Sports Xtra

Arsenal beat Watford to end drought
Arsenal beat Watford to end drought

Arsenal beat Watford to end drought

Written by Gideon Sarpong

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said his team had to "get the fans back on our side again" after ending a run of three successive Premier League defeats with a fine win over Watford.

Despite an official attendance of 59,131, there were empty seats all around the Emirates with a number of season-ticket holders seemingly put off by the Gunners' disappointing league season.

Goals from Shkodran Mustafi, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan gave Wenger's side their first league win since beating Everton 5-1 on 3 February.

"We had a disappointing period and our supporters suffered like we suffered," said Wenger.

"But our job is to perform and to stick together in difficult moments, and to get the fans back on our side again."

Watford, beaten for only the second time in six matches, saw Troy Deeney's penalty saved by Petr Cech, who registered the 200th Premier League clean sheet of his career to become the first keeper to reach that mark.

The win leaves the Gunners sixth, 10 points behind fourth-placed Tottenham who are in the final Champions League spot.

However, Arsenal could still qualify for next season's Champions League if they win the Europa League, and that competition affected Arsene Wenger's team selection on Sunday.

With Arsenal holding a 2-0 lead against AC Milan and playing the second leg of their last-16 tie at home on Thursday, Wenger took a risk by making six changes.

Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny were rested, with Jack Wilshere only on the bench, but the gamble paid off for Arsenal.

Arsenal give their fans something to cheer about

Those Arsenal fans who had turned up were almost celebrating after only two minutes when Aubameyang was clean through, but he was denied by a fine save by Orestis Karnezis.

But the Gunners took the lead only six minutes later when Mesut Ozil's free-kick from the left touchline was powerfully headed in by Mustafi.

Aubameyang, Ozil and Granit Xhaka were denied by Karnezis, before Aubameyang made it 2-0, collecting Mkhitaryan's pass and taking the ball around the Watford keeper.

After Deeney's penalty miss, Mkhitaryan added a third when he shot past Karnezis following Aubameyang's pass for his first league goal for the Gunners.

With the Europa League on Wenger's mind, the Frenchman was able to take Mkhitaryan off late on for Wilshere, although Mustafi is now a doubt for Thursday's match after he limped off in the second half.