Jamie Redknapp says Arsenal should have given the ball back to Watford in the build-up to their goal and sided with cross Hornets boss Claudio Ranieri.
Emile Smith Rowe swept Arsenal ahead in the 56th minute at the Emirates on Sunday and they went on to win a game they dominated by that solitary goal.
However, in the build-up Danny Rose had kicked the ball out of play to allow team-mate Ozan Tufan to receive treatment after a clash with Albert Sambi Lokonga.
Arsenal did not throw the ball back to Watford, though, and – after a couple of passages of play – scored through Smith Rowe’s strike.
There was also a VAR check on a challenge by Ainsley Maitland-Niles on Ismaila Sarr which came ahead of the goal.
“Lokonga goes in for a foul and there’s a player down,” said Redknapp. “When the ball goes to Danny Rose there’s no doubt he can kick it up the pitch but he sees the player is down and plays it out.
“Normally what would happen in this situation Arsenal would throw the ball back to you, that’s the sporting thing to do. But they don’t. They decide to play a quick one and you can see the Watford players aren’t happy, they’re complaining and, as what happens so often in these situations, you end up getting something from it.
“I can see why they’re upset but these things happen. I think there’s also a foul from Ainsley Maitland-Niles on Ismaila Sarr [in the build-up]. But more than anything it’s the Danny Rose one.
“If you’re Claudio Ranieri you’ll be fuming.
“The other side of it is, how many times have we spoken about this Arsenal side and said they’re too nice? They let teams get away with things. But maybe that shows there’s a different side to them now.”
Watford boss Ranieri, who had stern words for Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta at full-time, was critical of Arsenal afterwards but also said the challenge on Sarr merited a foul.
“There is only one thing I’d like to know,” he said. “When there is a man on the ground, everybody expected the ball goes back and it didn’t go. There is a respect in that situation. Then we get the ball with Sarr and go on the counter-attack and there is a big foul. It’s unbelievable.
“Danny Rose, Moussa Sissoko, everybody says, ‘Hey, give back the ball!’. When you put the ball out, you have to give the ball back.”
Arteta – who had not seen the incident back when he spoke with Sky Sports – was happy to apologise but insisted the character of his players should not be questioned.
“He [Ranieri] mentioned it to me,” said the Spaniard. “I cannot think of any team that is as honest and sometimes naive as us. There is no bad intentions. If anything happened I apologise, I haven’t seen the action but he has that feeling. We compete the right way all the time.”
Later, in his press conference, he added: “I have to defend my players, team and club. We are the most honest. At some stages we can even be naive. I’m sure there was no intention to take advantage.”