Watford vs Arsenal preview: Gunners look for third successive league win against in-form Hornets

Arsène Wenger’s side make the short trip to Hertfordshire this Saturday evening in what promises to be a tricky encounter at Vicarage Road.

Watford vs Arsenal preview: Gunners look for third successive league win against in-form Hornets
Building momentum? (Image by GettyImages/Mark Kerton)

Premier League football finally returns after the latest international break, and Arsenal face a tricky trip to Watford on Saturday tea-time.

The Gunners have the chance to build up some real momentum before their colossal double-header at the beginning of November against Manchester City and Tottenham.

But they face a Watford side who have been rejuvenated since the arrival of new manager Marco Silva in the summer. The Hornets have only lost one game so far this season, and that was a 6-0 hammering against the so-far-irresistible City.

Arsenal will have a real test on their hands when they arrive at Vicarage Road this weekend, particularly given their current defensive injury issues; with Shkodran Mustafi the latest defender to become sidelined.



Defensive problems for Wenger

The Gunners will be heavily sweating on the fitness of star defender Laurent Koscielny, as the Frenchman continues to struggle with an ongoing Achilles problem. Arsène Wenger will be desperate for Koscielny to prove his fitness given his growing injury list at the back.

Wenger won't be best pleased with German national manager, Joachim Löw, as centre-back Mustafi sustained a worrying muscular injury in Germany’s 5-1 victory over Azerbaijan last Sunday. The German’s had already qualified for next year's FIFA World Cup before the game.

As a result, Mustafi will miss around as much as six weeks of action, Wenger confirmed on Thursday, all but meaning he won't feature in any of Arsenal’s games before the next international break.

It was thought that Sead Kolašinac returned from action with Bosnia & Herzegovina with a suspected injury concern too. Though, the new summer signing will have a fitness test with Wenger confident that he should be fit.

A challenging week for the Gunners

Three consecutive away games await Arsenal in the next eight days, as Wenger's side travel to Watford on Saturday, then have a long trek to Serbia to take on Red Star Belgrade in the UEFA Europa League in mid-week, before ending the week with a trip to Goodison Park to face Everton on Sunday.

And if Arsenal’s current defensive injury issues don’t clear up anytime soon, it could prove to be a very testing week for Wenger. It is likely that a young team will be taken to Belgrade on the Thursday night, though the back-to-back away games against Watford and Everton in the Premier League poses a real indicator of whereabouts the Gunners are at right now.

Since that 4-0 collapse away at Liverpool at the end of August, Arsenal haven’t lost in all competitions in what Wenger has deemed a "turning point" for his side this season. Impressive displays at Chelsea and in the three other home league games have helped the Gunners accumulate 10 points out of a possible 12 in the last month along with four consecutive Premier League clean sheets.



Watford a different side this season?

Arsenal will know all about underestimating Watford, as they will just have to check back to last season when the Hornets all but ended the Gunners’ failed title challenge at the end of January with a shock win at the Emirates.

Since Silva’s arrival in the summer, the Portuguese manager has turned the club's philosophy upside down, with the Hornets now playing a whole new expansive style of football.

Summer signings such as Richarlison and Nathaniel Chalobah have helped given Watford a more youthful and hungrier look, making them a much more dangerous team on the counter-attack.

As mentioned earlier, their form has been near perfect so far this campaign, other than a 6-0 thrashing at home to City in September. It is safe to say that the Hornets have been the surprise package so far this season.

Team news

Wenger will be thrilled to have both Danny Welbeck and Mesut Özil back and available for selection on Saturday evening.

Welbeck last featured for the Gunners in a 0-0 draw away at Chelsea before hobbling off, while Özil hasn’t been available since the 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion midway through September.

Defensive duo Koscielny and Kolašinac will both have late fitness tests ahead of the trip to Vicarage Road, with Wenger fairly confident that both defenders will be available for selection. Though, Mustafi will miss the game altogether with his thigh problem.

The home side will be hoping that winger Andre Carrillo will be fit to be involved on Saturday after the Peru International was involved with his country's World Cup qualifiers this past week.

Watford are still without striker Issac Success. The Nigerian looks to be sidelined for a while after sustaining a bad knee injury, while Sebastian Prodl is a doubt also, the defender still struggling from a thigh problem.

Likely starting XIs

Watford: Gomes; Femenia, Mariappa, Kabasele, Holebas; Doucoure, Capoue; Carrillo, Cleverley, Richarlison; Deeney

Arsenal: Cech; Holding, Kosicelny, Monreal; Bellerin, Ramsey, Xhaka, Kolasinac; Sanchez, Ozil; Lacazette