Arsenal - Watford Preview: Hornets hoping to repeat FA Cup shock

Arsenal go in search of revenge against a Watford side heading for Wembley at the expense of the Gunners.

Arsenal - Watford Preview: Hornets hoping to repeat FA Cup shock
(photo: vavel)

Arsenal host Watford for the second time in three weeks, with the visitors looking for a repeat of their sensational FA Cup quarter-final victory in March.

The Gunners might find themselves out of all other competitions, but they still stand half a chance of getting themselves back into a tightly-contested title race. If they can reproduce the performance which saw them dismantle Everton at Goodison Park last time out then they should inflict revenge upon the Hornets here, though Quique Sanchez Flores’ side will set up in a similar way to that which saw them achieve glory on the same ground just 20 days ago.

The Hornets’ league form is desperately poor in comparison to a cup run which has seen them reach Wembley for just the second time in 32 years. They have won just two league games in 2016, and could do with a victory to ease any minor relegation fears.

This should be an entertaining game between two sides who still have plenty to play for.  

Tactics

The Gunners are likely to go with the same side that gave Barcelona something of a fright in the Nou Camp and then comfortably beat Everton last time out, with Alex Iwobi providing a spark which had been missing for weeks previous.

Iwobi’s pace, in combination with Danny Welbeck, has led to far more penetration in attack from the Gunners, and they are likely to go the same way here.

Flores has responded to his side’s poor form this calendar year by chopping and changing his starting side a little more, and the system he will adopt is as unpredictable as it has been all season.

Having won at the Emirates with an adaptable 4-4-2 system, the same setup produced the worst home performance of the season and defeat against Stoke  City, so it will be interesting to see which way they go here – with a 4-3-3 option available. One would guess that Flores will go for a tactical repeat of the cup victory, but he has been tricky to second guess in recent weeks.

When they last met

Watford fans are still on something of a high from their extraordinary cup result in North London last month, and will likely use the result as ammunition to both taunt Arsenal fans and spur their own side on again in equal measure.

The Hornets travelled to the Emirates with expectations minimal for a quarter-final which the hosts had to win to give themselves a realistic chance of silverware this season, but produced a superbly resilient display to keep Arsenal’s array of attacking talent out before nicking a couple of their own up at the other end.

Having defended strongly in the first half, Troy Deeney headed on a Nathan Ake long throw in the early throwings of the second period, allowing Odion Ighalo to pivot and fire low beyond David Ospina in the Arsenal net.

A quarter of an hour later, Deeney turned provider again, for one of the goals of the season. Holding off Per Mertesacker, the England hopeful teed up Adlene Guedioura to send a rocket  into the top corner from 18 yards and double the visitor’s lead.

Welbeck got one back with two minutes remaining, and missed a golden chance to equalise deep into added time, but Flores’ men held on for – without exaggeration – one of the best results in their history.

Odion Ighalo celebrates putting Watford in front at the Emirates just three weeks ago. (Picture: Sky Sports)
Odion Ighalo celebrates putting Watford in front at the Emirates just three weeks ago. (Picture: Sky Sports)

Injury news

Arsene Wenger received some welcome news this week regarding his goal-keepers, with both Petr Cech and Ospina declared fit to stand in the Arsenal goal. The game is likely to come too soon for Jack Wilshere, though Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may return.

Sebastian Prodl and Valon Behrami may miss out with illness, while the Hornets are also sweating on the fitness of Miguel Britos. Jose Manuel Jurado is fully fit, while Ben Watson should return.

Predicted XI's

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Cech; Bellerin, Koscielny, Gabriel, Monreal; Elneny, Coquelin; Iwobi, Ozil, Sanchez; Welbeck.

Watford (4-4-2): Gomes; Nyom, Cathcart, Britos, Ake; Amrabat, Capoue, Watson, Jurado; Deeney, Ighalo,

Prediction: Arsenal 3-1 Watford