STAR PREVIEW: Watford v Arsenal

It’s a new manager, but the same old face for Watford as Quique Sanchez Flores returns for his second spell in charge, and he starts today with a big assignment as Arsenal visit Vicarage Road.

Flores, who was in charge for Watford’s 2015/16 campaign, managed to take them to 13th in the table and also the semi-finals of the FA Cup – much like the season they had in 2018/19, when they made the FA Cup final too.

However they ended their league campaign very badly alongside that cup run last season and a continuation of that form cost Gracia his job. A first point of the season came in a 1-1 draw at Newcastle when the now-departed Gracia played three central defenders and came forward on the counter-attack.

It remains to be seen if Flores uses that strategy or the traditional 4-4-2 formation that he employed during his first season there, when the midfield was narrow and Watford managed to shut down some more illustrious opponents. The absence of Troy Deeney for a knee injury is a big problem for him to deal with, although having the pace of Danny Welbeck off the bench is sure to be a help.

There’s plenty of talent on paper for him to work with long term, but this might not be the worst time for Arsenal to be visiting. The news that Alexandre Lacazette is out until October with an ankle injury is a blow, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is more than capable of leading the line on his own and in Lacazette’s absence Nicolas Pepe might have more chance to put his stamp on Arsenal going forward too.

Watford v Arsenal
Premier League
16:30 Sky Sports Premier League / Sky Sports Main Event / Sky Sports Ultra HD

HEAD TO HEAD RECORD
(Maximum 10 matches, Since 2000)
APR 2019 PREMIER LEAGUE Watford 0-1 Arsenal
SEP 2018 PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal 2-0 Watford
MAR 2018 PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal 3-0 Watford
OCT 2017 PREMIER LEAGUE Watford 2-1 Arsenal
JAN 2017 PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal 1-2 Watford
AUG 2016 PREMIER LEAGUE Watford 1-3 Arsenal
APR 2016 PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal 4-0 Watford
MAR 2016 FA CUP Arsenal 1-2 Watford
OCT 2015 PREMIER LEAGUE Watford 0-3 Arsenal
DEC 2006 PREMIERSHIP Watford 1-2 Arsenal

Arsenal have made a reasonable start to the season, with 2-1 wins against Burnley and 1-0 at Newcastle sandwiched between a 3-1 defeat at Liverpool and their 2-2 draw in the North London Derby, and it’s understandable that they’re favourites here, although backing a team that only won seven away games last season at a price of events is hardly super attractive.

This game only ended 1-0 to Arsenal last season when Bernd Leno pulled off a brilliant performance despite the Gunners having a one-man advantage, but normally there are goals involved between the two and and Arsenal have kept just nine clean sheets in 42 Premier League matches under Emery. This season, Watford have conceded eight goals in their opening four games while Arsenal have also let six in, and we could be in for a high scoring afternoon.

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