Arsenal await another away test as they travel to Watford in pursuit of a top-four place and their first Premier League clean sheet away from home this season.
Arsenal’s away form needs massive improvement if they are to challenge for a top-four place come to the end of the season. Arsenal have six remaining fixtures in the Premier League with four of those coming away from home. Their struggles on the road were personified by that disappointing loss to Everton during the last game day, and they are travelling again, this time to Watford.
At the Emirates, Arsenal are a different gravy, boasting one of the better records in the Premier League this season, while their recent, dominating victory over Napoli in their Europa League tie simply illustrated that. Against, Watford, they face a good team, who are vying to finish in the seventh position, which is the last available position to stand a chance to play in the Europa League next season.
Taking into account the results of other top-four rivals over the weekend, Arsenal need to step up or end up falling behind. Both Tottenham and Manchester United won, but with Chelsea losing to Liverpool on Sunday, Arsenal can move into the fourth place, if they put their dreadful away form behind them and show character to take three points against Watford.
Watford, on the other hand, will be confident coming into this clash. Javi Gracia’s side have reached the final of the FA Cup to take on Manchester City. They had to dig deep to beat a brilliant Wolves side and will look forward to the Arsenal to push for a seventh-place finish.
In the league, Watford last beat relegated Fulham 4-1 to keep the chase for their desired position. Additionally, Newcastle’s win over Leicester and Wolves also losing their weekend game will only encourage them to perform well against the Gunners. In all, it does look like a great clash we have on our hands when Arsenal and Watford meet each other on Monday night.
Team News & Tactics
Javi Gracia has a few concerns ahead of the Arsenal game. Starting with FA Cup hero, Gerard Deulofeu, who is thought to be a doubt, despite earning a place in the starting lineup following his heroics of late. He is not the only player who is a doubt. The likes of Isaac Success, Kiko Femenia and Adalberto Penaranda are all 50/50 for the Arsenal game.
In terms of absentees, Jose Holebas, Tom Cleverley and Domingos Quina are all reportedly out of the game with injuries. In the case the manager deems Deulofeu to be fit enough to start, then it could force Andre Gray to the bench.
Elsewhere, Gracia will continue trusting his central midfield partnership of Etienne Capoue and Abdoulaye Doucoure, while the likes of Roberto Pereyra and Will Hughes will play in an attacking position behind the two designated strikers – captain Troy Deeney and Deulofeu, if deemed fit.
Probable Lineup (4-2-2-2): Foster; Janmaat, Mariappa, Cathcart, Masina; Doucoure, Capoue; Hughes, Pereyra; Deeney, Deulofeu
Unai Emery will welcome Lucas Torreira back into the side after the midfielder served his three games domestic ban for his straight red card against Tottenham. The Uruguayan made a sensational return to the starting lineup against Napoli in midweek and was one of the stand-out players from the game.
Where Arsenal welcome one player, they are also set to lose one in Sokratis, who begins his two-game suspension following his yellow against Everton. In case Emery decides to stick to his three-man central defence then Shkodran Mustafi is the only other name who can replace the Greek defender. The other two at the back are to be Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal.
With the Napoli game to look forward to again this week, Emery will likely give his fringe stars some minutes and likewise manage his more important players. The likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi could be pushing for recalls into the starting lineup, something that will also allow Emery to freshen up his side.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Leno; Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Maitland-Niles, Ramsey, Torreira, Kolasinac; Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang, Iwobi
- Watford have lost four of their previous five home games against Arsenal in the Premier League, although they beat the Gunners in this fixture last season.
- Arsenal have not lost back-to-back away league games at Watford since a run of three straight defeats ending in November 1987.
- None of the 11 previous Premier League meetings between Watford and Arsenal have ended in a draw.
- Watford have only won two of their 15 Premier League games when playing on a Monday (D5 L8).
- Arsenal have won seven of their last eight Premier League games on a Monday.
1. Both Teams to Score – YES @ 1.50
2. Full-Time Result – Watford or Draw @ 1.70
1. Watford to win @ 3.30
Player To Watch
Arsenal’s struggles away from home have not been a pleasant picture for fans, although they might have noticed the excellent form playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan shows at times away from the Emirates. The Armenian is not in the preferred starting lineup these days, but he could get back there to help out Arsenal in the congested fixture lineup in the coming few weeks.
Mkhitaryan needs to show his worth, amid talks of Arsenal planning to let him go. He certainly has many more years left in the tank, but he needs to show Emery how much of a useful weapon he could be away from home, an area where Arsenal are at times clueless.
Watford 1-2 Arsenal
Arsenal might just nick it here at Vicarage Road, despite all the talk of their faltering away form. Arsenal’s present form is not bad, and the defeat to Everton could be considered a one-off. Owing to what’s at stake for the Gunners, where a win is a must at this stage, considering their rivals have taken their chances over the weekend.
It’s not to say, Watford do not have a chance, they definitely do, but from what we saw of Arsenal against Napoli, one can safely bet on the Gunners collecting all three points here. The defence may be an issue for Arsenal, but they have more than enough quality in attack to supplement their weakness at the back.