Seeking to take points off a top-six side for the second week running, Watford prepare to host Arsenal at Vicarage Road in Sunday’s Premier League encounter.
The Hornets managed to hold Manchester United to a goalless draw last time out, while Mikel Arteta’s side left it late to sink Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-1.
As much as Man United’s total lack of ruthlessness was to blame for their inability to see off Watford last weekend, take nothing away from the defensive solidity of the Hornets – something they have demonstrated a lot more under Roy Hodgson’s wing.
Barring the 4-1 home humbling at the hands of Crystal Palace, the experienced Hodgson has clearly been putting the hours in on the training ground to shore up his side’s leaky rearguard, but a lack of attacking threat is still bedevilling the relegation dog fighters.
Indeed, Watford have struck just two goals in six games since Hodgson took the reins from Claudio Ranieri, and the hosts head into Sunday’s daunting battle currently 19th in the rankings and three points adrift of 17th-placed Everton having played two games more.
Watford’s Premier League destiny is therefore out of their own hands, with a record of just one win from their last 14 in the top flight certainly not helping their cause either, and the less said about their form at Vicarage Road, the better.
A tally of seven points from a possible 39 on home soil represents the worst record of any team on familiar territory in the Premier League this term, with the Hornets suffering an abysmal run of seven straight defeats at home ahead of a clash with one of the top-four favourites.
Never ones to make life easy for their ardent supporters, Arsenal set out to record their second win over Wolves in the space of a month last Thursday, but the writing was seemingly on the wall when Hwang Hee-chan capitalised on an early mistake from Gabriel Magalhaes.
Not since November 2018 had Wolves lost a Premier League game when scoring first, but Mikel Arteta’s inspired second-half changes sparked pandemonium at the Emirates, as Nicolas Pepe equalised before playing Alexandre Lacazette through, and the Frenchman’s scuffed effort ended up in the back of the net off of Jose Sa with virtually the last kick of the game.
Two weeks on from being criticised for the manner of their celebrations at Molineux, there was no holding back from the Gunners in front of their own fans, with Arteta more aware than anyone of just how vital that result could prove in the top-four race.
Taking nine points from a possible nine in February – form which saw Arteta nominated for the Manager of the Month award – Arsenal remain sixth in the table but have now closed the gap on Man United to just two points with three games in hand.
Furthermore, with the Red Devils facing a daunting trip to Manchester City and fifth-placed West Ham United travelling to take on Liverpool on Saturday, Arsenal could very well rise into the Champions League spots should results go their way this weekend.
Arteta’s side also head to Vicarage Road having emerged triumphant from their last three away from home in the Premier League and won this fixture 1-0 at the Emirates back in November thanks to Emile Smith Rowe’s finish – their fifth win from their last six against the Hornets.
Watford Premier League form:
Arsenal Premier League form:
Arsenal form (all competitions):
We say: Watford 0-2 Arsenal
Watford’s distinct lack of a clinical finisher should be exposed by a staunch Arsenal defence on Sunday, although Hodgson’s side will be aware that the Gunners are still prone to the odd mistake.
However, the Hornets have posted defeat after defeat at home recently and are facing an Arsenal side almost at the peak of their powers, so we can only envisage the visitors inching closer to the Champions League with all three points.