Arsenal will be aiming for their third consecutive Premier League win as they make the short journey to face a Watford side whose defence has been among the most obdurate so far this season.
Luck was certainly on the Hornets’ side before the international break as they escaped with a draw from fellow newly promoted club Bournemouth, who gifted them the equaliser and then contrived to miss a late penalty to win it. As he has been so often in the last year, Odion Ighalo was there to pounce when the opportunity was presented to him, but manager Quique Flores will want other members of his squad to start chipping in with goals.
The charismatic Spaniard is likely to adopt a cautious approach for this one and try to make the pitch as small as possible in order to eliminate the threat of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, both of whom are on brilliant form. The full-backs will have a big responsibility, but perhaps not as much as Etienne Capoue, who will be relied upon to give the back four maximum protection. Going forward, the physicality of Troy Deeney will pose the visitors problems.
A familiar sense of gloom had descended among many of those of an Arsenal persuasion following their awful night against Olympiakos in the Champions League, but they could not have responded any better. Many doubted their ability to beat Manchester United, but they did not just do that – they blew the Red Devils away with a incredible three-goal blitz in the opening 20 minutes, picking numerous holes in their defence to record a stunning result.
Sanchez was again at the top of game, adding two quality finishes to his recent rush of goals and taking United apart with his usual relentless energy, while Theo Walcott did his chances of nailing down a regular starting spot no harm with a consumate performance. He will look to get behind Capoue and find himself running at the two Watford centre-backs, and if he can manage that, it will promise to be a long afternoon for Watford.
The hosts will be without injured trio Joel Ekstrand, Jose Manuel Jurado and Tommie Hoban, but they have midfielder Valon Behrami back from a three-match ban.
Sanchez is in fact a doubt for Arsenal due to a slight hip problem, while Laurent Koscielny is also an injury concern. Midfielders Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini are both back available.
Last Meeting: A goal seven minutes from time from Robin van Persie gave Arsenal a narrow 2-1 victory on Boxing Day 2006; the Dutchman curling in a lovely shot after cutting in from the right. The hosts started well but fell behind against the run of play as Gilberto Silva headed in, but Tommy Smith fired in the leveller, which was not enough to earn a valuable point.