Watford-Arsenal Preview

National Sports

Mikel Arteta is focused on Watford alone as he believes it is “impossible” to forecast how Arsenal’s top-four bid will pan out in the Premier League this season.

Arsenal head into Sunday’s game against Watford in great form, unbeaten in nine in all competitions.

That run has moved the Gunners within three points of the top four, boosting hopes of a return to the Champions League. Arsenal have not finished in the top four since coming second in 2015-16.

But manager Arteta will not look that far ahead with so much football to be played before the final placings are decided.

“I don’t know how difficult it’s going to be,” he said.

“We have the aim to win every single match and we have to only have that mentality, to try be better today, to be more prepared for the Watford game and go there with the right mentality, ambition and determination to win it and move onto the next one.

“But we have to go game by game. In this league, you cannot try to project something; it is impossible and I wouldn’t recommend it.”

This will be Arteta’s 100th game as Arsenal boss, while Claudio Ranieri is set to take charge of just his fourth Watford match.

Watford are only two points above the bottom three, but Ranieri acknowledges it will take time for him to establish changes that must be made.

“Of course, we have to be very, very consistent,” he said. “And of course, we have to continue to play, so I can understand where we make mistakes, and then I can help my players.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Arsenal – Emile Smith Rowe

Smith Rowe was a popular topic of discussion this week as he missed out on a first England call-up. “It will come,” Arteta said, but the midfielder will not be short of motivation against Watford.

Watford – Emmanuel Dennis

Dennis missed the previous game against Southampton through suspension but has been backed to star against Arsenal by Ranieri. “I love these kinds of players,” the coach said of his three-goal man.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– Arsenal have won 11 of their 14 Premier League meetings with Watford (D1 L2), scoring at least once every single time they have faced the Hornets in the competition.

-Watford have lost six of their seven away Premier League games against Arsenal, with the exception being a 2-1 victory in January 2017.

– Since losing against both West Brom and Newcastle in 2010-11, Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 31 Premier League home games against promoted sides (W26 D5). The Gunners have only failed to score in one of those matches, a goalless draw with Middlesbrough in October 2016.

– Arsenal lost their first three Premier League matches but are unbeaten in their seven games since then (W5 D2), last having a longer unbeaten league run between January and March 2020 (eight games). The Gunners are the first Premier League side to lose their first three games and then none of their next seven since Wimbledon in 1996-97 (lost first three, won next seven).

– Watford beat Everton 5-2 in their last away Premier League match and are looking for consecutive away wins in the competition for the first time since September 2017 under Marco Silva. The Hornets’ last five away wins in the Premier League have come under different managers: Javier Gracia, Quique Flores, Nigel Pearson, Xisco and Claudio Ranieri.

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