Arsenal need a win and Özil is the man to inspire it
Match Preview: Watford vs Arsenal – Premier League – 27.08.16
With defender Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Pérez set to arrive at Arsenal fans’ nerves seem to be settling. Arsenal will still be short on numbers with Olivier Giroud not deemed fit to start and Wenger relying on young Rob Holding to partner Koscielny once more.
Holding has made a bright start to his Arsenal career and looks to have a promising future but we mustn’t expect too much from him. It is worth noting that Calum Chambers – who has seen the arrival of Holding push him even further down the pecking order – also started well but has since stagnated. It is possible he will go out on loan which would help him get the minutes he needs to get back on track.
Once Mustafi has joined Holding will likely find himself 2nd choice until the return of Gabriel and the Mertesacker. For the moment he is a starting player but I don’t think it is realistic to expect him to play many more than 15 senior matches this season.
In the absence of Giroud and incoming rival Pérez, Alexis Sánchez will be asked to continue playing as a false 9. It is possible that Wenger will play Walcott through the middle which I would prefer as I think the Alexis experiment has and will continue to fail. Walcott’s off the ball movement is underrated and despite his difficulties over the past season his preference to hang off the defender’s shoulder will assist us in penetrating the Watford defence better than Alexis’ predilection for coming deep. That said, Alexis has enjoyed a lot of success against Watford so if there was ever going to be an outlier for Alexis as a striker this would be the fixture.
We looked ready to hold our own against Leicester so I think we should cope with Watford’s attack competently. Last week I felt we lacked ideas until magical Mesut came into the fray. Özil should just about be fit enough to start and his vision and creativity will be absolutely crucial in this match.
Arsenal from: Cech, Ospina; Debuchy, Bellerin, Koscielny, Chambers, Holding, Gibbs, Monreal; Coquelin, Xhaka, Elneny; Cazorla, Özil, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Alexis, Akpom, Walcott, Giroud.
Cech; Bellerin, Holding, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Coquelin; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Özil, Walcott; Alexis
I expect to see substitute appearances from Cazorla and Giroud.
“We need a first win after our game at Leicester. Of course the international break comes too soon because players go away with their national teams [and] are not ready yet to start for us yet in the Premier League, because we had to rest them as they’ve played in international games.” – Arsène Wenger
Last 3 Meetings
- Arsenal 4-0 Watford (04.02.2016)
- Arsenal 1-2 Watford (13.03.2016)
- Watford 0-3 Arsenal (17.10.2015)
Watford started the season well, earning a draw away to Southampton before losing in controversial fashion to Chelsea at home. New boss Walter Mazzarri has so far set up his side to frustrate the opposition. It worked well enough against Southampton and Chelsea but could not shut out League One Gillingham in the League Cup on Tuesday. Watford’s likely 3-5-2 formation will seek to overload the midfield while inviting us to nibble around the edges of a narrow defence.
- Arsenal are three short of becoming the second team, after Manchester United, to score 700 Premier League away goals.
- The Hornets have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 13 league games.
- Arsenal have won their last six league games against Watford, scoring a total of 16 goals.
- But the Hornets claimed their first win against the Gunners for 28 years when they knocked them out of the FA Cup in March.
- The Gunners could equal their club record of five consecutive away league draws, set in 1948.
- Watford have won only two of their 10 Premier League home games in 2016 – with those victories coming against now relegated Newcastle and Aston Villa.
- Arsenal’s tally of one point from their opening two league games is their lowest tally at this stage since 2011-12 (when they also had one point).
- Watford have had the fewest shots on target (3), fewest total shots (11) and lowest number of touches in the opposition box (20) so far in the 2016-17 Premier League.
- The average age of Watford’s starting line-up in each of their two league games this season has been over 30. No other club has picked a team with an average age of over 30.
- Rick Holden got the only goal the last time Watford beat Arsenal in the league in April 1988.
- The Gunners have lost just one Premier League away game in 2016 (W2, D7)) – fewer than any other side (excluding this season’s three promoted clubs).
- Etienne Capoue could become the first Watford player to score in each of the Hornets’ opening three top-flight matches.
- Alexis Sanchez has scored two and assisted one more in his two previous Premier League appearances against Watford.
Stats courtesy of Opta
3-1 to Arsenal. Özil, Alexis and Walcott to score.
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