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Watford 2-3 Arsenal: Saka shines as Gunners keep top-four bid on track

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Arsenal boosted their Premier League top-four hopes with a 3-2 win at Watford, as Bukayo Saka starred in a match containing five terrific goals.

Martin Odegaard opened the scoring when he capped a scintillating move on five minutes, before Watford’s Cucho Hernandez went one better with a fantastic overhead kick after 11 minutes.

The lively Saka finished into the top corner after half an hour, before Gabriel Martinelli wrapped up the three points by finishing sweetly from outside the area after the break – although Moussa Sissoko’s late response did keep the Gunners on their toes.

Prior to Manchester United’s derby against Manchester City later on Sunday, Arsenal moved up to fourth in their pursuit of Champions League qualification for the first time since 2016.

Watford had the ball in the net after just 17 seconds in a frantic opening, but Emmanuel Dennis was narrowly offside and the visitors took an early lead instead, with Odegaard finishing neatly on his left foot after playing a superb give-and-go with Saka.

The Hornets needed just six minutes to respond, however, as Hernandez met Kiko Femenia’s right-wing cross in acrobatic style to give Aaron Ramsdale little chance.

After Ramsdale almost spilled Dennis’ shot to Joao Pedro, Arsenal reclaimed the lead when Saka bent a shot into the top corner from Alexandre Lacazette’s backheel.

This brilliant display of goalscoring continued soon after the break, with Martinelli hitting a fine right-footed strike past Ben Foster after Lacazette’s lay-off.

Dennis spurned a great opportunity to half the arrears on 70 minutes, and Arsenal could have pulled further ahead as substitute Eddie Nketiah struck the post.

Instead, Sissoko ensured a nervy ending when he turned Ben White and placed a neat finish beyond Ramsdale, but Mikel Arteta’s men were able to hold on for a fourth consecutive league win.

What does it mean? Strong travellers boost European hopes

Arsenal’s revitalised away record is giving them a great chance of earning a top-four finish. They have now won each of their past four Premier League away games, having won just two of their first eight on the road this season (D1 L5). 

Arsenal have also opened the scoring in each of their past six Premier League away games, last enjoying a longer run between January and May 2015 (seven).

Saka continues fine campaign

In the COVID-19-enforced absence of top scorer Emile Smith Rowe, Arteta’s team relied on the brilliance of Saka at Vicarage Road, with the England winger scoring his eighth league goal of the season.

Having also laid on Odegaard’s strike, Saka has now been directly involved in more goals than any other under-21 player in the Premier League this season (eight goals, five assists). Across the big five European leagues, only Florian Wirtz has more combined goals and assists this term (17).

Gunners avoid being stung at Hornets’ nest

Arsenal maintained their excellent record against Watford, who have earned just seven points from an available 48 against Arsenal in the Premier League (W2 D1 L13).

Arsenal have also scored in all 16 of their Premier League games against Watford. Only against West Brom (26/26) do the Gunners have a better 100 per cent scoring record in the competition.

What’s next?

Watford will continue their fight for Premier League survival with a trip to Wolves on Thursday, while Arsenal have a full week to prepare for their home clash with Leicester City next Sunday.

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