For Troy Deeney, this was the night when his predilection for expressing his thoughts well and right returned to kick him in the Cojones. Always good for a soundbite. After this game in October 2017, the Watford captain accused the players of Arsenal of lacking a particular male body part and outlined how he loved beating the first one when the teams met.
Well, 18 months later, Deeney actually punched an arsenal player and he was dismissed for his problems.
The flashpoint came too early, exactly after 11 minutes and something out of nowhere. Arsenal had just taken the lead through a combination of impressive opportunism from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and downright stupefaction of Ben Foster when referee Craig Pawson suddenly showed a red card. Deeney was the culprit, apparently discovered by Richard West, the assistant on the other side. He had thrust his right forearm into the side of Lucas Torreira's head as he passed the Arsenal midfielder.
From the west it was possible that Deeney Torreira had hit with his elbow. Pawson might come to the same conclusion. As Javi Gracia later pointed out, this was not the case, but there was no denying that Deeney had been reckless and had little complaints about his second Premier League refusal to knock him out of Watford's next three fixtures
Because Deeney was Deeney, he complained on the court and as he passed topless the Dugouts, with reports that he cursed Unai Emery as he passed the Arsenal manager. Later, Emery confirmed that the player had said something to him but did not confirm that it was a bad language, and for the 30-year-old he was humiliated by the fact that the away fans enjoy his absence while he was playing the rest of the first half was watching in the player's tunnel. A heavy fall of glee and, for Deeney, eight days later after playing a pivotal role in Watford's notable FA Cup semi-final win over Wolves.
"I do not agree [it was a red card]"Said Gracia. Troy put his arm there, but there was no contact with his elbow. I have never seen an aggressive movement. I do not understand why the referee made the decision. "
The Spaniards' frustration was clear, but he was also right to praise his team for responding to the loss of their leader. As in the case of Wembley, Watford proved resilient despite adverse circumstances and offered plenty of opportunities to feel a bit unhappy to suffer the first loss since Boxing Day.
Craig Cathcart and the excellent Étienne Capoue forced Bernd Leno to make wise saves before half-time before Adam Masina struck the crossbar after 62 minutes. And then, when time was running low, Andre Gray went around Leno and seemed to be giving the ball only for Ainsley Maitland-Niles in an open net to get as a substitute a superb block.
"Playing Arsenal with ten players was challenging, but we showed our spirit and character," said Gracia. "My players deserve recognition."
Despite the results, Emery was less intrusive to his own side. Arsenal may have dominated the possessions and opportunities that resulted, but as the manager said, "they lacked control," despite their numerical advantage. In the end they have won enough to achieve a very important victory – in their last 13 away games in all competitions only the third and in the most exciting fights for the Champions League qualification fourth place. The visitors also secured the first empty block of the campaign.
As with Deeney's farewell, the only goal of the game was a blitz out of the blue – or should that be a mint green flash, considering the colors of Arsenal. They were on the back foot and appeared to have been shaken by Watford's aggressive start as Daryl Janmaat was forced to play a back pass to Foster under pressure from Aubameyang due to a rare climb field. The Arsenal striker chipped the ball down and was rewarded for his efforts when Watford's goalkeeper hit his free-kick on the left foot and could only watch the ball roll into the net.
It was a 23rd goal of the season for Aubameyang, while Foster was usually so reliable that it was a moment to really forget. "I apologized for the guys," he said afterwards. "I think I should have just cruxed him, but it's not my style."
In fairness to Arsenal they showed themselves in a consistent physical encounter much spirit and created the opportunity to double their lead. Above all, Alex Iwobi threatened from an advanced left position. After this performance, the 22-year-old would be a decent bet to start on Thursday in the knockout round tie against Napoli in the Arsenal Europa League.