17th October 2015; 1730 BST
Watford currently sit on 12th position with 10 points from 8 games and are the best placed of the promoted teams. The Hornets have registered wins against Swansea City and Newcastle United and would be looking to cause an upset against 2nd placed Arsenal FC. Quique Sanchez Florez’ men have lost only once at home and they would be counting on their excellent record at home to hold against the Gunners.
Arsenal FC had endured a stuttering start to their league campaign, but looked to have found some rhythm in recent times. Before the kick-off they would know, if a win would help them go top of the table if current table toppers, Manchester City, lose their game Bournemouth. The Citizens have a number of key first-team players absent and although Bournemouth hardly provide the sternest test, the Cherries are more than capable of causing an upset.
Arsenal FC are one of the few teams, whose players have returned from international duty unscathed and in sensational form. Most of the first-teamers got on the score-sheet and if you are Mesut Ozil – you assisted a couple. The Gunners had hit top form against Manchester United just before the international break and Arsene Wenger’s men would be looking to capitalize on any mistakes that Manuel Pellegrini’s team make to go top of the table.
Team News and Tactics
Watford are without the services of Jose Manuel Jurado, who is set to return to full-fitness in around a week’s time. The Spanish midfielder has been sidelined with a hamstring injury. The Hornets are also without the services of defender Tommie Hoban and Lloyd Doyley, who have been sidelined for a long time with groin and neck injuries respectively. Another person missing from action for Quique Sanchez Flores is Swedish defender Joel Ekstrand, who is expected to return to training in February next year.
Watford have, however, been boosted by the return of Valor Behrami and Ikechi Anya, with the duo set to start against Arsenal FC. Behrami and Anya, who had been struggling with calf injuries will be seen slotting in central midfield and left-wing respectively. Allan Nyom, who was struggling with a knee injury is also available for selection and will be seen starting at right-back and will probably be the busiest of all Watford defenders as he would go head-to-head against Alexis Sanchez.
Heurelho da Silva Gomes is expected to line-up in between the sticks, with Odion Ighalo set to lead the attack in Flores’ favoured 4-2-3-1 formation. Former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Etienne Capoue will partner Behrami in midfield. Troy Deeney will be trusted to start in the hole behind the striker, while Almen Abdi could be seen on the right flank.
Chelsea FC loanee Nathan Ake is expected to start on the left-hand side of Watford’s defence and would be entrusted with the duty to keep Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in check. Sebastian Prodl and Craig Cathcart will start in the heart of defence and going by Arsenal FC’s recent form, the duo can expect a busy afternoon.
Expected lineup (4-2-3-1): Gomes; Nyom, Cathcart, Prodl, Ake; Capoue, Behrami; Abdi, Deeney, Anya; Ighalo
Arsene Wenger would select his team with one eye on the midweek fixture against Bayern Munich, a loss against the Bavarians could seal Arsenal FC’s fate in the Champions League and the Frenchman would want his best players to be fresh and at their best in midweek.
The Frenchman has stuck with the 4-2-3-1 formation that his team has adjusted to in recent ganes, with Petr Cech undoubtedly the keeper to start all the league games. Laurent Koscielny, who is set to undergo a late fitness test, could be seen on the bench, but it is unlikely that Wenger would risk the 30-year-old ahead of the Bayern Munich game. Another area of concern for the Gunners is the fitness of talisman Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean played both games for his national team during the game despite being short of full fitness. The Chilean should ideally be rested ahead of the game against Bayern Munich, but it is well known that the former FC Barcelona winger doesn’t like rests.
Per Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista are set to form the central defensive pairing with Nacho Monreal and Mathieu Debuchy set to start on the either flanks. Club captain Mikel Arteta, who had been sidelined with a hamstring injury returns to the fold and could be seen starting alongside Santi Cazorla in midfield to keep Francis Coquelin fresh for the test against Bayern Munich. Olivier Giroud will lead the line for Arsenal FC with Theo Walcott also set to be rested for midweek.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alexis Sanchez could be slotting in on the flanks to help ease the goal-scoring burden on Giroud, with Mesut Ozil starting in his favoured No. 10 position.
Expected lineup (4-2-3-1): Cech; Debuchy, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Monreal; Cazorla, Arteta; Chamberlain, Ozil, Sanchez; Giroud
Player to watch out for:
Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal FC)
After a dull start to the season, attributed mainly to a lack of pre-season and late return after winning the Copa America, the Chilean has burst to life since hitting a hat-trick against Leicester City. The 26-year-old was justly criticized for his early season blues, but the combative forward has been unstoppable in recent times and the Hornets will have a hard time keeping someone silent, who has scored 9 goals in his last 5 competitive appearances for club and country.
- All of the Hornets’ last five Premier League goals have been scored by Odion Ighalo.
- The Hornets enjoy the worst shooting accuracy (34.3%) and the lowest shot conversion rate (8.6%).
- Arsenal FC striker Theo Walcott has scored 12 goals and racked up 3 assists in his last 14 Premier League starts.
- Petr Cech has the best save percentage in the Premier League this season (82%).
- Arsenal FC have won the last five encounters against Watford.
- The Hornets are yet to win a Premier League game in the month of October (Lost 5, Drawn 4).
Watford 2 a 1 Arsenal FC
Arsene Wenger will start a weakened team against the Hornets keeping in mind the must win clash against Bayern Munich on Tuesday night. This could prove to be Arsenal FC’s undoing with Watford looking to put a serious dent on the Gunners’ title hopes.
The Hornets, who have conceded only one goal at home in the league this season have the resources at their disposal to stifle an unpredictable Arsenal FC attack and should they succeed in doing that, an upset cannot be ruled out.