Arsenal added to struggling Watford’s woes with a 3-2 win at Vicarage Road on Sunday, boosting their hopes of Champions League football next season and keeping their hosts mired in the Premier League relegation zone.
Martin Odegaard put the Gunners ahead in the fifth minute, latching on to a Bukayo Saka pass after a sweeping move down the right and lashing the ball in low under Watford keeper Ben Foster.
Cucho Hernandez replied in spectacular fashion for Watford six minutes later, meeting a Kiko Femenia cross whipped in from the right with a perfectly timed bicycle kick that left the Arsenal back line rooted to the spot.
Watford showed no signs of having lost their previous seven home games in a row as they piled pressure on the visitors, who are trying to secure Champions League football for the first time since the 2016-17 season. But the home side were held back by wayward shooting.
Instead, it was Saka who reclaimed the lead for Arsenal on the half hour, stealing the ball off Tom Cleverley outside the box, playing a one-two with his captain Alexandre Lacazette and thumping his shot high into the net.
Early in the second half, Gabriel Martinelli finished off a well-worked Arsenal move involving Odegaard and Lacazette again, with a strike from distance to give the visitors a two-goal cushion.
But Arsenal slipped into cruise-control too early and Watford’s Moussa Sissoko set up an action-packed finale in the 86th minute when he skipped in behind the defence and squeezed a shot under keeper Aaron Ramsdale to reduce the deficit.
The visitors rode their luck in the final minutes, however, and held on for the win.
“This is the dream this year, to be in the top four and qualify for Champions League football. We have to stay humble and focus on ourselves,” Arsenal’s Saka told Sky Sports.
Arsenal climbed to fourth place in the table ahead of the Manchester derby, with 48 points from 25 games – and with games in hand on the teams around them. Watford remained 19th on 19 points.