As international breaks go, it has certainly been a dramatic one for our players: from Mohamed Elneny and Egypt’s emotional qualification for their first World Cup since 1990, to Alexis, Sead Kolasinac and Aaron Ramsey facing disappointment as they missed out on Russia 2018.
But with the return of Premier League football, domestic affairs are once again top of the agenda - starting with our trip to Vicarage Road to take on Watford on Saturday. Our record against the Hornets is strong, having won eight of our last 10 matches against them in all competitions, but under Marco Silva they are much improved and currently sit one point behind us, having lost just once this season.
Read on for a comprehensive pre-match briefing: we’ve got classic goals against Watford, team news, an exclusive chat with Arsene Wenger, match facts, graphics and a chance to test your knowledge.
THE BURNING ISSUE
Wenger on how World Cup qualifying will affect our players…
“It will motivate [the players who have qualified] to be at their best and we had experience of that here in 1998. We had Petit, Vieira here, they had an outstanding season and they went to the World Cup, the Dutch players as well, Bergkamp and Overmars, so overall I think it has a positive impact on their season.
"For the players who do not go to the World Cup - like Ramsey, like Alexis - it’s an opportunity for them to focus on what they can win with the club and overall I hope that we can combine both and get everybody on target and everybody focused on what we want to achieve with the team.”
ARSENAL: Mustafi (hamstring), Koscielny (Achilles), Cazorla (groin), Chambers (hip), Ozil (knee - doubt),
WATFORD: Success (knee), Chalobah (knee), Kaboul (hamstring), Prodl (hamstring), Cathcart (knee), Hoban (knee)
Former Gunner Adrian Clarke:
“Marco Silva is tactically astute and he’s a smart manager too. If things aren’t working, he’ll change it, he’ll rip it up at half-time. He hasn’t needed to do that too much this year, though. He’s also got the players fired up because they run a lot, lot more than they did under Walter Mazzarri.
"Under the Italian, they ran around 107km per game, under Silva it’s 111km. That’s a massive leap. Each individual within that side is working harder for Silva. Arsenal have been quite comfortable at Vicarage Road in recent seasons, but might not have it all their own way this time.”
THE LAST WORD
Wenger on a crucial juncture in the season…
“It’s an important period, because in the first seven or eight games some teams struggle to start, some have a difficulty to find cohesion because they have new players. But after that, when you go from seven to 15, the league table settles so overall I believe completely that it’s a very important period in the season now.”
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