01 April 2016

Arsenal vs. Watford: Revenge, yes, but a chance to gain on Tottenham!

Watford. Watford, of all clubs. Travel back just a few weeks, and the club with an elk as a logo and a Hornet as a mascot would have looked like just another speed-bump between Arsenal and a possible double. A third-consecutive FA Cup was still in the sights; the Prem was still within reach. Then, the unthinkable happened, and we're left grasping at straws. We've crashed out of the FA Cup. The Prem, however, still dangles just barely within reach. Barely. Arsenal must exact a measure of revenge.

Revenge. It's one of several motivating factors we must draw from. There's also a St. Totteringham's Day that dangles in front of us. While it's true that Watford limped into the interlull, it must be noted that they came away from Old Trafford on the short end of an 0-1 scoreline, suffered by the same scoreline after a visit from Leicester, and finally endured the indignity of losing 1-2 at home to Stoke. The short version says, yes, they're struggling. However, the longer version says that they've fought and fought hard.

In other words, we can't count on a confidence-boosting win at Goodison Park on its own to boost our spirits. We have to go in to Saturday's clash believing that this—as with all of our remaining fixtures—are do-or-die. If we drop points here or in any of our remaining fixtures, not only do we bid adieu to any lingering dreams of winning the Prem, we also invite the increasing probability of finishing below Tottenham for the first time since 1994-95. Much as I hate to give short shrift to the opponents in front of us, we do have to confront that longer history. We'll have to hope that Liverpool are just as ingracious as hosts as we are come Saturday.

As for that Saturday, we'll go in at as close to full-strength as we've been in some time, and we'll have to make the most of that advantage against an over-matched and overwhelmed opponent. If we can't, well...I won't finish that thought. Instead, I'll appeal to our better selves, the ones that saw us over-run Everton and resurrect some semblance of hope in a season otherwise fraught with frustration. While we still draw breath, there's hope. With Tottenham visiting Anfield later in the day, we could close to within three points, and with a game in hand with which to draw level on points. First things first, though: get past Watford!

LAST 3
Arsenal 1-2 Watford (13.03.2016)
Watford 0-3 Arsenal (17.10.2015)
Watford 1-2 Arsenal (26.12.2006)

FACT FILE
The two clubs first clashed on 27 November 1982, a 2-4 win to Watford.
Watford have not defeated Arsenal in league play since 1988.
Arsenal have scored at least two goals in five of their last six Prem matches.

INJURIES
Čech, Ramsey, Flamini, Cazorla, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arteta and Rosický have all been ruled out.

POSSIBLE STARTING XI
Ospina; Monreal, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Bellerín; Coquelin, Elneny; Alexis, Özil, Campbell; Giroud.

Arsenal has to lay it all on the line against Watford, even more so after being dumped from the FA Cup.

PREDICTION
Arsenal 3-0 Watford.