The Cheat Sheet: Watford vs. Arsenal
The early-evening kickoff in the EPL sees Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal make the short trip to Vicarage Road to take on Marco Silva’s Watford, who have made a surprisingly good start to the season.
Here’s a quickfire guide to everything you need to know ahead of the game.
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Watford sprung a shock at the Emirates in January when they defeated Arsenal 2-1, but the last time the two sides met at Vicarage Road it was the Gunners who had the edge, running out 3-1 winners.
Watford haven’t managed to keep a clean sheet against Arsenal in their last six games in all competitions, while the Gunners have hit three or more goals in three of those matches.
Watford have been one of the surprise packages of the early portion of the season, picking up 12 points from their opening seven EPL games. They sit just one point behind Arsenal and have scored the same number of goals as the Gunners.
Arsenal, meanwhile, have recovered well from back-to-back losses to Stoke and Liverpool and are unbeaten in their last four, with no goals conceded in any of those games.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
For Watford, this is simply a case of keeping that good start to the season going. One of the preseason relegation favorites, the Hornets’ first target will be the 40-point mark, and they’re already more than a quarter of the way toward that goal.
As for the Gunners, it’s a case of building a long winning run that pushes them back into the title conversation or, at least, consolidates their position in a Champions League place.
WHO SAID WHAT?
Check out the pre-match press conferences from both managers as Marco Silva and Arsene Wenger faced the media ahead of this weekend’s match.
Both sides are assessing key players as they return to their clubs following time away on international duty.
Alexis Sanchez will be low on morale after Chile’s failure to qualify for the World Cup. He only returned to the UK on Thursday.
Watford’s Andre Carrillo is also one who could return to action after playing for Peru against Colombia on Wednesday.
Arsenal will also put Laurent Koscielny and Sead Kolasinac through pre-match fitness tests before deciding on their involvement. Either man would be a huge miss for the Gunners if he didn’t make it onto the field.
WHERE WILL THE MATCH BE WON (AND LOST)?
Arsenal games can become glorified defense vs. attack sessions if the opposing side doesn’t press Arsene Wenger’s men high up the field.
That means the Hornets’ midfield will have to go through a lot of work to deny space to the likes of Wilshere and Ozil in the middle of the park. If they do that, they have a chance of grabbing the first goal and putting pressure on the visitors.
If they sit back and look to soak up Arsenal pressure, one Gunners goal could open the floodgates.
THE MEN MOST LIKELY…
…to open the scoring: Alexandre Lacazette
The Gunners’ lead striker is the +380 favorite to kick off the scoring at Vicarage Road, with fellow Frenchman Olivier Giroud a +400 shot.
Wenger is likely to go with just one of his French forwards at Watford, and Lacazette’s pace could suit the Gunners on the break given that they’re playing away from home.
…to go missing: Mesut Ozil
Arsenal’s mercurial German playmaker is almost unstoppable when he’s on form, but he’s picked up an annoying knack for disappearing during games.
And it’s in games like this one where he needs to stand up and be counted. When it comes to class and ability, Ozil should be head and shoulders above everyone else on the pitch. Whether we’ll see that on Saturday afternoon, only time will tell.
[Main image credit: Wikimedia Commons]