Arsenal condemned Watford to relegation after edging to a nervy victory on the final day of the Premier League season.
A penalty and overhead kick from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, either side of a Kieran Tierney strike – his first for the club – saw the Gunners cruise into a three-goal lead but a Troy Deeney penalty on the stroke of half time gave the visitors hope.
Emi Martinéz produced a strong of fine saves but Danny Welbeck reduced the deficit to just one-goal, which gave Watford the opening for an onslaught but they couldn’t find an equaliser.
Arteta made five changes as Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Tierney came into a back four while Granit Xhaka and Joe Willock returned to midfield. The other change came in the form of record signing Nicolas Pépé.
Dani Ceballos saw sight of goal inside 40 seconds but his shot flew over the crossbar, however, in the build-up Alexandre Lacazette was fouled by Craig Dawson in the box and after a three-minute VAR check, Mike Dean pointed to the spot and Aubameyang opened the scoring.
That could have been a platform to build on but with Watford needing a win to stand any chance of staying up, they went on the attack with Abdoulaye Doucouré, Roberto Pereyra and Troy Deeney all going agonisingly close to equalising.
Arsenal seemed content to give Watford enough time and space to swing in crosses but did not look comfortable when having to defend them. The backline consistently played it out from the back and struggled at times but when they got it right, Arsenal doubled their lead.
Pépé received the ball on the right wing and then cut inside to produce his now trademark cross to the far post for Aubameyang. The Gabon forward’s first touch wasn’t great but he was able to knock the ball into the path of Tierney, who found the bottom corner via a Will Hughes deflection.
The Scottish left back has been in fine form for Arsenal since the restart and he was the creator of Arsenal’s third. A long throw-in from the former Celtic defender fell invitingly for Aubameyang and after controlling it with his first touch he bagged his second of the afternoon with a sublime overhead kick from close range.
Watford hit back just before the break when a late challenge from David Luiz saw the Brazilian concede his fifth penalty of the season and Deeney made no mistake from the spot.
Arteta reverted back to a centre-back trio shortly before the hour mark when he replaced Lacazette and Willock with Eddie Nketiah and Sead Kolašinac but that did little to quell the Watford pressure and after Welbeck missed a gilt-edged chance, the former Gunner managed to pull one back for the Hornets to set up a thrilling final 25 minutes.
Lucas Torreira and Reiss Nelson came on for Pépé and Ceballos as Arteta looked to assert some control for Arsenal but again Watford poured forward with Martínez producing a wonderful save to deny Welbeck with a clever back-heel.
At the other end, high pressing from Nketiah saw the forward run through on goal but he opted to tee up Aubameyang, whose shot was smothered by Ben Foster.
Watford continued to ask questions of the Arsenal defence and although they didn’t necessarily have all the answers, a combination of poor finishing and alert goalkeeping ensured the Gunners took all three points.