The race for European football continues tonight as Watford take on Arsenal at Vicarage Road. The Hornets currently sit in tenth, four places and one point behind Leicester City in seventh. Meanwhile, the Gunners are sat sixth, a point behind Manchester United – a win would see them jump their long term rivals.
The visitors come into this one with five wins from their last seven league games, although they lost their last game away at Everton. In fact, Arsenal’s away form has been abysmal all season – they’ve won just two of their last 12 away games in all competitions. They’re yet to keep a Premier League clean sheet away from home this season – if that continues until the end of the season, it will be a Premier League first.
Watford are flying high at the moment – they turned over a two goal deficit to complete a stunning comeback over Wolves in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. The Hornets have won three home games in a row and are yet to lose at Vicarage Road in 2019. Curiously, they sit on 99 home wins in the top flight of English football – so there’s a milestone to be had tonight.
Jose Holebas, Domingos Quina and Tom Cleverley are all out of action for Watford. Meanwhile, Arsenal will be without Sokratis as he starts his two game suspension, as well as Danny Welbeck, Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin. There is some good news for Gunners fans as Granit Xhaka returns to the team.
Javi Gracia says he doesn’t think last week’s FA Cup game will be a distraction for his side as they chase seventh place:
“I am only thinking about trying to win the next game. I don’t want to think any further. We have good professionals and, with these players, it is easy as they know the next game is very important. We don’t have only one final – we have seven finals. All of them are focused on the next game.”
Unai Emery says his side are focused on making sure of a place in the Champions League for next season:
“Each match gives us a big challenge for the possibility to improve and take three points and the possibility to end the season in the top four. For us that would be a big success. When we started last in the table after the first two matches in the season we were thinking about arriving in this moment with the possibility of being in the top four in our hands.”
Author prediction: Despite Gracia’s comments, I think there will be a little bit of a hangover there from the FA Cup last week. Europa League qualifying rounds were guaranteed for Watford when they reached the cup final anyway (as cup final opponents Man City will definitely finish in a European spot).
Arsenal need the win if they want to continue their push for Champions League, and I think they’ll get it. However I don’t think they’ll manage to break their away game clean sheet jinx – I’m going for a 2-1 Arsenal win.