Arsenal moved into the Premier League top four but had to work hard to see off 10-man Watford 1-0, thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s fortunate early opener on Monday.
Aubameyang profited from an error by Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster as he blasted an attempted clearance in off the Gabon international.
Watford captain Troy Deeney was then shown a straight red card after just 11 minutes, but the Gunners failed to make the most of their man advantage and were fortunate as the hosts twice hit the woodwork.
However, Unai Emery’s men held out for a first clean sheet away from home in the Premier League this season to move ahead of Chelsea on goal difference into fourth.
Arsenal also edges to within a point of north London rivals Tottenham and two clear of Manchester United in the four-way battle for the two remaining Champions League places behind Liverpool and Manchester City.
FA Cup finalists Watford were already shorn of the man who helped book their place at Wembley against Manchester City next month as Gerard Deulofeu missed out through injury and Javi Gracia’s side did themselves little favours early on.
First, Foster dallied as Aubameyang closed in to concede a comical opener.
And within seconds, Deeney was punished for an elbow into the face of Lucas Torreira.
Arsenal now have just three days to prepare for the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final away to Napoli and should have ensured an easier finish.
Said Aubameyang after the match: “It feels good tonight because we knew away it’s difficult for us, but today the team did great and tonight we are really happy. We knew it would be a tough game and I think everybody knows the top four is our target and this game is really important to stay in the competition for the top four and today we did a great job”.
Javi Gracia, Watford manager said his team deserved credit for piling pressure on Arsenal, despite being down to 10 men for over 80 minutes.
“We did a lot of things to try to win, a big effort. We played for a long time with 10 players and we deserve the recognition. We didn’t get any points but it was a good performance after a difficult game with 10 men. I’m very proud of my players”, Gracia said.