Three things Arteta got right and one he got wrong as Arsenal beat Watford

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Arsenal continued their impressive run of form with a hard-fought 1-0 win over 10-man Watford at the Emirates Stadium as Mikel Arteta's blueprint finally looks to be coming together.

It looked like it wouldn’t be the Gunners’ day when Bukayo Saka’s early striker was ruled out via VAR for offside.

Arsenal were then awarded a penalty following a clumsy challenge by former Tottenham defender Danny Rose on Alexandre Lacazette.

But Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saw his spot-kick saved superbly by veteran stopper Ben Foster, celebrating his 500th career appearance.

But 11 minutes into the second half, Emile Smith Rowe slotted home from the edge of the box to break the deadlock and it turned out to be winner.

It means the north London side have not lost since the 5-0 drubbing by Manchester City in August, stretching their unbeaten run to 10 games in all competitions, and Arteta's side have climbed into the top six, at least for now.

Daily Star Sport assesses three things Arteta got right and one he got wrong as Arsenal left the Emirates with only a point…

What Arteta got right

Building around Smith Rowe

Arsenal lauded the impact of Bukayo Saka last season. Now, their fans are worshipping another homegrown star in the shape of Emile Smith Rowe.

The youngster has been in and around the Arsenal first-team for the best part of three years now, since he was introduced under Unai Emery. But under Arteta, he is being shaped into a player who can lead the Gunners back to Europe, where they believe they belong.

The 21-year-old takes often finds himself in the right places at the right time and it is a trait that cannot be taught, for it is simply based on instinct.

Arsenal were in control of the ball but only occasionally peppering the Watford goal after Saka's early goal was ruled out. But the attacking midfielder showed his awareness to pounce on the loose ball when Ben White was challenged on the edge of the box and catch Foster by surprise.

It was a goal that has been replayed so many times from midfield legends such as Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. They always seem to know where to be. Smith Rowe is proving to be cut from the same cloth, even if he has been deployed as a winger.

Arteta made a big show of faith in the Croydon-born youngster when he handed him a new long-term contract and the No.10 shirt. His fifth goal of the season makes him their top goalscorer this season, suggesting that the Spaniard was absolutely right to do so.

Maitland-Niles back in from cold

After Thomas Partey was ruled out of the game through injury, it appeared to be an opportune time to hand Martin Odegaard the start he has been chomping at the bit for.

But Mikel Arteta, perhaps with one eye on preserving their defensive solidity, opted for the versatile Ainsley Maitland-Niles in the double pivot alongside Albert Sambi Lokonga.

The 24-year-old was convinced to snub a loan move after being promised first-team chances under Arteta this season and up until today, the Spaniard had not lived up to his word.

Still, with Partey out, it offered Maitland-Niles the chance to impress and it didn’t take long for him to demonstrate why he deserved a shot in only his second league start.

In an unusually advanced position, the England international threaded a neat pass through to Alexandre Lacazette, who saw his effort saved by Ben Foster. Bukayo Saka bundled home but was adjudged to have been offside.

He also took up deep positions on the left when Nuno Tavares was sent forward into the final third, allowing Arsenal to attack without being left exposed.

Maitland-Niles generally looked comfortable in possession and displayed the level of energy required from a box-to-box operator. Crucially, he and Lokonga alternated in moving forwards, showing a good level of understanding of their roles.

Given Partey’s injury record and the fast-approaching festive schedule, it is crucial Arteta has squad members he can rely upon. Maitland-Niles proved here that he can step in when needed.

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Deployment of Lacazette

Part of being a manager is knowing how to tweak your own setup in order to exploit your opposition’s weaknesses — and it is fair to say Mikel Arteta used Alexandre Lacazette effectively as a pressing forward against Leicester.

But against a team of Watford’s kind, where Claudio Ranieri set up in a clear 5-4-1, the same two-man partnership up front appeared to be less effective.

However, Lacazette has found a new lease of life in his role as a deep-lying forward behind Aubameyang and was heavily involved.

The 30-year-old was a menacing presence for the Watford defence, hassling Rose and winning the penalty. He also set up the chance for Saka’s goal, which was later chalked off.

His fitness levels may not be what they used to be, but his contributions are always recognised by the fans as he was substituted on 68 minutes for Odegaard.

All that is left now is to find the agreement for that new contract, because based on his recent displays including this one, Arsenal need him for this season and the next too.

What Arteta got wrong

Paying the penalty

When Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang stepped up, his previous miss against Aston Villa must have been in the back of his mind.

Same stadium. Same end of the pitch.

Ben Foster is the kind of goalkeeper who never misses one minute of preparation, especially when it comes to penalties, and correctly guessed the Gabonese would go for height and to his left.

He dived before the kick had even been taken and left his hand stretched aloft his head to deny the 33-year-old the opener.

It now means Aubameyang has missed five of his 14 penalties for Arsenal in the Premier League, casting doubt over his suitability going forward. On another day, his miss could have cost them two points.

Penalties can be a lottery, but a glance at Chelsea and Liverpool — where Jorginho and Mohamed Salah are penalty experts and very rarely miss — highlights the flaw in such an argument.

Over the course of a season, their goals can be crucial in deciding between Champions League and Europa League football — and it is a growing issue Arteta must resolve in time for the next game.

  • Premier League
  • Arsenal FC
  • Mikel Arteta

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