Watford vs Arsenal
Venue: Vicarage Road
TV: Sky Sports Main Event
Referee: Craig Pawson
FA Cup finalists Watford host Arsenal at Vicarage Road, themselves off the back of a great cup win against Wolves, in an intriguing game on Monday night.
Watford beat Wolves in a 3-2 thriller at Wembley last week and will be looking to remain in form before the Cup final, with manager Javi Gracia insisting the final is the last thing on their mind.
Arsenal come into the game with three days less rest than their opponents after a superb win against Napoli on Thursday night leaves them on the brink of the Europa League semi-final.
What will be of concern to Emery is his team’s inability to keep away clean sheets with Arsenal on course to be only the 14th team in Premier League history to fail to keep an away clean sheet all season.
With that record in mind, the last thing Arsenal need to face is the hustle and bustle of Troy Deeney and the guile of Gerard Duelofeu. Deeney has hinted he prefers playing with Andre Gray but given Deulofeu’s match-winning cameo last week it is likely the Spaniard will shake off injury to be in the starting eleven.
Watford are definitely without Holebas, Cleverley and Quina whilst Femenia, and Success should shake off knocks to be in contention. Arsenal will again be without Bellerin, Holding and Welbeck.
Midfielder Xhaka could again miss out due to a groin injury and his absence has left Arsenal looking a bit lightweight in midfield in recent weeks, something that Doucoure will hope to exploit for Watford; especially if Gracia reverts to a flatter midfield four than the diamond formation he played last week at Wembley.
Arsenal will also be without star defender Sokratis through suspension and the sight of Deeney up against Mustafi could be painful viewing and may bring back memories of this fixture last year when Deeney questioned Arsenal’s mental attributes after a 2-1 win.
Emery will have to decide if an away game at a streetwise Watford is the place for Mesut Ozil and whether to pair up Lacazette and Aubameyang again; the pair started against Napoli but have only started one of the last five league games together.
Given the possible soft centre in midfield Emery may feel he needs five in midfield or may prefer to play to his strengths and have both his star strikers on the pitch together to cause Watford problems of their own.
The key to the match will unquestionably be the ability of Arsenal’s midfield to cope with the fabulous Doucoure who is increasingly looking like a Champions League level player and whether Mustafi and Koscielny can deal with Deeney’s swaggering, streetwise manner.
Predicted Starting XIs
Watford (4-3-3): Foster; Janmaat, Cathcart, Mariappa, Masina; Hughes, Capone, Doucoure, Pererya; Deulofeu; Deeney
Arsenal (4-5-1): Leno; Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Maitland Niles, Torreira, Guendouzi, Kolasinac; Iwobi, Lacazette, Aubameyang
Prediction: Watford 3 Arsenal 2