Thursday, October 19
 

Preview: Watford vs. Arsenal

Sports Mole previews the Premier League match between Watford and Arsenal at Vicarage Road.

Watford play host to Arsenal on Saturday evening knowing that three points against the Gunners will move them above their opponents in the Premier League table.

Arsenal are yet to win on the road in the top flight this season, but success at Vicarage Road would extend their recent run to four victories from five top-flight games.


Watford

While Huddersfield Town and Burnley have generally been regarded as the surprises of the Premier League so far, Watford have exceeded expectations since the arrival of new head coach Marco Silva.

The Hornets lost their way at the back end of last season but under the Portuguese, three wins and three draws have been recorded from seven top-flight fixtures.

Losing 6-0 to Manchester City could have potentially undone their terrific start, but a late win over Swansea City and a comeback draw at West Bromwich Albion have suggested that the club are realistic contenders for a top-10 place.

It is still early days - and Chelsea are next up after the clash with Arsenal - but Silva has played his part in rejuvenating a club whose supporters were perhaps expecting a relegation battle.

Richarlison has undoubtedly been the standout performer with three goals and one assist, but it has largely been a collective effort, especially on the road where 10 points have come from four away days.

Silva will openly acknowledge that his team are up against it against Arsenal, but his players will not be lacking belief against opposition who are missing a key defender and have a number of players potentially returning to make their first appearance in a number of weeks.

Recent form: WDWLWD
Recent form (all competitions): LDWLWD


Arsenal

Over the years, Arsene Wenger has made a habit of lifting Arsenal after a poor run of form and it was a similar occurrence before the international break, with the win over Brighton & Hove Albion taking their current unbeaten streak to seven games.

The Gunners are still suffering from back-to-back defeats to Stoke City and Liverpool, but Wenger has at least started to find solutions both at the back and in the final third.

Off-the-pitch matters involving Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez continue to linger, but four league clean sheets have been recorded in a row and Alexandre Lacazette is starting to contribute on a regular basis.

The summer signing found himself out of the side towards the end of August, but the French international now has four goals from eight appearances and is regarded as one of the first names on the teamsheet.

Sanchez, too, also remains in Wenger's plans but the Chilean has netted just once this season and this game comes just days after Chile failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

One player who was able to rest during the international period was Jack Wilshere and after impressing in the Europa League, Wenger may decide that now is the right moment for the 25-year-old to return to top-flight action.

Recent form: LLWDWW
Recent form (all competitions): WDWWWW


Team News

Wenger has suggested that Sanchez may begin the game on the bench after his efforts for Chile, while defender Shkodran Mustafi has been ruled out for up to six weeks with a thigh injury.

However, there is better news regarding Laurent Koscielny and Danny Welbeck, who should both be able to come into contention after fitness issues.

Silva must make a decision over Andre Carrillo, who represented Peru on Tuesday night, and Sebastian Prodl who is still carrying a hamstring problem.

However, both Younes Kaboul is absent, while Isaac Success is out until December after sustaining a knee injury.

Watford possible starting lineup:
Gomes, Femenia, Mariappa, Kabasele, Holebas, Doucoure, Capoue, Cleverly, Pereyra, Richarlison, Deeney

Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Cech, Holding, Koscielny, Monreal, Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Iwobi, Sanchez, Lacazette


Head To Head

Saturday's encounter will represent just the 27th time in which these two clubs have faced each other in a competitive match, with Arsenal winning 14 times in comparison to 11 victories for Watford.

However, while the teams are closely matched from an historical perspective, Arsenal have dominated recent games with the Gunners gaining success in eight of the last 10 matches.

Watford have not defeated Arsenal at Vicarage Road since 1987, a run stretching six matches in all competitions.


We say: Watford 1-3 Arsenal

Watford have been excellent this season, but they are perhaps facing Arsenal at the wrong time. Wenger's men have started to build a run of form and while we expect the Hornets to have a certain amount of success, Arsenal should have enough to come through in relatively comfortable fashion.


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