Arsenal play host to Watford on Sunday, in the last match before the international break. The Gunners are the second-hottest team in the Premier League; their nine-match unbeaten streak is topped only by Liverpool, who have not lost all season. Watford are faltering, losing three of their last four matches, but that one win was a 5-2 drubbing of Everton. So far this season (and stretching back to their last stint in the Premier League), the Hornets either play really well or really poorly. There is no in between.
The current version of Watford is nearly unrecognizable from the last time Arsenal faced them. Regulars Troy Deeney, Gerard Deulofeu, Etienne Capoue, and Will Hughes have all moved on. Now, the names to watch for are Ismaila Sarr, Joshua King (the former Bournemouth man), and Emmanuel Dennis. Sarr has been particularly impressive this season, and as he goes, so goes Watford. If the Gunners can limit Sarr’s contributions, they should have no problem claiming the points. But if Sarr is allowed to find time and space on the ball, he’s likely to cause problems. For more about tomorrow’s visitors, check out Nathan’s Q&A with The Watford Way.
Sarr will be a nice test for Arsenal’s newfound (well not so new anymore) defensive solidity. The trio of Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ben White, and Gabriel Magalhaes, with either Kieran Tierney or Nuno Tavares on the left has been quite good since the September international break, conceding just 4 goals in 7 Premier League contests. Some of the responsibility for picking up Sarr will fall to Thomas Partey and Sambi Lokonga. Lokonga’s defense is improving by the match, but I remain a bit concerned about his positioning without the ball. He still seems a bit lost.
But Arsenal should take care of business at the Emirates. They are the form team. These are the type of matches from which full points are a must if the Gunners want to have a chance at a Champions League place. At the start of the season up through a few weeks ago, I felt the Europa League places were the ceiling for Arsenal this year. Now, I think 4th is in play. The Premier League has a clear top three (Liverpool, Manchester City, and Chelsea), West Ham half a step ahead of the pack in fourth on current form, and then a whole bunch of “who knows” with Arsenal firmly planted in the midst of that group.
The only confirmed absence for the Gunners is Granit Xhaka, who is targeting a January return from his knee injury. Kieran Tierney, who had missed the last three matches for the Gunners with an ankle problem, returned to training this week and should be available for selection.
Watford will be without midfielder Ken Sema and attacker Kwadwo Baah, who both picked up serious injuries in training this week, which you hate to see. Watford will also be without defender Christian Kabasele and midfielder Peter Etebo. It’s not all bad news for the Hornets, however. Defender Francisco Sierralta returned to training this week and could be available and right back Kiko Femenia will be available after missing the last two matches with a hip problem.
I think Arsenal win 2-0.
WHAT: Arsenal vs. Watford
WHERE: The Emirates
WHEN: Sunday, November 7th 6:30 am PT | 9:30 am ET | 2:30 am BT
US TV: Not broadcast. Streaming on Peacock.
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N.B. In the U.S., we set our clocks back an hour at 2 am on Sunday, so we’re back to the “regular” Premier League match start times in the States.