Arsenal held on desperately to an early lead and forced Watford into relegation. here are the player ratings from the last match.
Mikel Arteta rolled out the surprises in Arsenal‘s final match of the season. While his starting XI boasted a lot of what we would have expected to see, what we didn’t expect to see took center stage the minute the starting XI’s were announced.
Namely, he scrapped the 3-4-3 altogether. Which is something I don’t think anyone could have expected, given how fervently Arteta has clung to the back three. To ditch it in the last Premier League match of the season had to be some kind of statement that this was what he preferred when the resources were right.
While the front three looked pretty predictable, surprise starts from Joe Willock and Ainsley Maitland-Niles had to be interpreted as statements too. Willock started in a midfield three with Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos while Maitland-Niles started as an outright rightback.
Arsenal got out of the gates in a hurry, with Ceballos firing a shot over the crossbar in the 45th second following Dawson clocking Alexandre Lacazette in the box. A long VAR check ruled it a penalty, giving the Gunners the first chance to turn this match on its head. Aubameyang took that chance, boosting hopes of an unlikely Golden Boot as well.
That opened up the game immediately, with the attacks flowing end to end. It was Arsenal that benefited most from that, with the lead expanding to 3-0 after just 34 minutes. And it was all coming from that left flank with Tierney and Aubameyang accounting for literally everything.
But leave it to this defense to give Watford one back. Rob Holding played a truly stupid pass out of his own half that was easily picked off by Watford on way to an awful, desperate tackle from David Luiz to give the Harts a penalty and a goal to Deeney.
Troubling times as the next goal fell to Watford as well. David Luiz let Welbeck ghost in behind him and got the Hornets their second. Watford took control there, with Emi Martinez having to keep his side in the match on numerous occasions.
Here are the player ratings:
Man of the Match. Incredible (and perhaps a bit fortunate) save in the 13th minute to keep the lead. Controlled his position well as always, claiming balls that came too close to him. Read Deeney’s penalty well, just didn’t get down fast enough to make the save. More incredible goalkeeping came just past the hour mark to deny Watford a second. One of the best saves you’ll ever see in the 73rd minute off the Welbeck backheel. It was a fantastic effort from Welbeck alone, but for Martinez to deny him, to predict and read the attempt, is just incredible. Honestly one of the best matches you can play as a keeper.