Managerless Watford were relegated from the Premier League on the final day of the season as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang inspired Arsenal to victory. The Hornets, who dropped into the bottom three for the first time since 28 February in midweek, started the day level on points with 17th spot knowing a positive result could keep them up. But they were 3-0 down after 33 minutes at Emirates Stadium and, despite pulling back two goals, finish a terrible campaign 19th in the table following a 20th league defeat. Arsenal scored with their first three attempts on target, Aubameyang getting the first with a penalty after Craig Dawson’s clumsy foul on Alexandre Lacazette inside the opening minute.
Scotland defender Kieran Tierney doubled the lead after Aubameyang’s assist before the Gabon forward’s classy overhead kick – his 22nd league goal of the season. Watford pulled a goal back from the penalty spot through Troy Deeney after David Luiz’s foul on former Gunners forward Danny Welbeck, who then made it 3-2 from close range. Arsenal keeper Emiliano Martinez made a great save to deny Welbeck an equaliser that could have set up a dramatic finish. With Bournemouth beating Everton and Aston Villa drawing at West Ham, a point would not have been enough to save the Hornets because of their inferior goal difference. Many of their players looked upset when Mike Dean signalled the end of the match – and Watford’s place in England’s top flight. The Hornets are left to reflect on a chaotic season on and off the pitch which saw their Italian owners sack three managers over the course of the campaign, including Nigel Pearson a week ago.
Pearson was given his marching orders two games from the end of the season despite steering the team out of the relegation zone, with Hayden Mullins named interim head coach for the final week. Tierney made it 2-0 and Aubameyang’s overhead kick after holding off Dawson added to Watford’s misery before Deeney launched a spirited comeback. Welbeck’s clever backheel finish gave his side hope but they could not find an equaliser as they slipped to a sixth straight away defeat. Skipper Deeney, one of the last Watford players to leave the pitch, looked crestfallen as he made his way back to the dressing room.
In October 2017 Deeney accused Arsenal’s players of lacking “cojones” after the Hornets came from behind to beat Arsene Wenger’s side at Vicarage Road. Switzerland midfielder Granit Xhaka and France forward Lacazette, who featured in that game three years ago, were part of the Arsenal side that sent Watford down.