Arsenal v Watford: Premier League Match Preview
Arsenal host Watford in the Premier League at the Emirates Stadium tonight (7.45pm kick-off UK time).
The Gunners go into this mid-week round of Premier League fixtures in second place in the table.
Arsenal are eight points behind leaders Chelsea. The Blues take on Liverpool at Anfield tonight, before hosting the Gunners at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
The late penalty winner by Alexis Sanchez against Burnley helped Arsenal to a fifth consecutive league victory at home.
And the Gunners are unbeaten in 10 matches at the Emirates Stadium since losing to Liverpool in the Premier League on the opening weekend of the season.
Arsenal have gone seven home league matches in a row without conceding a goal from open play – all four goals against them in that period have been penalties.
The Gunners have also scored an unrivalled six goals in the 90th minute or stoppage time this season, and have also managed a league-high 12 goals in the 80th minute or later.
Watford are in 14th place in the Premier League table.
The Hornets have gone seven Premier League games without a win, including three draws and four losses. One of those draws was in their last league outing away against Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium. They conceded a late equaliser to draw 2-2
The Hornets haven’t won a non-weekend Premier League fixture in 12 attempts since beating Portsmouth 4-2 in April 2007 (D2, L10).
They could go winless in their opening five league matches of a calendar year for the first time since 2002, when they were in the second tier.
The sides had very different results in the 4th round of the FA Cup over the weekend.
Arsenal made 10 changes to the side that played Burnley in their last Premier League match, but convincingly beat Southampton 5-0 at St Mary’s to advance to the next round of the competition.
Whilst last season’s semi-finalists Watford made 7 changes from their last Premier League match against Bournemouth, but exited the competition after a 1-0 defeat against League 1 Millwall at the New Den.
Arsenal have won their last seven-league matches against Watford, netting 19 goals in the process.
Only against Newcastle United (nine) are Arsenal on a longer active winning run in league competition than v Watford (seven along with Charlton Athletic).
The Gunners won the reverse fixture 3-1 at Vicarage Road on 27th August 2016. It was Arsenal’s first Premier League win of the season, with goals from Santi Cazorla, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil – Robert Pereyra scored for the Hornets.
Watford’s last top-flight win against Arsenal was by 1-0 scoreline at Highbury in April 1988.
The Hornets though did beat the Gunners 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium in last season’s FA Cup quarter-final tie.
Alexis Sanchez has scored in all three of his previous Premier League appearances against Watford and also has two assists versus the Hornets.
The experienced Heurelho Gomes could be the key figure for the Hornets. He has though conceded 23 goals in eight Premier League games against Arsenal, nine more than any other team he has faced.
Asked at his pre-match press conference yesterday whether he will be looking to make any signings before the transfer window closes tonight, Wenger said.
“I believe that number-wise and quality-wise, we have what is required to do well.
We are not in need of buying. On a general front it has been very quiet [in the transfer window]. That shows that there are not many players available who can strengthen English teams.
It also shows that all the teams in England, especially the big teams, have big squads. That’s why not a lot happened.”
Asked about the two-day turnaround from playing their FA Cup tie at Millwall on Sunday and playing again tonight, Mazzarri said.
“We still miss some players, this is why we have to change formation.
Now we have 16 games and I want a team that for 16 games fights for every ball and helps us move up the table.”
After making 10 changes for the FA Cup 4th round tie against Southampton, Arsenal are likely to revert to the team that beat Burnley in their last Premier League outing.
Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck are likely to have to settle for places on the bench, despite scoring a hat-trick and double respectively in the FA Cup win over the Saints.
Granit Xhaka serves the 2nd of his four match suspension for being sent-off against Burnley.
Santi Cazorla (Achilles) is still out injured.
Mohammed Elneny is still away representing Egypt at the African Cup of Nations, but will the semi-final through injury.
Provisional squad: Cech, Ospina, Martinez, Bellerin, Debuchy, Jenkinson, Holding, Gabriel, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Gibbs, Maitland-Niles, Coquelin, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Walcott, Reine-Adelaide, Iwobi, Sanchez, Akpom, Perez, Giroud.
The Hornets could give debut to M’Baye Niang, who has joined on loan from AC Milan for the remainder of the season.
Christian Kabasele may return from injury, Nordin Amrabat (ankle), Valon Behrami (back) and Isaac Success (hamstring) are all doubts. Roberto Pereyra remains out with a serious knee injury.
Costel Pantilimon picked up ankle injury during the FA Cup defeat to Millwall on Sunday and is out.
New signing Mauro Zarate and Jose Holebas are serving a ban.
Watford have reportedly agreed a £20m deal with Chinese club Chongchun Yatai for Odion Ighalo.
Provisional squad: Gomes, Arlauskis, Behrami, , Zuniga, Cathcart, Prodl, Janmaat, Britos, Watson, Dja Djedje, Kabasele, Kaboul, Mason, Behrami, Capoue, Cleverley, Okaka, Mariappa, Doucoure, Ighalo, Niang, Sinclair, Deeney.
Referee: A Marriner
Assistants: S Ledger, S Massey-Ellis
Fourth official: K Friend
Arsenal to get a 3-1 win.