Saka inspires Arsenal to crucial top-four win at Watford

Gunners boost their Champions League prospects with a 3-2 victory at Vicarage Road - a result that leaves them fourth in the Premier League table

Sunday, 6th March — By Zakaria Taibi at Vicarage Road

Vicarage Road

Arsenal picked up three precious Premier League points at Vicarage Road

Premier League

WATFORD 2 (Hernandez 11, Sissoko 86)
ARSENAL 3 (Odegaard 5, Saka 30, Martinelli 52)

BUKAYO Saka put in a dazzling performance this afternoon (Sunday) as Arsenal moved up to fourth in the Premier League with a thrilling victory over Watford.

The attacking midfielder scored one goal and set up another as the Gunners recorded a 3-2 win at Vicarage Road to leapfrog Manchester United into the top-four.

Mikel Arteta heaped praise on Saka following his match-winning display, crediting the England international for the way he bounced back this season after missing a crucial penalty against Italy in the European Championships last summer.

“I think Bukayo had an experience in the summer that not a lot of players are ever going to have,” said the Arsenal boss. “It was great for his career, the football world showed how much they like him and how much they respect him.

“I think it was a big boost for him to realise that in difficult moments, people are going to give him support which the club and his teammates did.

“What he’s already doing is phenomenal, and he needs that room. Football is his priority in life and you can see that in training and he needs to continue with the way he’s doing.”

It was Martin Odegaard who gave the Gunners the lead after just five minutes, playing a neat one-two with Saka and slotting the ball past Ben Foster from inside the box.

Despite missing star winger Ismaila Sarr due to injury, a weakened Watford front line were able to quickly respond through a spectacular bicycle kick by Cucho Hernandez in the 11th minute.

Saka was then instrumental in helping Arsenal restore their lead. First he robbed the ball off Tom Cleverley, before finding Alexandre Lacazette, who rolled the ball back into Saka’s path to smash into the top corner.

A game lit-up by great finishing saw another Goal of the Month contender early in the second half when Gabriel Martinelli rifled home from outside the box following some quick-thinking on the sidelines from Arteta.

The Arsenal boss retrieved the ball for a throw-in as he encouraged his side to quickly push forward. The move ended with Lacazette recording his seventh assist of the season as he tee’d up Martinelli to finish.

Former Tottenham man Moussa Sissoko set up a nervous finale when he pulled a goal back for Watford, getting past Ben White all too easily before sliding the ball under Aaron Ramsdale from an acute angle.

Luckily for Arsenal, though, the goal came in the 86th minute – a little too late to inspire a comeback.

Despite conceding just 29 goals now this season – the fifth best in the league – Arteta believes that Arsenal need to do better defensively if they are going to qualify for the Champions League.

He added: “We were really good going forward, but we didn’t have the same energy and commitment defensively. We suffered today because defensively we didn’t have the right structure. We conceded two goals and we could have conceded another one or two.”

With Manchester United losing 4-1 to Manchester City in the derby, Arsenal’s win at Watford leaves them fourth in the table – a point ahead of United with three games in hand.

Watford: Foster, Femenia, Cathcart, Samir, Kamara, Sissoko, Louza (Kayembe, 64), Cleverley (Kalu, 89), Hernandez, Dennis, Joao Pedro
Substitutes not used: Etebo, Masina, Sema, Bachmann, Kabasele, Sierralta, Kucka

Arsenal: Ramsdale, Soares, White, Gabriel, Tierney, Partey, Xhaka, Saka, Odegaard (Holding, 90), Lacazette (Nketiah, 79), Martinelli (Pepe, 72)
Substitutes not used: Leno, Tavares, Lokonga, Elneny, Hutchinson, Swanson

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