We welcome Watford to Emirates Stadium on Saturday looking for our seventh successive win in all competitions. Read on for five things to keep an eye out for when the Hornets visit north London.
DEENEY v CECH
This fixture last season was notable for Petr Cech's first-ever penalty save for us, and all that it represented. As well as ending his run of 15 spot kicks faced without success, it brought up the goalkeeper's landmark 200th clean sheet in Premier League history, and most sweet of all, Troy Deeney was the man denied. Earlier in the campaign the Watford skipper had questioned Arsenal's fighting spirit – or 'cajones' to use his word – after our controversial defeat at Vicarage Road. It made him the subject of considerable berating from the Emirates faithful when the teams met again in March, and his penalty miss was met with the loudest cheer of the afternoon, on a day when the Gunners triumphed 3-0.
Cech kept another clean sheet last weekend against Everton, but Deeney himself is also in form, having scored in the 2-1 Premier League win over Tottenham at the beginning of the month. One thing is for certain though, the Emirates faithful will not let him forget his disparaging comments of last season.
Watford have not made a single change to their starting lineup for Premier League games all season, and following the decision to rescind central defender Christian Kabasele's red card against Tottenham from midweek, that run could continue.
Watford won each of their first four league games of the season, and manager Javi Gracia was clearly reluctant to change a winning team. But after a narrow 2-1 home defeat to Manchester United and a 1-1 draw at Fulham in their last two league matches, Gracia might be tempted to draft in one or two of the players who took Tottenham to penalties in the Carabao Cup third round on Wednesday.
Matchday Programme writer Mike Hammond however, believes their stability so far has been crucial: "Key to Watford’s strong start to the campaign is the fact that they have taken the field for each of their opening six league games with the same starting XI. A settled team is always a positive sign and the Hornets fans will be hoping that the current success continues, perhaps even to the extent that they can start to dream about seeing their club return to Europe for the first time in 37 years. Their only previous continental campaign was in the 1982/83 UEFA Cup, when Graham Taylor’s side, runners-up in the First Division the previous season, lasted three rounds before going out to Sparta Prague."
The Hornets' full-back pairing is expected to stay the same though, with Jose Holebas on the left, and Daryl Janmaat on the opposite flank.
Michael Cox of zonalmarking.net believes the duo could provide a major threat when getting forward against Arsenal. He explains: "Javi Gracia’s system is essentially a 4-4-2, certainly without possession, although when Watford attack it transforms into something more like a 4-2-2-2, with wide midfielders Roberto Pereyra and Will Hughes drifting inside into central positions, and full backs Holebas and Janmaat overlapping aggressively.
"Holebas, the left back, assisted both goals from set-pieces in the victory over Tottenham and is also a crossing threat in open play, although Watford’s full backs’ determination to break forward can leave the centre backs exposed in wide areas."
MOVING ON UP
Arsenal have climbed the table after each of the past four games, and we are guaranteed to do so again with a win on Saturday. This is the first time we have faced Watford while below them in the table since September 1984. The Hornets go into the weekend two places and one point above us in fourth, though they have only played two away games so far, and have won just one of their last 14 away league games.
So three points would take us above them into fifth place, and if Tottenham don't win at Huddersfield, we could end the day back in the top four.
With Liverpool meeting Chelsea in the 5.30pm kick off at Anfield, it means at least one more of the sides above us will also drop points.
Watford, however, are the last side from outside the so-called 'Big Six' to beat us in the league at Emirates Stadium. That was in January 2017, and since that 2-1 reverse we have a 100 per cent home record in the Premier League - not including games against Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham. The record reads: P21 W21 D0 L0 F62 A11.
ON A RUN
It's not just a winning run that Arsenal take into this match – Alexandre Lacazette is on a scoring streak at the Emirates while we also have an excellent record in Saturday 3pm fixtures to preserve.
The win over Everton last weekend made it four Premier League victories in a row, the last time we won five on the spin was back in August 2017. In all competitions it's now six wins on the trot – the team didn't muster seven straight wins at all last season.
Up front all eyes will be on Lacazette again, following his late goal against Brentford on Wednesday and his wonder strike against Everton last weekend. That was the fourth home Premier League start in succession he has netted in (following goals against Crystal Palace, West Ham and Burnley last season). No Arsenal player has scored in five successive starts at Emirates since 2011/12, when Robin van Persie managed it.
Lacazette wasn't at the club the last time we lost a home fixture kicking off at 3pm on a Saturday. In fact, of our 18-man squad that played that day, only Aaron Ramsey could feature again this weekend.
The game in question was a 3-1 reverse to Aston Villa, on the opening day of the 2013/14 campaign. Since then we have played 20 home games in this traditional slot, losing none, and taking 56 points from a possible 60.
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