It’s simple: if Arsenal win out they make the Champions League next season.* It doesn’t matter what the teams around them in the table do. They are, currently, masters of their own fate. Until the stumble last weekend against Everton, the Gunners actually had the inside track to a third place finish as well.
That stumble makes me nervous. It was another misstep on the road of which there have been far, far too many this season. As we all know, Arsenal have not been good away from the Emirates. In fact, they’ve been pretty poor. And they absolutely cannot afford to continue that trend against Watford today.
Watford are a middling side. They play a physical, muck-it-up and grind-it-out style that makes them a tough matchup for any team in the league. That’s especially difficult for an Arsenal side that has to go away to Napoli in the Europa League on Thursday. In a perfect world, Unai Emery rests some of the key players today with a view to that match, but I am not sure he can afford to. Arsenal’s best shot to get back to the Champions League, in my opinion, is still qualifying through their league finish.
The Gunners will be without the services of Sokratis today and against Crystal Palace this coming Sunday. The centerback picked up his tenth yellow card of the season (on the last day for accumulation to matter) and must serve a two-game suspension. Granit Xhaka faces a late fitness test as he recovers from a groin injury picked up on international duty. Critically, Lucas Torreira has served his three-match ban for the red card he received against Tottenham and will almost certainly start today.
It’s time for Arsenal to show everyone what they are made of. Hopefully it’s tougher stuff than most think.
*If Manchester United win the Champions League and Chelsea win the Europa League and both finish outside the top four, the fourth place finisher gets bumped to the Europa League.
Lineups will be posted when available.
WHAT: Arsenal at Watford
WHERE: Vicarage Road, Watford
WHEN: Monday, April 15th 12PM PT | 3PM ET | 8PM BT
US TV: NBCSN. Stream here.
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