Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal entertain a Watford side on the up on Sunday at the Emirates as the two clubs look to put their dismal Premier League record with a positive result in the weekend.
For Arsenal, this has been a typical week. After losing at the Amex stadium – home to Brighton and Hove Albion in the league, the Gunners produced a very good collective performance to take down AC Milan by two goals to nil at the San Siro. The North London outfit are desperate for some respite in the Premier League – respite in the form of winning a run of games in the competition to keep their slim hopes – if any, of a fourth-place finish with their recent form (4 defeats in the last 4 in all competitions), looking as bad as it has been in the last two decades.
Watford, under the new manager Javi Garcia are slowly improving to a standard they are capable of – in the Premier League. The Hornets have won three of the last five games in the league with the defensive record, in particular, showing a sharp upturn.
They have had the better of Arsenal 3 times in the last 5 occasions and are one of the 10 sides to beat Arsenal on the road this season. Having won the reverse fixture at the Vitality stadium, thanks to an injury-time winner from Tom Cleverley, it is not hard to imagine the visitors to be feeling quietly confident to upset the apple cart.
Full-back Nacho Monreal is nearing a return but Sunday’s visit of Watford could come too soon for the Spaniard. The defender is nursing a troublesome back injury and Arsene Wenger originally predicted a possible return against AC Milan, which he missed. Sead Kolasinac was forced off at the San Siro. Hector Bellerin (knee) also missed the trip to San Siro and is unlikely to return on Sunday, though the club are confident the problem is not long term.
Watford’s injury woes are no nearer to easing, with Kiko’s probable return from illness – the only positive. Otherwise, Craig Cathcart (knee) is another week or so away but has been out for some time. Jose Holebas (ankle) has a faint chance of playing.
- The Gunners started the season with seven straight home league wins but have won just three of their subsequent seven top-flight games at the Emirates (D2, L2).
- They have drawn one and lost six of their last seven away league matches and have scored just twice during this run.
- Arsenal are without a clean sheet in 11 top-flight matches. It is their worse run since they conceded in 12 straight games between April and October 1988.
- Since beating Arsenal 2-1 in January 2017, Watford have lost six consecutive league games in London, conceding 17 goals during that run (2.8 per game).
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Arsenal
Aubameyang has yet to properly kick on in the Premier League – but Watford on Sunday could be the right moment for him to ease into the side, scoring a few goals, with Arsenal expected to dominate possession. The forward missed the side’s impressive 0-2 win in Milan due to his involvement with Dortmund in the Europa League meaning the 29-year old forward should be a lot fresher than his teammates, eager to get used to the pace of the league. Arsenal need a win – and a big win at that to improve the mood around the club and Aubameyang could be central to it.
Watford – Troy Deeney
Troy Deeney and Arsenal have a history if one could call that, after the Watford captain questioned Arsenal’s mentality after his side beat the Gunners in stoppage time earlier this season. Arsene Wenger has hit back and it would be interesting to see if the obviously hostile reception that Deeney would get at the Emirates has an effect on the player as he is one of the key men in the side – who also scored their most recent winner against West Brom to claim all three points.
Arsenal, with a lot of drama and a possible red card – will shade it with a goal off someone’s hands.