Arsene Wenger approaches his twentieth anniversary in the Arsenal hotseat, but does so on a background of a severe discontent which has only ever spread in the last few seasons. In 2015-16, the Frenchman, whose Arsenal legacy includes three Premier League titles, oversaw a campaign in which a skilled Arsenal side squandered the best chance of a first top flight title this decade.
Wenger has never experienced a league defeat against Watford in the Premier League era, but one needs only to cast mind back to March for a reminder of how much the chasm between the two clubs has narrowed in the past year.
F.A Cup victors in 2014 and 2015, Arsenal’s reign was brought to a crashing halt in March 2016 by Watford, with Quique Flores’ men claiming a shock 2-1 win at the Emirates Stadium. For the latest Arsenal odds, visit Matchbook.
CREDIT: Marcus Hansson (CC BY 2.0)
As evidenced by a recent spate of high-scoring games, this Arsenal side does not lack a goal threat, and remains dangerous from set pieces. Yet, despite boasting such potency up front, the defence was alarmingly porous in the opening game, against a Liverpool side that could finish no better than 8th last term. In particular, the middle of the park appeared physically under strength, and that alone is an issue which can only spell impending doom for Wenger if unresolved.
Already, this fixture is being lined up as a potential shock. Under new head coach Walter Mazzari, Watford proved tough opponents in their own opener (at Southampton), despite having a quiet and unremarkable transfer window thus far. In addition to reaching the F.A Cup semi finals, Watford survived relegation in 2015-16 by a comfortable margin, thanks in no small part to a wily counter-attacking setup which has bemused several so-called ‘better’ teams over the past 12 months.
FORECAST: Under 1.5 Goals & Level HT Score @ 386/100*
With the impending clash of playing styles taken into account, the Over/Under market becomes a focal point.
Arsenal’s 4-3 defeat to Liverpool at the Emirates on this season’s first ‘Super Sunday’ will cause the O/U market for this game to shift drastically – and not necessarily in the Gunners’ favour. The ability of Watford on the counter attack, combined with Arsenal’s prowess from set pieces has given gamblers a true quandary to negotiate.
Watford, though of inferior overall skill and condition, have nothing to lose in comparison to an Arsenal side that underperforms at crucial moments. Subsequently, gamblers can back a total of under 2.5 goals at around 113/100, but will be more richly rewarded for backing a result of Under 1.5 goals when prices for such become available.
It is expected that Arsenal will conserve energy and defeat Watford in the latter stages. For that reason, the above O/U stipulation can be combined shrewdly with the Half Time market. A level Half Time score is presently available at approximately 23/18, completing an intriguing and very realistic accumulator.
*Prices may fluctuate significantly
Written by Tamhas Woods