still got it. 3.45pm EDT 15:45 45+1 mins: There will be one minute of stoppage time. It
Half time: Watford 0-1 Arsenal
45+2 mins: Arsenal don’t deserve anything from that half. They have been terrible, and for large parts outplayed by 10 men. However, they have been gifted a lead and they’ve still got it.
45+1 mins: There will be one minute of stoppage time. It starts with Aubameyang getting the ball in the area, twisting this way and that and then shooting into Hughes.
44 mins: “So if I understand correctly, Deeney (a) decided ahead of time to whack an Arsenal player, (b) announced his intention to the referees, and then (c) actually went out and did it,” summarises Peter McMurry. “And now he’s complaining about a red card? There’s got to be some Spanish aphorism about brains v cojones that’s appropriate here.”
41 mins: Watford attack nicely, and when Femenia crosses from the right Mustafi heads the ball just before Kabasele can volley it. On the plus side, he denies Watford a goalscoring chance. On the down side, he gets volleyed in the head.
40 mins: As Gary Naylor points out, you actually should be allowed to do a reasonably gentle forearm smash. Fifa’s laws state: “A player is guilty of violent conduct if he uses excessive force or brutality against an opponent when not challenging for the ball.” So a bit of force is fine.
37 mins: Doucoure flicks the ball over an opponent’s head and passes to Gray, who I’m pretty certain is not offside, but the lino has his flag up. Gray should have been played in on goal, in which case the official’s mistake would have been significant, but instead the pass was played behind him.
35 mins: Arsenal have been dreadful so far. Obviously the game has kind of been handed to them, but their own contribution has been extremely weak. “Let’s have more fun!” suggests Hubert O’Hearn. “In what way are Emery’s Arsenal better than later Wenger? Monsters at home/helpless away; flat track bullies/contenders meat and drink; artful yet indecisive; and no one knows what to do with Mesut Ozil. Discuss.”
32 mins: Capoue’s free-kick is heading for the corner of the net, but turned round the post by Leno!
31 mins: Hughes runs from his own half to the edge of the D, and then falls over. I didn’t see a foul, but the referee did.
30 mins: “Couldn’t be more neutral on this match if I was a Swiss girl named Heidi, but honestly, never a red card,” argues Hubert O’Hearn. “To quote the late Jimmy Cannon on the ‘invisible knockout’ in Clay v. Liston II: ‘I was at ringside, I saw the punch, and it wouldn’t have crushed a grape.’”
I think that if you smash someone in the face just a little bit, it’s still a face-smash.
28 mins: This is quite fun. We can only imagine how much fun it might have been had Watford not gone down to 10 men.
26 mins: Arsenal counter-attack and briefly have a three-on-one, but Iwobi dallies and then shoots into Cathcart, and when the ball bounces back to him he lashes in a shot, which Foster pushes over the bar!
26 mins: Watford are on top at the moment. They win a corner, and as it comes in Leno gives Gray a shove. Watford fancy a penalty, but don’t get one.
25 mins: Key Deeney quote here, from last season’s “cojones” rant. “Let me whack the first one and see who wants it,” is a perfectly decent tactic, unless the referee spots it:
I have to watch what I say, but it’s [having] a bit of cojones, is what I’ll say. Whenever I play against Arsenal, I’ll go up and think ‘let me whack the first one and see who wants it.’
24 mins: Chance for Watford! Gray escapes down the left, but Monreal spots Doucoure’s burst into the area and is on hand to clear the pull-back.
22 mins: Torreira wins another free-kick, and has made himself very unpopular with the home fans. I still think the decision to send Deeney off was the right one. “Interesting foul from Troy Deeney,” says Gary Naylor. “I suspect (and I think Deeney has said as much in the past) that he was testing the waters with an early ‘orange’ fully expecting that a yellow would come. It didn’t, and rightly so. Falls into the ‘too clever by half’ drawer.”
20 mins: The free-kick is lifted into the area, it comes off Kabasele and drops to Cathcart, whose volley goalwards is saved!
19 mins: Massive cheers as Watford get their first free-kick of the game, when Torreira brings down Capoue. “Off! Off! Off!” shout the home fans.
17 mins: Iwobi gets down the left and crosses, Aubameyang reaches it at the near post, but the ball deflects wide off Cathcart.
17 mins: It has been a mind-boggling implosion from Watford, who had started the game so well but have gifted their opponents a goal and a man advantage. Bizarre decision-making from two very experienced players.
14 mins: Hughes tackles Mkhitaryan, who collapses to the floor and rolls around clutching his ankle. The referee tells him to get up, and so he stops rolling around, gets up and trots off, completely fine.
12 mins: I think that’s not a terrible call. Deeney ran past Torreira and as he did so pushed his forearm into his opponent. It wasn’t very violent, but it was entirely unnecessary.
Troy Deeney gets sent off!
11 mins: The referee, or his assistant, has seen something the cameras have not. There was apparently a coming together with Torreira. Arsenal claim there was an elbow, and the referee brings out a red card!
11 mins: Aubameyang closed down the keeper well there, but that is just a hideous goal to concede.
GOAL! Watford 0-1 Arsenal (Aubameyang, 10 mins)
Arsenal take the lead, and that is an absolute gift! Janmaat passes back to Foster, whose first touch is poor, and whose clearance hits Aubameyang’s ankle and rebounds into the net!
8 mins: Xhaka’s ridiculous collapse when Masina lays a flat palm gently against his back earns Arsenal a free-kick, and a bit of a breather.
7 mins: It’s been a fine start for the home side, who seem to be winning all the 50/50 challenges, and a fair few 60/40 and 70/30s as well.
5 mins: That leads to a Watford corner, from which they pressure the Arsenal defence for a while, until Hughes shanks a volley wide.
4 mins: Femenia slightly overhits a pass to Gray, and Mavrapanos cuts it out to end a briefly very promising Watford attack.
2 mins: Gray closes down Leno, and forces the keeper into a panicked clearance. The crowd roars.
Arsenal are in their third kit, which for those who haven’t seen it is “a modern green base colour with navy detailing”.
Javi Gracia has a pre-match chat. He says his team will start with a back three, which is a significant departure for him:
With the players we have we can change shape during the game. It depends on different circumstances. [Emery] came to see us many times but I think it’s not the most important to know each other. The most important is what is happening on the pitch and at this moment the main protagonists are the players. I think we’ll see a good game and I hope we’ll have a good result at the end for us.
I think the absence of both Pereyra and Deulofeu is very significant for Watford. The Argentinian has been in mediocre form for much of the season, but either of those players can conjure a goal at any moment, and without them their attack is rather prosaic.
Here’s the Press Association’s team-news-based update:
Arsenal made six changes for their Premier League clash at Watford as Konstantinos Mavropanos made his first start since May.
The Gunners face Napoli in the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final and travel to Italy defending a 2-0 lead.
Unai Emery is likely to have one eye on that fixture with Mavropanos starting as well as fellow recalled players Shkodran Mustafi, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alex Iwobi and Bernd Leno, while Granit Xhaka recovered from a groin problem to be included.
Watford meanwhile made four alterations from their victorious FA Cup semi-final win over Wolves as Ben Foster, Christian Kabasele, Daryl Janmaat and Adam Masina came in.
Moody sunset photograph of the day:
Good stat from Bill Edgar in the Times this morning: if Watford do not beat Arsenal tonight it will ensure that this will be the first top-flight case of three seasons in a row with the same teams filling the top six places (in any order).
These are today’s teams:
Watford: Foster, Janmaat, Kabasele, Cathcart, Masina, Femenia, Capoue, Doucoure, Hughes, Deeney, Gray. Subs: Gomes, Britos, Mariappa, Success, Sema, Chalobah, Navarro.
Arsenal: Leno, Mustafi, Koscielny, Mavropanos, Monreal, Torreira, Xhaka, Mkhitaryan, Ramsey, Iwobi, Aubameyang. Subs: Cech, Elneny, Lacazette, Ozil, Maitland-Niles, Guendouzi, Kolasinac.
Referee: Craig Pawson.
Watford won this fixture last year, a riproaring 2-1 victory sealed by Tom Cleverley’s stoppage-time strike which prompted Troy Deeney, scorer of his side’s other goal that night, to deliver his sermon about Arsenal and their issue with “cojones”. So the Gunners will be wanting to make amends for that.
Arsenal won their home game against Watford in September, two goals in three late minutes bringing them a 2-0 victory. They only had two shots on target that day (Watford had five) and most observers declared that the visitors should have won it. So the Hornets will be wanting to make amends for that.
Then there’s the matter of Arsenal’s away form this season. They have the division’s third-best home record, accumulating three points less than Liverpool have at Anfield and four points less than Manchester City have at the Etihad. There are nine teams that have won more points away from home (though Arsenal have played two fewer away matches than most top-flight teams) and of the Gunners’ five away wins three came against teams in the relegation zone. The highest-placed team they have beaten away from home this season is Bournemouth, in 12th. So they will want to make amends for that.
Factor in the fact that the managers are former teammates, having spent a year together at Real Sociedad, and paid-up members of a mutual appreciation society. “He’s a good friend and it’s good to see him again, we are very close,” says Javi Gracia. “We sometimes talk away from football and spend time together. We had dinner, their coaches and with our coaches,” says Unai Emery. “They are my friends, not only Javi Gracia but also his assistant Zigor Aranalde and Iñigo Arteaga.”
Plus Watford want to finish seventh, and to be in full form for next month’s FA Cup final, while Arsenal want to finish in the top four. Thus, and to summarise, there’s plenty riding on this. Should be a good ’un.