Watford v Arsenal

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Press conference

'Wilshere is in his best form for a long time'

As always, Jack Wilshere was a hot topic at Arsene Wenger’s pre-match press conference at London Colney on Thursday.

The England international has been in fine form so far this season - but could he force his way back into the reckoning for a World Cup spot?

Wenger had this to say:

on if Jack needs to leave to get into England’s World Cup squad…
I don’t think so. I believe that Jack at the moment is in the best form I’ve seen him in for a long time. He’s very close now to being considered like anybody else. Overall I believe he doesn’t necessarily have to leave Arsenal to reach the World Cup. If he keeps going like he’s going at the moment, he will go to the World Cup, I’m sure. I don’t see Jack being fully fit and not going to the World Cup.

on whether Jack will get the games at Arsenal…
He’s already played games for us since the start of the season, and he will play many more.

on him saying Jack will go to the World Cup…
I wish he goes to the World Cup.

on whether Gareth Southgate and England need Jack at the World Cup…
Of course.

on whether England have any other player like Jack…
Jack is certainly one of the players who has that [ability to excite] more than anybody else. We have plenty of good players but he is maybe more of a No 10 than any other player. He can open spaces, can play in tight areas, can get out of tight areas as well.


Pictures: Mesut Ozil returns to training

Mesut Ozil

Mesut Ozil returned from injury to train with our first-team squad ahead of Saturday's Premier League game against Watford.

The Germany playmaker has been sidelined since our 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion, but trained alongside the likes of Alexandre Lacazette, Danny Welbeck and Sead Kolasinac on Friday morning.

Our club photographer was there and sent back these pictures:

Press conference

Team news: Welbeck, Ozil, Mustafi, Koscielny

Arsene Wenger has revealed the latest team news ahead of our Premier League clash against Watford at Vicarage Road.

The manager provided updates on the likes of Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny, and had good news on Danny Welbeck and Mesut Ozil.This is what he had to say:

on the latest team news…
I haven’t seen everybody, because some players are coming back today and some are in tomorrow, like Alexis. The minor problem we have is with Sead Kolasinac. We’ll check him today - he has a hip problem. We lost Mustafi for about four to six weeks and I don’t think he’ll be available before the next international break. Ozil and Welbeck are back in the group in normal training.

on if Koscielny could play at Watford…
Koscielny has a definite final test tomorrow. At the moment, he’s not available. He trained on his own and the first signs are positive, so we decided to give him a test tomorrow.

on whether he has defensive concerns given Mustafi and Koscielny issues…
Yes, I have. I think about sorting out the problem, but overall I will completely decide what I do tomorrow because Koscielny will have a test then. He worked quite hard physically, he looks like he is capable of playing if he survives the test. If he has no pain on his Achilles tendon, he can play. I will decide that tomorrow.

on Mustafi’s injury…
It’s always difficult to predict the situation because the player I least expected to lose during the break was Mustafi. First of all, I was not sure he would play. Secondly, Germany had already qualified so I didn’t expect him to be out injured as the games would be less intense. He didn’t play in the first game, and we lost him in the second game against Azerbaijan at home. We have to cope with that now.

on Sead Kolasinac…
He had a little hip problem but overall I haven’t seen him yet. I will make a check up this morning, but the news we have on him is quite positive.

on Mesut Ozil…
He was not available for Germany, but he is now available yes. He had a whole week training, he is maybe not completely back physically to his best but he is available. There is no problem anymore.

on Danny Welbeck…
He is available for selection again. He is a bit quicker than expected.


How Holding has ‘stepped up’ a gear again

In Arsène Wenger’s words, Rob Holding has gone through the “ups and downs” young centre halves experience when establishing themselves in the Premier League.

The England Under-21 international has been in and out of the team this season but scored his first goal for us in the 4-2 win at BATE Borisov before the international break.

Per Mertesacker played alongside Holding in that game - and our club captain believes his team-mate has the temperament and mentality to forge a successful career with us.

“I think he learns a lot,” Mertesacker told Arsenal Player. “He’s consistently learning, he wants to learn and is trying to make things happen for himself. 

“I think he’s coming right back. In your second year, that’s the normal struggle you go through. Sometimes it’s hard to explain, because he just wants to keep going. It doesn’t always go like that. 

“I’m quite happy with his recent form, because he’s stepped up again and tried to prioritise. Sometimes you have to make sure you win your duels and play the simple pass, instead of playing that final ball. Sometimes you need to know what you do as a defender, play without mistakes at the start and even when you get more confidence, you can play those balls. 

“He understands what it means to be a professional footballer. You have those dips and those situations where you know it’s going to be difficult, but just move on from them. He’s done that quite well. 

“He wants to take responsibility and in moments of frustration it’s hard to come back from them, but he understand that it’s a journey and that’s what I like about him.”

Arsene Wenger on Rob Holding

Press conference

Wenger gives the latest on Ozil's contract

Talk about Mesut Ozil’s future at the club has been ratcheted up in recent days - and Arsene Wenger was asked about it in his press conference on Friday.

This is what he had to say about the World Cup winner’s future:

on Ozil’s agent making encouraging noises about a new contract…
That’s my understanding, yes. I always said that the fact that we didn’t find an agreement last year doesn’t mean the player will necessarily leave. Both [Ozil and Alexis] look happy here and overall I hope that the situation can be turned around.

on if a deal is close…
At the moment, we are not close enough to announcing anything.

on whether Alexis and Ozil contract talks have a deadline…
No, not at the moment.

on whether the club could consider selling in January…
Once you are in our kind of situation we have envisaged every kind of solution yes. Yes, it’s possible.


Check out our best goals away to Watford

We have scored some memorable strikes away to Watford over the years.

From Thierry's Henry's curling effort to Mesut Ozil's header last season, we have seen some stunning team and individual goals whenever we have faced the Hornets in the past.

But which one is the best? Watch our top five strikes by clicking 'Play' on the video above - and remember to vote for your favourite one below:

Matchday Show

Follow the Watford game LIVE on Arsenal.com

Matchday Show promo - Watford (a)

We're back in Premier League action on Saturday evening - and you can follow our match against Watford live on our website.

Make sure you visit Arsenal.com for the following:

  • Matchday Show, with live build-up from 5pm (UK time) and audio commentary from 5.30pm (UK time)
  • Live text commentary - featuring minute-by-minute updates and insights from our fans on Twitter
  • A short goals clip, extended highlights and a full match replay will be available from midnight on Saturday

It's all free with Digital Membership - and remember, you can listen on the Arsenal App too!

The Breakdown

The Breakdown: Watford v Arsenal preview

We return to Premier League action on Saturday when we take on Watford at Vicarage Road. 

Ahead of the game, tactical expert Michael Cox and former Gunner Adrian Clarke analyses our opponents’ strengths, dangermen and areas we can target.

MC: Marco Silva impressed in his half-season with Hull City, and deservedly got another Premier League job this summer. A keen, studious tactician, Watford’s best performances this season have come on the road, when they’ve been allowed to play slightly more defensively than at Vicarage Road.

AC: He’s tactically astute and he’s a smart manager. 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. 
MC: Silva has stuck to a standard 4-2-3-1 system so far this season. Watford attack with great width – both right-sided Andre Carillo and left-sided Richarlison side are outright wingers who look to stretch the play.

AC: Marco Silva has gone with a 4-2-3-1. Sometimes he plays 4-3-3 and he dabbled with three at the back for a half against Swansea, but in essence he’s a 4-2-3-1 man and they already look more comfortable. He’s also injected more pace into the team because the players he’s brought in are quicker and more exciting. They’re taking teams on with a bit more aggression. Last year they were too passive, too defensive, but that’s not the case now.
MC: The 20-year-old Brazilian left-winger Richarlison was signed from Fluminese in the summer and has made an instant impact, scoring three goals – two in stoppage time in the last two matches – and impressed with his speed and directness down the flank.

AC: Richarlison is a top signing. He cost a lot of money for a player that very few of us had heard of, but he looks a good prospect. He’s rangy, he’s quick, he’s added good balance to Watford down the left-hand side. He works hard as well and he’s aggressive, he’s up there in terms of winning tackles for Watford. He gets stuck in and he’s also deceptively strong in the air. When they swing crosses in from the right-hand side, just watch out for Richarlison coming in at the far stick because he’s very tall for a wide man and he’s good in the air too. 
MC: Watford’s midfield zone has functioned well this season. Etienne Capoue, Tom Cleverley and Abdelouaye Doucoure have a fine relationship, covering space intelligently and breaking forward in turn. Cleverley should start in the most advanced role, but the other two can find themselves in attacking positions. Capoue had a storming game in a 2-1 victory at the Emirates last season.
MC: Watford haven’t looked particularly secure when defending set-pieces recently, conceding in those situations against Manchester City, West Brom and Swansea.

Press conference

'Qualifying for the World Cup is a stimulant'

The likes of Olivier Giroud, Mohamed Elneny, Alex Iwobi and David Ospina will all return to London Colney this week in positive mood.

After helping their respective nations secure their places at the 2018 World Cup, that is understandable - but how will it affect those who did not qualify?

Arsene Wenger addressed that at his press conference on Thursday, and this is what he said:

on how our players fared with their nations…
Some people, like Iwobi and Elneny, qualified for Nigeria and Egypt. In Europe, some are in between, like Switzerland, who have to play in the play-offs. Some have directly qualified like France and England. As well we had some players disappointed, like Alexis with Chile and Ramsey with Wales. There are mixed feelings but numbers-wise, I would say with Germany qualifying as well, more people are in a positive mood.

on Alexis’ mental state after not qualifying with Chile…
I will have to speak to him. Yesterday afternoon I watched the whole Brazil v Chile game to see how difficult it was. I must say he got some special treatment - it was a very physical game and mentally I will have to assess the situation when he comes back tomorrow.

on if not reaching the World Cup will limit Alexis’ motivation…
I don’t think so. I believe that he, like Aaron Ramsey, are winners. They want to focus on winning things and overall I believe that the World Cup is a stimulant - I don’t deny that - but when you don’t have it, you focus on your club and what you can achieve with your club.

on looking at when qualifiers take place given all the injuries for big teams…
Yes. You would still lose players, maybe at the start of the following season but it would make more sense to regroup the competitions during one period. At the moment, the big leagues look a bit stop and start. It interrupts the flow of the competition and it’s always difficult because when the players go to the national teams, they are under huge pressure. The pride of their countries is at stake and to get them back and immediately refocused on the club’s targets is always difficult.

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