With the dreary international break behind us, for now, we get back to the bread and butter that is the Premier League as Arsenal take the short trip to Vicarage Road to play Watford FC.
Good day and all.
The Gunners started their league campaign with back-to-back wins but then hit the buffers in a pair of games against top-six opposition, picking up just a single point. This is without a doubt something Unai Emery and the boys will want to move on from quickly as we enter a very busy schedule.
Still winless after four, the Hornets are rooted at the bottom of the league table, for which Javi Gracia paid the price during the inter-break. That marked the return of Quique Sanchez Flores, who had a decent spell with them in 2015/16 before being replaced by his now predecessor – midtable safety and an FA Cup semi-final place. He now has the enviable task to hopefully reproduce what he got ditched for. Who said being a football manager is a thankless job? However, first up he has to get them off the foot of the table.
Given results thus far one would assume Watford will be short of confidence, however, their supporters will be hoping the “new manager bounce” will bring a positive shift in attitudes from their players. Let’s be honest, the hosts are a better side than their current form, with a decent blend of rugged physicallity, vigour and flair. So Flores, who many of the players are familiar with, just need to sort out how to get them going again.
In recent weeks Emery’s cautious approach came under the spotlight with some feeling he is too defense-minded when the team could perhaps benefit more if he look to maximize our attacking potential. Without repeating what were said before, today there’s two ways to go into this game; you can either ‘play it safe’ against a side who scored just twice in 360 PL minutes, or you can ‘have a go’ against the side that conceded three each in front of their home crowd against both Brighton and West Ham. I mean, if you can’t kick a team when they are down, when can you?
Alexander Lacazette has been ruled out of action for the next two to three weeks due to an ankle injury, both Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira returned from intentional duty with knocks. While the latter two made training, with seven games over the next 22 days it’s unlikely they be risked.
This gives Emery an opportunity to start Dani Ceballos, we looked lively the second half against Spurs following his introduction. Then there’s also our creative mastermind Mesut Özil chomping at the bit to play alongside Nicolas Pépé. Some on twatter suggest Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock. I dunno man, they could a job but Watford, even in defeat, gave us problems in the past. So playing two or more rookies against players wanting to put their best foot forward for the new manager could leave us short on experience, especially in a time we are still trying to shed the flakiness on the road. Flores is also likely to set his team up to play from deep and plug their defensive holes, so our midfield may need to be more resourceful than recently if we want to stamp our authority on the game.
No question their old man who is now the new man will have the Vicarage Road faithful in good spirits, but they don’t have a particularly good record against the Gunners. We’ve beaten them five out of the last six times we’ve met in the league and they failed to score against us in the last three meetings.
If I have to stick my neck out… we are likely to see a decent albeit cagey game, but ultimately the Hornets will get stung. #COYG