Watford seek their first victory over Arsenal since the late eighties when they host the Gunners at Vicarage Road on Saturday (17:30 BST, live on Sky Sports).
Watford gained promotion to the Premier League by finishing second in the Championship last season and have made a very solid start to their return to the top flight. They lie 12th in the table with 10 points from two wins, four draws and two defeats.
Managed by Quique Sanchez Flores (pictured), Watford drew 1-1 away to fellow newly promoted side Bournemouth prior to the international break. Their hosts took the lead just before the half-hour mark, only for Watford to strike back through Odion Ighalo on the stroke of half-time. Heurelho Gomes saved a penalty and made another excellent second-half stop to secure his side a point.
Slavisa Jokanovic was the man who led Watford to the top flight, but the club’s decision not to extend his contract and to appoint Sanchez Flores in his stead already looks a justifiable one. The former Atletico Madrid (among others) coach has quickly formed a strong and well-organised side. They keep matches tight and are difficult to break down.
Watford’s transfer activity over the summer was primarily focused upon the addition of experienced top-flight operators in their mid-to-late twenties. In league with consistent team selection – six players have started every match and three more have started all but one – this has allowed them to make a start to the season that should provide a solid base for survival.
Sanchez Flores will definitely be without the injured Joel Ekstrand (knee). Allan Nyom (knee), Ikechi Anya (knock), Jose Manuel Jurado (hamstring) and Valon Behrami (calf) are all close to a comeback and could return this weekend.
Arsenal still have some of the same issues that have prevented them from sustaining a title challenge in recent seasons but have still made a very solid start to the new campaign. They are currently second in the table with 16 points from five wins, one draw and two defeats.
Arsene Wenger’s side recorded a thumping 3-0 victory at home to Manchester United prior to the international break. They flew out of the traps to establish a three-goal lead inside the opening 20 minutes thanks to two goals from Alexis Sanchez and one from Mesut Ozil and never looked likely to relinquish their advantage thereafter in an impressive performance.
It was the sort of result that they have been threatening to produce throughout the opening part of the season. Only current league leaders Manchester City have outshot their opponents to a greater degree than Arsenal, and the quality of the chances Wenger’s side have created would normally have yielded far more than their current total of 13 goals.
Yet through poor finishing, bad fortune or otherwise they have not done so. Combine that with defensive mistakes here and there and you get results like the home defeats to West Ham and Olympiakos, in which they created enough chances to win but instead lost. If they can iron out the errors and enjoy better luck in front of goal, they otherwise look in good shape.
Wenger is unable to consider the injured Danny Welbeck (knee), Jack Wilshere (ankle) and Tomas Rosicky (knee) for this game, while Laurent Koscielny (hamstring), Mathieu Flamini (hamstring) and Mikel Arteta (knock) are doubtful. Sanchez may be rested from the starting XI after playing through a minor injury on international duty with Chile.
Our Watford v Arsenal Preview’s Betting Tips
Arsenal have won all four of the meetings between these sides during the Premier League era, with the last encounters occurring back in 2005-06. Watford had a good record against the Gunners during their extended top-flight stay in the eighties, winning eight of the 12 meetings, but that is unlikely to have a bearing on the result of this match.
Watford have not been shy in adopting defensive tactics both home and away so far this season, as illustrated by the fact that their matches have featured less goals on average (1.63 per match) than those of any other Premier League side. They will keep things tight and hope to make the most of any opportunities they can create on the counter-attack.
Arsenal blew away what had previously been the league’s best defensive setup in their victory over Manchester United prior to the international break and will fancy their chances of creating sufficient chances to emerge victorious despite the good defensive record of their hosts. If they can avoid an off-day in front of goal, three points will be theirs.