Scouting Report: Watford v Arsenal

We return to Premier League action at Vicarage Road on Saturday and ahead of the game Michael Cox studies Watford's strengths, dangermen and areas to target:

The manager

Walter Mazzarri first came to European prominence during an impressive four-year spell with Napoli, which included taking the club to second place in Serie A, and winning the Coppa Italia in 2012 – their first trophy since the days of Diego Maradona. 

The Italian was notable for being one of the few managers of a top-class side to play a three-man defence at this point, with Napoli’s shape varying between 3-4-1-2, 3-4-2-1 and 3-4-3. He again maintained a three-man backline throughout a mixed campaign with Inter Milan.


It’s been no surprise to see Mazzarri using a three-man defence once again in his two matches so far with Watford, which makes this an unusual test for Arsenal – it seems Ronald Koeman’s Everton are the only other Premier League side likely to use a back three this season.

It’s essentially a 3-5-2 system, with Valon Behrami sitting deeper than the other midfielders, Etienne Capoue and Adlene Guediora. Out wide, left-sided Jose Holebas is accustomed to playing as a full back and overlaps dangerously, whereas right-sided Nordin Amrabat is more of a natural winger or even a centre forward, and is more dangerous in possession.


Last season, Watford were able to depend upon arguably the best strike partnership in the Premier League. Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney struck up a wonderful relationship, and struck 28 of Watford’s 40 Premier League goals.

It’s been notable that Mazzarri, while changing their overall system, has maintained a front two. Deeney plays a peculiar role, half-link player, half-target man, while Ighalo plays on the shoulder of the last defender and attempts to reach Deeney’s flick-ons and through balls. They’re a highly-dangerous combination.


Both Watford’s goals this season have been scored by former Spurs central midfielder Capoue – rifling home the opener against both Southampton and Chelsea. 

The Frenchman is allowed more freedom this season than last, and while predominantly regarded as a defensive midfielder, also boasts a good passing range and can make well-timed runs into the box.

Areas to target

Mazzarri’s use of a three-man defence means Watford can be vulnerable to opposition breaks into the wide areas.

Holebas and Amrabat are both attack-minded wing-backs who can be caught high up the pitch when Watford lose possession, while the wide centre-backs, Craig Cathcart and Miguel Britos, aren’t particularly quick. Sudden breaks into the channels could be a profitable approach from Arsenal.


More quizzes to follow soon

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