Watford vs Arsenal: Gunners looking to get back to winning ways
Getty Images/Marc Atkins

Watford vs Arsenal: Gunners looking to get back to winning ways

Arsenal make the short journey across London to take on Watford

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Mitul Samji

Watford comes into this game as one of two sides in the Premier League yet to register their first win.

The Hornets have sacked Javi Gracia following their 1-1 draw against Newcastle United despite reaching the FA Cup Final last season as well as an 11th place finish in the Premier League. Quique Sanchez Flores has returned to Watford for his second managerial spell at the club and they will face an Arsenal side who look a threat up-front but shaky in defence.

Watford last kept a clean sheet in the Premier League back in February in a goalless draw away to Brighton & Hove Albion. The home side could equal their top-flight club record of five consecutive home league defeats and a loss to Arsenal on Sunday would result in them losing their first home league matches of a season since the 1991-92 campaign.

The hosts are without a league victory in eight games (D2, L6), their worst run since an 11-game run between November 2006 and January 2007.

As for the visitors, Arsenal won their two opening games but failed to win their last two- losing to Liverpool at Anfield and drawing with rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

It is the start of busy September for the Gunners as they will play five times in the space of 15 days across three competitions as their Europa League and Carabao Cup campaigns get going.

Arsenal head coach Unai Emery is yet to find the right balance in midfield which was noticed in the North London Derby draw against Tottenham Hotspur and the former PSG and Sevilla boss will look to make amends in Sunday’s clash.

The Gunners have only kept nine clean sheets in the Premier League since Unai Emery arrival at the club in May 2018 - two of those were against Watford last season.

Both sides look to get back to winning ways and have different targets- to stay up and to be amongst the top four places to be in next season’s Champions League. Question is which side will come top?

Team News

Watford captain Troy Deeney remains sidelined as he is still recovering from knee surgery. While Etienne Capoue could return from illness and Craig Cathcart could possibly miss out on Sunday’s game due to muscle problem. 

As for the visitors, Gunners striker, Alexandre Lacazette has suffered an ankle injury and is ruled out until at least October.

Hector Bellerin, Konstantinos Mavropanos, Rob Holding and Kieran Tierney are all back in full training but Sunday’s clash against Watford has come too early.

Joe Willock is available for contention following a calf problem, while Granit Xhaka remains a doubt after suffering the pain of an Achilles issue in recent weeks.

Predicted Line-Up

Watford: Foster; Dawson, Kabasele, Cathcart; Janmaat, Doucoure, Cleverley, Femenia; Hughes, Pereyra; Gray

Arsenal: Leno; Maitland-Niles; Sokratis, Luiz, Kolasinac; Torreira, Guendouzi, Ceballos; Pepe, Nelson; Aubameyang

Key Clashes

Craig Dawson v Nicolas Pepe

Flores returns to the Watford dugout which helps bring the best of Craig Dawson as the Spaniard is known for his defence-favouring style of play. There is one player that could flourish under Flores is Dawson. The former West Brom defender has made 16 joint-most clearances for the Hornets in the Premier League this season and will certainly be the key player in the Watford backline against Arsenal this weekend.

Nicolas Pepe has brought a high level of optimism amongst Arsenal fans and he is an exciting prospect for the club in Arsenal’s front-line. He is yet to register his first goal for the club despite taking a club-high nine shots and registering an assist in the North London Derby for Lacazette’s goal. This is a fantastic opportunity for Pepe to get his first goal for the club and a chance to show his full potential, should he be given free rein on the Hornets backline. So far this season, Pepe has made 15 take-ons, more than any other player this season.

Gerard Deulofeu v Dani Ceballos

Gerard Deulofeu contributed to 29% of Watford's Premier League goals last season – 10 goals and five assists. He is yet to score or assist this season. It is quite discouraging and even worse, he has only recorded one shot this season in their league game against West Ham. The Spaniard is highly regarded amongst the Watford faithful with his goal-scoring and creativity upfront which he contributed last season. With Flores' return to the club, he could help rejuvenate his form and bring the best out of him.

With Arsenal’s defence still looking slightly shaky, they may be slightly relieved that Deeney is sidelined as all Arsenal fans know about his antics with Arsenal. He once accused the Gunners lacking ‘cojones’ to compete with Watford back in October 2017 when they lost 2-1 at Vicarage Road.

The question heavily lies on Emery selection in midfield following their draw against Tottenham. Dani Ceballos has enjoyed a promising start at North London especially in his performance against Burnley and he looks likely to start Sunday’s match so his creativity and progressing with the ball will help the Gunners to thrive up-front. The Spaniard’s ball progression makes him unique as a player and it is an area for Emery to exploit. Ceballos’s dribbling ability to break lines with his passing is fantastic and helps to unlock a possible deep block.  Additionally, Ceballos’ movement with the ball into the final third and in the penalty area is so crucial to Arsenal’s attacking front-line.

Quique Sanchez Flores wants to make a promising start

Quique Sanchez Flores returns to Watford for his second spell at the club and he discussed the current form of his players.

Flores told BBC Sport: “The first week you come here, it's difficult to identify everything because there are players who haven't been playing for a long time and other players who have injuries and other players, they are playing but they don't have confidence because the results aren't good.

"You need to take all this and try to improve as soon as possible and we don't have time."

Unai Emery expects Flores to succeed at Watford for the second time

Gunners head coach Unai Emery discussed his views on Flores’ reappointment.

Emery told BBC Sport: “He is going to know the team and players. He knows some players because he trained there three years ago. He's going to do well.

"I really respect every coach. I think now with Flores they will continue working well like they were doing with Javi Gracia."

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