A Sunday matchday it is for us today and having seen West ham narrowly defeated yesterday, as well as Wolves going down 2-0 at home to Palace, a win away at Watford for Arsenal will go a long way to driving us towards that coveted Top Four spot. We are level on points with West Ham but as of now we have four games in hand over them. We are two behind United but if they are defeated in the game after us today away to Man City, if we have somehow managed to beat Watford, then we will be one point clear of them with three games in hand. Then tomorrow the Scum play Everton and whilst I’m not expecting any resistance from the Toffees at the Toilet Bowl Stadium, even if we can get a win today it will at least look very good on paper if we get through this game week in fourth.
As you’re probably guessing by my use of language though, I am very much not counting my chickens, because no game in the Premier League is a forgone conclusion and Watford will be ready for a fight today I am sure. We have had a pretty decent record of late against them but in our last match there in 2019 we drew 2-2 after that infamous game in which an Emery side conceded more shots on our goal than any other team that season. We were all over the place tactically and although we went two goals, up the squandering of that lead hurt us and gave us an insight in to some of the prolems with Emery’s tactical approach.
Today’s game should be different. Not least because we are a stronger defensive outfit and perhaps on a better run of form than that day, but also because Watford aren’t a team that creates hundreds of chances and so I’m not expecting them to pepper our goal, nor am I expecting it given that Roy Hodgson is a sensible and pragmatic manager. He will not want an open game where he leaves his team with plenty of space for Arsenal to exploit, so I am expecting Watford to approach this game with caution and try to hit us with longer balls to their attacking outlets. Josh King is a target man and Dennis is a quick forward who will provide a challenge on our flanks. I watched the game at United and they sat in and rode their luck. I expect them to be a little more adventurous today but not by a lot. They’ve scored an average of a goal every game this season but have conceded 47 – nearly double what they score – and their home form is the worst in the league. That would suggest there will be opportunities for us but let’s also not forget that Arsenal are the team that love a gift; just ask Everton who were on a horrendous run until they played us in December. So I am not naive enough to think that we’re going to have a Watford team turning up today to roll over and have their bellies tickled. They are a team who statistically play with some of the longest balls in the league and I’ve got no reason to think that won’t continue today. They’ll sit in a low block and will rely on their strikers to relieve pressure. I’m expecting them to try to make the most of set pieces they get given some of the aerial threat they have, so we need to make sure our boys at the back are ready.
In terms of the Arsenal team I suspect it’ll be the same as the side that won at home to Wolves. We’ll go with Ramsdale, Cedric, White, Gabriel and Tierney at the back, then have Partey sitting centrally with Xhaka and Odegaard in the slightly advanced eight roles that will give better angles for Partey to distribute. In front of them I suspect he’ll go with Martinelli, Lacazette and Saka, which I think is the right move. Smith Rowe is fit, he has the trickery, but Watford are apparently not great at defending through balls and if that is the case then you need a runner in behind off the ball, more than a dribbler with the ball as Smith Rowe is. That doesn’t mean he won’t make an impact at some stage and I’d expect to see him at some time during the game. Or if it is ESR in from the start, then Martinelli will definitely get some minutes in the second half.
Whoever is coming on, hopefully they are not coming on to rescue a game or get us back in front. I’d love a fast start to settle the nerves in this game. The win for Liverpool and potential of City actually doing something in their game against United means we desperately need to pick up three points today. It would be a massive boost to our chances of top four and as I’ve already mentioned, with those three games in hand all being against big rivals, we need to be securing points on the board like today for sure.
It’s another cup final. It’s another opportunity to make this challenge feel more real than it has felt for a long time. It is a chance to put pressure on those around us and it is a game in which we need to see these Arsenal players step up.
Let’s hope we do the business.
Catch you all tomorrow for the usual debrief.
Leave a Reply