After another characteristically insipid start to the season, Arsenal has been in good form recently. The Gunners are unbeaten since the embarrassment at Anfield, and have won six of seven matches—dropping points only in a draw at Stamford Bridge.
Still, are we ready to say Wenger’s side is back to its best? Do we feel—dare I say it— confident going into Saturday’s matchup vs. Watford?
There’re reasons to be both cautious and optimistic. I’ve listed some of them here.
Reasons to be cautious:
- Arsenal is still less than full strength. Ozil—although technically available for selection— is still recovering from a lingering knee injury. Shkodran Mustafi has been ruled out four to six weeks with a thigh injury. And Wenger has already suggested that Alexis Sanchez might need to rest after his recent venture with the Chilean national team.
- Arsenal has not won on the road in the Premier League this season.
- Our opponent is sneaky good. Don’t forget that Watford is only one point behind Arsenal and could leapfrog the Gunners with a win. Despite a 6-0 loss to Manchester City, the Hornets have exceeding exceptions since Marco Silva took over as manager. A late victory over Swansea City and two comeback draws again Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion suggest that Watford is significantly improved from last season and should not be overlooked.
This will not be an easy game.
Reasons to be optimistic:
- Arsenal has not conceded a goal in the Premier League since the Liverpool match. Laurent Koscielny appears to be healthy and, pending a late fitness test, should be back in the starting lineup. His arrival will bolster the Gunner’s defensive efforts with Mustafi out.
- Summer signing, Alexandre Lacazette, looks more confident and comfortable in Arsenal’s attacking unit. Averaging four shots per game, with a 67% accuracy rate, the French international looks threatening every time he gets the ball in the offensive third. He has now scored four goals in eight games and is emerging as the center piece of Wenger’s offense.
- After a recent injury scare, Danny Welbeck is available for selection this week, which will give Wenger more attacking options if indeed Sanchez does require additional rest.
- Bonus reason: Jack Wilshere might play this week?! Wenger praised the 25-year-old in his most recent press conference and hinted at the possibility of naming him in Saturday’s squad. I know there’s been a lot of premature optimism surrounding Wilshire—we’ve been let down by him for so long, it’s difficult to feel excited. But I think we’re all rooting for a comeback. Maybe this is the game we see Jack return to Premier League action?
One final thing: Arsenal hasn’t lost at Vicarage Road since 1987.
It’s going to stay that way.
WHAT: Arsenal vs. Watford F.C.
WHEN: Saturday, October 14, 9:30 AM PT | 12:30 PM EST | 5:30 PM BST
WHERE: Vicarage Road, Watford
US TV: NBCSN. Watch online here.
Check out livesoccer.tv for all of your streaming information outside of the US. Please do not discuss or share links to illegal streams.
Here are my predicted lineups, share yours below.
Watford: Gomes, Femenia, Mariappe, Kabasele, Holebas, Doucoure, Capoue, Carrillo, Cleverley, Richarlison, Deeney
Arsenal: Cech, Holding, Koscielny, Monreal, Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Iwobi, Sanchez, Lacazette