Mikel Arteta defended his Arsenal players after Watford boss Claudio Ranieri accused them of a lack of respect in the buildup to Emile Smith Rowe’s winning goal.
Smith Rowe struck in the second half to secure a 1-0 victory over the 10-man Hornets, who had Juraj Kucka sent off late on.
The result leaves Arsenal fifth in the Premier League heading into the international break, with the result a battling one after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had a first-half penalty saved.
Bukayo Saka and Aubameyang also had the ball in the back of the net, only to see both efforts ruled out for offside.
But it was Smith Rowe’s winner – his fifth goal in eight games – which caused controversy after Danny Rose had kicked the ball out for teammate Ozan Tufan to receive treatment.
The Turkey midfielder was quickly on his feet as Arsenal played on, Smith Rowe rifling home with Isamaila Sarr also in a heap on the floor following an Ainsley Maitland-Niles challenge.
“I told him there is no respect in that action,” Ranieri revealed after TV cameras caught him arguing with Arteta at full time.
“We put out the ball and everybody expected the Arsenal player to give it back … give the ball to us.
“We put the ball out because there was an injured player, but after this it was very strange.
“My opinion is there was a big foul [on Sarr], but nothing happened and then they scored a goal. It was very strange.”
Arteta, though, disagreed with Ranieri’s take on the incident and suggested his team are sometimes too honest for their own good.
“I have to defend my players, my team and my club,” he said.
“I would say that we are the most honest team and in some stages we can even become naive.
“But still if he felt like that towards our club, our team, I have to apologise if that’s the case – but I am sure there is no intention to take any advantage.”
Asked if there had been a misunderstanding, Arteta added: “I don’t know, but I focus on the performance and how we won and don’t divert it. I want to talk about what we did.”
This was Arteta’s 100th game in charge of Arsenal and he was able to toast a victory which extends their unbeaten run to 10 matches across all competitions.
Aubameyang endured an off-day, missing his second-successive penalty, but Arteta said the Gunners captain will remain on spot-kick duty for as long as he wants to.
“He will stay on penalties if he is happy to do so,” he added.
“You will miss if you take penalties, that is part of your career and the job and we will try to help him.”
Ranieri has now lost three of his first four matches as Watford boss but is happy with the response of his squad since his appointment.
“I know we lost too many matches but I’m very convinced we are building our foundation,” he said.
“The players are starting to learn my philosophy and we are in a good point. I’m very satisfied about our performances – the players worked a lot together.”
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