After registering our first point of the new campaign last weekend, there’s another tricky test in store for us as we travel to Vicarage Road.
Watford, who were cruelly beaten by Chelsea at home last time out, also have a point to their name under new boss Walter Mazzarri. They’ll be hoping for a little more fortune as they performed admirably before Michy Batshuayi’s equaliser rejuvenated an otherwise lacklustre performance from the Blues.
Despite being knocked out of the FA Cup at the quarter-final stage by the Hornets, we prevailed in both home (4-0) and away (3-0) Premier League fixtures against them last season, so will have a psychological advantage going into Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off.
Having been made to work hard for a clean sheet last week, the hope is that we’ll be able to replicate the defensive display whilst notching up a few goals of our own as the season begins to get into full flow.
With transfer news suggesting deals for both Shkodran Mustafi and Deportivo forward Lucas Pérez are nearing completion, that was the main focus in Arsène Wenger’s latest presser.
He admitted that we’re “working on the deals” but are not close enough to announce either yet. Reports from BBC have suggested both are in London for medicals, and the acquisitions should be complete within the next 48-72 hours.
“Will we sign anyone before the window closes? I’m 99 per cent confident.”
The draw for this season’s UEFA Champions League group stages was conducted in Monaco on Thursday afternoon, and our opponents are Paris Saint-Germain, Basel and Ludogorets. Wenger said that although PSG are favourites, Arsenal want to qualify too and banish their curse of crashing out at the last-16 stage.
Joel Campbell completed a move to join Portuguese side Sporting on a season-long loan deal, and Wenger said the 24-year-old winger has been a “victim of the size of squad”, although hasn’t ruled out a potential return for the Costa Rican. Calum Chambers, who was left out of our goalless draw against Leicester, is expected to go on loan with a number of European teams reportedly interested in his services.
When asked about buying a centre-back would affect Chambers’ future, Wenger responded saying: “Future, no. The fact that he could go out on loan somewhere and play, yes.”
Wenger confirmed it’ll be the same squad travelling to Watford as it was against Leicester last Saturday. Olivier Giroud has been described as being “too short” to start and play the full 90 minutes, but Mesut Özil remains a possibility to start in his preferred attacking midfield role.
We’ve got six first-team absentees, including the defensive trio of Gabriel (ankle), Carl Jenkinson and Per Mertesacker (both knee). Danny Welbeck will not be expected to return until early February whilst Iwobi and Ramsey should be back after the upcoming international break.
Possible XI – (4-2-3-1): Cech; Bellerín, Holding, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Xhaka; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Özil; Alexis.
Watford’s confidence will have been dented as they succumbed to a shock cup defeat at the hands of Gillingham on Tuesday evening. As a result, they’ll be eager to boost spirits with a convincing performance against a top side who haven’t yet clicked and need to start firing if they’re to not lose ground on their main title rivals.
Daryl Janmaat joined the Hornets earlier in the week for a transfer fee reported to be around £6m and the full-back is expected to make his debut against the north Londoners this weekend. Younes Kaboul joined Watford from Sunderland last week (undisclosed fee) and could also feature from the offset as Watford aim to bounce back from their forgettable midweek result.
The two-striker formation has worked wonders in the past and asked Chelsea plenty of questions at the back, so the partnership between Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo will be again intriguing to watch.
Possible XI (4-4-2): Gomes; Janmaat, Kaboul, Prodl, Britos; Behrami, Capoue, Amrabat, Pereyra; Deeney and Ighalo.