The international break is over and normal football is resumed! English football fans are welcomed back by a plethora of exciting games this weekend, a weekend that will prove to define the season for a number of clubs. Game week 32 see’s Arsenal again face up to Watford, the side that ended Arsenal’s evergreen FA Cup run. Arsenal will be very keen to avenge what happened, with a league win absolutely vital if they are to proceed with their title hopes. Earlier this week saw Mesut Özil claiming Raenal has ‘chucked away’ their title chances, which saw Arsene Wenger respond almost immediately claiming Arsenal were not done yet. Has Arsene got a trick up his sleeve that can see Arsenal overlap league leaders Leicester City with only 8 to go?
Arsenal managed to get a long awaited win right before the break away to Goodison Park versus Everton, with a solid performance earning them a 2-0 win. That win happened to be the first in the league since Leicester on Valentine’s Day, a stretch of 33 games without a win in the league. Not exactly title contending form. Watford have been on a similar ship despite their Semi final victory over the Gunners, by they have also not seen a Premier League victory since the 13th of February, away to Crystal Palace. Although Arsenal’s home form has been disrupted by Chelsea and Swansea this season, the Emirates still display a fortress to the North London side, and have seen just 3 losses in 14 games this season. Compared to the previous season it shows a regression of results, with 2 losses in 18. However, Arsenal certainly enjoy playing versus opponents Watford, with their last league defeat from the Hornets coming 28 years ago, in 1988. This means Watford are a side that has not beaten The Gunners in the Premier League Era.
Good news for The Gunners this week when we learnt that Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky were back in training, with Petr Cech also close to a return. This will be a great boost to Jack Wilshere, who will want to prove his ability so he can force his way into the impressive England side for this years European Championship. However, chances look slim for Alex Oxlade Chamberlain joining up with the England squad, as his injury still keeps him on the sidelines with a generally underwhelming season to date. Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, Mathieu Flamini, and Mikel Arteta are all still missing due to injury.
For Watford they do not present a similar injury crisis as Arsenal, missing just two players, compared to Arsenal’s 8. Tommie Hoban and Joel Ekstrand will miss the trip to the Emirates, but Quique Sanchez Flores will have no headaches caused. Flores may very well start the match with the same approach to the emphatic FA Cup win over Arsenal, in the 4-3-3 formation that troubled Mertsacker and co.
Arsenal are expected to return fresh from the International break, and I cannot see anything but the Arsenal win today. Mesut Özil will be hoping he can eclipse Thierry Henry’s assist record as Özil occupies 18 for the season. Expect a big game from the German Player of the Year winner.
“If we win all the eight games, we have more than a chance to win the league, but our target is to win the games,” he said. “Let’s start to be pragmatic, and win the next one which is [on Saturday].”
“It depends on the results of Leicester City,” he went on. “We are depending on Leicester City and nobody knows how they will go in the last seven games. They have seven games, we have eight. What is important is that we play our eight games with complete commitment and passion, and see where we finish.”
“Everyone says Leicester City is a team who have overachieved but now you see all their players go to play with their international teams and they are the best players in their national team. It is no coincidence that when a team does well, they have good players.”
“Watford is an efficient team, who had three shots on goal and scored two goals [in the FA Cup tie at Emirates Stadium]. They defend well, are organised and are strong physically. I believe we need to be more efficient with the chances we create, because we created plenty of chances. We want to transform the amount of goals we expect to score. Our [shot conversion] percentage needs to be higher.”