Watford vs Arsenal Preview: Both sides looking for first victory of the season in London derby

Watford and Arsenal both go in search of their first three points of the season when they meet at Vicarage Road on Saturday, with pressure mounting on Arsene Wenger's Gunners after a poor start.

Watford vs Arsenal Preview: Both sides looking for first victory of the season in London derby
(Picture: VAVEL UK)

Arsenal and Watford are both looking for their first victories of the 2016-17 Premier League campaign when they go head-to-head at Vicarage Road on Saturday afternoon.

The Gunners have lost and drawn in their opening two games against Liverpool and champions Leicester City, increasing the scrutiny on Arsene Wenger to spend in the transfer market.

With the Frenchman having seemingly responded, with deals for striker Lucas Perez and centre-back Shkodran Mustafi moving increasingly closer, the Gunners will be eager to register a first three points of the campaign.

They have already fallen behind frontrunners Manchester City and Manchester United, and although there are still 36 games to be played until May, Arsenal can ill-afford any more slip-ups so early on as they look for much-needed momentum.

Watford, too, are yet to win - following up a draw with Southampton on the opening day with a 2-1 loss at home to Chelsea last weekend, having led 1-0 until the 80th minute.

The Hornets - led by new manager Walter Mazzarri - are not as desperate for victory as their opponents, but are in need of a boost after their EFL Cup extra-time defeat to League One outfit Gillingham in mid-week.

While the pressure on Mazzarri isn't quite comparable to that on Wenger in the opposite dug-out, it's clear Watford are in need of a boost - and a huge London derby victory would provide just that.

But Arsenal are in dire need of a dose of optimism after another underwhelming start to the campaign and need to avoid losing more ground in what could prove to be the most competitive Premier League season ever. 

Anything but victory for the visitors could see the knives sharpen further even despite Wenger's recent willingness to spend.

Team news:

Mazzarri could hand out a number of debuts for the home side, having confirmed the signatures of Roberto Pereyra, Younes Kaboul and Daryl Janmaat over the past couple of  weeks.

Pereyra's club-record move from Juventus, in the region of £11 million, was followed by centre-back Kaboul's £4 million switch from Sunderland the the £7.5 million capture of right-back Janmaat from Newcastle United on Wednesday.

Pereyra and Kaboul were unveiled in front of the Watford fans last weekend. (Picture: Getty Images)
Pereyra and Kaboul were unveiled in front of the Watford fans last weekend. (Picture: Getty Images)

The Italian declared in his pre-match press conference earlier in the week that the trio might not necessarily start from the off, as he weighs up using the same team that lost to Chelsea last weekend, but hinted that they could be involved at some point.

As well as calling Janmaat a "very important player", the Watford boss said they "need to evaluate" their new signings so that they "know what they need to do" for the team.

He confirmed that the trio will be in the squad for the clash with Chelsea, but was reluctant to reveal whether they would "start or play later" as he said the club should "start from the good things" they did against Chelsea."

"It's nearly impossible all three will start," Mazzarri continued, saying he must "take into consideration" the line-up that played a week ago.

Fielding the same eleven from the Chelsea clash would mean nine changes from the team that crashed out of the cup to Gillingham in mid-week, with just captain Troy Deeney and Adlene Guedioura keeping their places in a 3-5-2 formation.

If Mazzarri is to hand starts to any of his debutants, Pereyra seems the most likely. The Argentine midfielder was ineligible to play Gillingham, but has now received his work permit from the Home Office could take up the attacking midfield role behind Deeney and Odion Ighalo.

For Arsenal, Mesut Ozil could make his return to the starting line-up with Arsene Wenger having confirmed he would closely monitor the attacking midfielder's fitness in the build-up.

The German was involved at the semi-finals of Euro 2016 and only returned to training earlier this month after being granted an extended summer break.

Ozil is touch and go to start at Watford. (Picture: Getty Images)
Ozil is touch and go to start at Watford. (Picture: Getty Images)

He was involved off the bench away at Leicester last weekend but is still short of match fitness, with Wenger explaining that he would make a decision the day before the game.

With Mustafi expected to complete his move to Arsenal this weekend, Wenger will be forced to continue with a makeshift defence. 

Gabriel Paulista and Per Mertesacker are expected to be out until October and February respectively, meaning Rob Holding is likely to continue his partnership with Laurent Koscielny.

Midfielder Aaron Ramsey and forward Alex Iwobi will miss out with hamstring and thigh injuries, while Wenger added that "not everybody is up to speed completely" and that "some players" are "a little bit behind."

That means Olivier Giroud could remain on the bench, leaving Alexis Sanchez to continue in his deputy role as a striker, with the striker "a little fraction behind physically" after his international involvements over the summer. 

Giroud also featured off the bench at Leicester, but is unlikely to be risked from the outset as Wenger waits for his internationals to return to full fitness.

Danny Welbeck and Carl Jenkinson (both knee) remain sidelined. 


At Vicarage Road: Watford - 5 wins, Draws - 0, Arsenal - 6 wins.

At the Emirates Stadium: Arsenal - 6 wins, Draws - 1, Watford - 5 wins.

Overall: Watford - 10 wins, Draws - 1, Arsenal - 12 wins. (as per worldfootball.net)

Last meeting: Arsenal 4-0 Watford (Sanchez, Iwobi, Bellerin, Walcott), 2nd April 2016, Barclays Premier League.

Recent form:


Form in Premier League: LD
Form in all competitions: LD


Form in Premier League: DL
Form in all competitions: DLL

Match facts:

Watford are yet to claim even a point against Arsenal in the Premier League, losing all six of their meetings and conceding 16 goals in the process.

The Hornets haven’t beaten Arsenal in the league since April 1988, when they won 1-0 thanks to a goal from Rick Holden.

Watford's only win in the last 28 years against the Gunners came in March when they knocked the then-holders out of the FA Cup at the quarter-final stage.

Arsenal have only conceded three goals against Watford in their past five fixtures.

Watford have won just two of their last 10 home games in the league, those victories coming against Newcastle and Aston Villa, both of whom have since been relegated.

The Hornets haven't kept a clean sheet in 13 league games. Their last shut-out came against Bournemouth in a goalless home draw in February.

Watford have averaged the oldest starting line-up so far this season, with the average age of their XI over 30.

Arsenal have drawn their last four away games and could equal the club's record for five successive draws which was set way back in 1948.

However, Wenger's side have only lost only one Premier League away game in 2016 - which is fewer than any other side. 

With just one point from six so far, Arsenal have their lowest points total after two games since 2011-12 - which was also just a point. That season they finished 19 points off of second as Manchester City beat Manchester United to the title on goal difference.

Match official:

Friend in the only game he has refereed so far this season. (Picture: Getty Images)
Friend in the only game he has refereed so far this season. (Picture: Getty Images)

Experienced official Kevin Friend is the chosen referee for Saturday's clash.

The 45-year-old, a member of Select Group Referees since 2009, was the man in the middle for only three Arsenal games last season - all of which came away from home and resulted in victory.

Of the two Watford games he refereed, both came at Vicarage Road and resulted in draws. 

He has overseen one Premier League game so far this season, dishing out eight yellow cards in Middlesbrough and Stoke City's 1-1 draw on the opening day. 

Friend took charge of 31 top-flight fixtures last season, handing out 100 yellow cards and six red cards across those games.