Arsenal will be looking to keep the pressure on their top-four rivals when they travel to Vicarage Road to take on Watford on Sunday.
This season, it has taken a third manager for Watford to find some level of defensive solidity. The Hornets have been woeful for most parts of the season, and since the arrival of Roy Hodgson, they are starting to show a desire to retain their Premier League status.
They put on a good showing against Manchester United at Old Trafford, earning a solid point away from home to boost their survival hopes. Recent results have shown a newfound solidity in defence, despite the four goals conceded against Crystal Palace.
Visitors Arsenal come into this clash in top form in the league. Since the end of January, the Gunners have played just four Premier League games and have won each of their last three top-flight clashes since drawing at home to Burnley.
Their last gasp victory over Wolves at the Emirates remains fresh in the memory of the supporters; they will be looking forward to seeing more progress from Mikel Arteta’s side. Arsenal have a firm grip in the top-four chase, as the north Londoners remain two points behind fourth-placed Manchester United with three games in hand over the Red Devils.
While some tricky fixtures are coming up for Arsenal in the coming weeks, Arteta will be aiming for three points against Watford to keep the pressure on their rivals. The Gunners will be hoping their rivals slip up at the weekend, which will certainly boost their chances of playing Champions League football next season.
Team News & Tactics
“We have to be prepared for whatever they throw at us.”
🎙 Roy Hodgson spoke to the press this afternoon ahead of #WATARS.
— Watford Football Club (@WatfordFC) March 4, 2022
The big news from Watford is the absence of Ismaila Sarr, who misses the Arsenal clash with a hamstring problem. William Troost-Ekong also misses out with a muscle issue. Kiko Femenia, who was absent against Manchester United with a knock, could be available again for the home game against Arsenal.
The Hornets could also be without Peter Etebo and Nicolas Nkoulou, with both the players still on their road to recovery from their respective injuries. The former is closer to making a return to the first team.
If Hodgson decides against starting Femenia, Jeremy Ngakia could start at right-back. Craig Cathcart and Samir are likely to keep guard at the heart of the Watford defence, with Hassane Kamara the potential candidate to start at left-back.
Hodgson will continue with an effective 4-3-3, which suits his attackers and their pace in transitions. Tom Cleverley, Imran Louza and Moussa Sissoko will form the midfield three. Emmanuel Dennis, Joshua King and Ken Sema are the probable front three for Watford against Arsenal.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Foster; Ngakia, Cathcart, Samir, Kamara; Sissoko, Louza, Cleverley; Dennis, King, Sema
Mikel Arteta has confirmed that Takehiro Tomiyasu remains a significant doubt following a new injury to his other calf right before the game against Wolverhampton Wanderers. In his place, Cedric Soares has performed admirably and is likely to keep his spot at right-back.
🗞️ Mikel Arteta issued an update on Tomiyasu and looked ahead to our trip to Watford 👇#WATARS
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) March 4, 2022
Arsenal could be unchanged from their victory over Wolves, despite Nicolas Pepe making his case for a starting berth. Arteta could prefer to start with Gabriel Martinelli on the left-hand side and have the returning Emile Smith Rowe on the bench after the 20-year-old missed the Wolves game through illness.
Ben White and Gabriel Magalhaes will continue in the central defensive partnership, with Kieran Tierney firmly established at left-back. Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey will see their names on the teamsheet for the central midfield pairing, with Martin Odegaard playing slightly more advanced than the duo.
In recent weeks, Arteta’s 4-2-3-1 has often looked like a 4-3-3, with Xhaka playing as a no. 8 on the left, with Odegaard playing a similar role on the right. Bukayo Saka is likely to start ahead of Pepe on the right side of the Arsenal attack, with Alexandre Lacazette leading the line and Martinelli playing from the left.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Ramsdale; Cedric, White, Gabriel, Tierney; Partey, Xhaka; Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli; Lacazette
- Watford have earned seven points from a possible 45 available against Arsenal in the Premier League (W2 D1 L12), though they have only lost one of their last three home matches versus the Gunners.
- Arsenal have scored in all 15 of their Premier League games against Watford – the only team they have a better record against is West Bromwich Albion, scoring in all 26 meetings.
- Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 14 games against teams in the bottom two of the table at the start of the day (W10 D4).
- Watford have lost their previous seven Premier League games at Vicarage Road and 10 of 13 overall this season – an 11th defeat would equal a club record.
- Emile Smith Rowe is Arsenal’s top scorer in the Premier League this season with nine goals. He could become just the second Arsenal player aged 21 or under to reach double figures in a Premier League season, emulating Nicolas Anelka in 1998/99.
Player to Watch
When new training pics land 😍
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) March 5, 2022
The former Atletico Madrid midfielder is finally showing the quality to justify the £45 million outlay on him from Arsenal. Having put his injury and fitness issues behind him, Partey has played a significant role in recent games for the club and is taking to his new role rather nicely.
Arteta has recently deployed Partey at the base of the midfield, with Granit Xhaka and Martin Odegaard operating as no. 8s in the new system. The Ghanaian seems to have more responsibility on his shoulders now, and he has responded very well. Excelling in the role over a longer period will be key for the midfielder, and his good form is crucial to what Arsenal do on the pitch.
Watford 0-2 Arsenal
Manchester United missed a host of chances against Watford, but take nothing away from Watford’s solidity at the back. However, Arsenal are in a different run of form and will punish the Hornets’ defence if the right chance arrives.
Expect Arsenal to take three points away from home and add to their three-game winning streak. The Gunners’ defence has been unfortunate in the last two games, but they could keep a clean sheet on this occasion. Arteta’s men are likely to score at least two goals at Vicarage Road, although there could be more depending on their form on Sunday.