Pre-Match Report

Watford v Arsenal: The Inside Track

By Rob Kelly


“It is good to leave on positive vibes. But on the other side you think it is a shame that you have to split because the work is to reconnect quickly and focus again and bring back your team concentration for the next game.” - Arsene Wenger


International breaks may not be the most welcome periods of the domestic season, but the past two weeks could barely have gone better for Arsenal. 


It was about as good as Arsene Wenger could have hoped for, as he prepares his side for their return to Premier League action at Watford on Saturday.

“It has been good as it shows that positive vibes from the club go to the international team as well and it is very good for the players’ confidence,” the manager told Arsenal Player.

“For us it is a vital period and we want them to come back without any injuries. Every time when there is a little bit of action and your players are involved you are a bit on edge.

“It was good to leave on positive vibes. But on the other side you think it is a shame that you have to split because the work is to reconnect quickly and focus again and bring back your team concentration for the next game.It is always better to leave on positive vibes and the last vibes were super positive.”

Team news:

Watford: Doyley (neck), Ekstrand (knee), Marin (hamstring), Anya (shin), Nyom (knee - doubt), Behrami (calf - doubt)

Arsenal: Wilshere (ankle), Welbeck (knee), Rosicky (knee), Koscielny (hamstring - late test)

Wenger hopes his side can pick up from where they left off when they visit Vicarage Road, but he's been impressed with how Quique Flores’ side has performed this season.

“What is really surprising is how few goals they have conceded,” said Wenger. “They have a very good defensive record and they are very difficult for everybody so we know that is in front of us.

“It is basically a team who have been very efficient offensively, they have been very efficient defensively, so it will be very interesting game.

"They defend very well and are very well organised, that is the task we have in front of us.”


Perhaps the highlight of the international break for Arsenal’s manager was seeing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain score in England’s 3-0 victory in Lithuania.

The midfielder is well aware of the need to add goals to his game, and Wenger is confident that he will go to the next level.

“Alex needed that [goal],” he said. “He is very critical of his own performances. I feel there is a lot of potential for him to score goals because he has a good technique and can play well in short areas.

“What I mean [about improving his ball receptions] is basically his run, where he goes and where he gets the ball. Where you get the ball determines what you can do with it. Go into those areas and he can finish.



Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain



“He is developing that. I believe you can improve his awareness, his geographical awareness like ‘Where am I around the box? Where can I give a problem to the defender? Where can I be available for my partners? Where can I be in a positions where I could finish?’

“You have to analyse it very quickly as the time available is very short to make this kind of decision. You can only do it if you are aware of it and work on it and he does.”


Watford’s biggest strength may be their defensive resilience, but they also pose a threat at the other end of the pitch in the form of Odion Ighalo.

Opta Facts:

Petr Cech has the best save percentage in the Premier League this season (82%)

Theo Walcott has 12 goals and three assists in his last 14 Premier League starts

The top two players for most sprints in the Premier League this term are Aaron Ramsey (560) and Ikechi Anya (533)

The Nigeria international impressed in the Championship last season after moving from Udinese, and he has continued his excellent form in the top flight.

Ighalo has scored Watford’s last five goals, and Wenger admits that his side will have to keep him quiet at Vicarage Road if they are to secure a positive result.

“He has been a huge surprise as who knew him? Not many people knew him before the Premier League started and to score five goals in eight games you need to have special qualities, no matter who you play for,” he said.

“We will be confronted by that fact and we will have to produce a quality defensive performance but away from home we have done very well until now.

“Apart from the game against Chelsea which was under very special circumstances, we have done extremely well away from home.”


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