Pre-Match Report

Arsenal v Watford: The Brief

Thursday's victory in Milan was as welcome as it was important.

We arrested a run of four consecutive defeats with an impressive win at San Siro, and in doing so put a place in the last eight of the Europa League firmly within reach.

But now we need to rediscover that winning feeling in the Premier League. Defeat at Brighton last weekend means that we can no longer match last season's points tally of 75, and we find ourselves 13 points adrift of fourth place, with nine matches remaining.

So although the Europa League remains our most realistic route back into the Champions League next season, Sunday's meeting with Watford – sandwiched as it is between the two legs of the AC Milan tie – has an importance of its own.

Arsène Wenger has said that you can lose confidence quickly but regain it slowly, so he is keen for his side to build momentum ahead of two successive weekends without a game, by cultivating the green chutes of recovery that emerged on Thursday.

Watford, however, have become something of a bogey team in recent times. They came from behind to beat Arsenal 2-1 at home back in October, and have won at Emirates Stadium in each of the past two seasons by that same scoreline. 

The boss said we faced 'special circumstances' in that Vicarage Road defeat, referring to the controversial penalty awarded against us, but wants the team to learn from that occasion and show that, no matter what happens on the pitch, we can respond to the situation we face and win the game.

The performance and result in Milan should add to the team's resolve, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's return (he was ineligible on Thursday) will also boost the squad - he's scored our only Premier League goal since February 3.

We preview the match with classic goals against the Hornets, team news, an exclusive chat with the manager, Adrian Clarke's verdict on the opposition, facts, graphics and a chance to have your say.


EXTRA MOTIVATION?

Following our 2-1 defeat to Watford earlier this season, the team's character came under fire, with some of the opposition players among the critics. So will the team use that criticism as an extra motivating factor on Sunday?

"I don't think 'use' is great word," the manager said. “But what we want to do on a longer term is make sure that the substance of your game is how you want it to be. You can not only to respond to exterior stimulation, because that can't happen every week.

“What we want to do is win football games, and win them in the way we want to play. And long-term that comes from within the group and from within our own motivation.

“Sometimes exterior stimulus can help, but the core of our motivation has to come from within the group, within what we want to achieve and from within how we want to play football."

Wenger on Ozil and Mkhitaryan

Team news

ARSENAL: Kolasinac (ankle, doubtful), Lacazette (knee), Bellerin (knee), Monreal (back) Cazorla (calf)

WATFORD: Holebas (ankle, doubtful), Femenia (illness, doubtful), Kabasele (hamstring, doubtful), Cleverley (hamstring, doubtful), Kaboul (toe, doubtful), Deulofeu (foot), Wague (hamstring), Chalobah (knee), Cathcart (knee), Hoban (knee)

The Opposition

Former Gunner Adrian Clarke assesses our opponents on Sunday: 

"I don’t think Javi Gracia done too much different to Marco Silva. What he has done is restore Troy Deeney as the focal point in the attack. That partnership between Doucoure and Cleverley has been broken up because it’s now Doucoure and Capoue.

He’s messing around with the formation less and they’re now playing more of a 4–2-3-1. I think there’s a lot to like about Watford, I really do. A number of their players are in really good form and at the back Mariappa has come in and excelled. He’s not a player who I’d expected to be first choice.

"Holebas is having a cracking campaign at left back and creating loads of chances. Richarlison has faded a bit in terms of his goal output but he’s still a cracking player. For me, they’ve got threats all over the pitch and are a better team than the one we’ve just lost to in Brighton. It’s a tricky game, this."


THE LAST WORD

The manager on coping with criticism, and how to respond…

"First of all what hurts is not getting the results you want to have. That is the biggest pain you face. You are disappointed with yourself because you set an expectation level for results, and you cannot produce it. That is the biggest pain.

"After that, criticism is part of the fact that we don't win the games. Then there is just one way to respond, which is what we did against Milan. It's to be together, to show our pride and character and the desire to play for the club." 

Matchday Show: Watford (h)

Matchday Show: Watford (h)