Defensive foundations the key to Arsenal rebuild
Three games into the season Arsenal were, seemingly, in disarray. No points, no goals scored and coming off the back of a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Manchester City.
Since then, it has been a totally different story. Aaron Ramsdale replaced Bernd Leno in goal, centre back Gabriel returned from injury and new signing Takehiro Tomiyasu arrived and immediately settled into the starting right back role. Across all competitions Mikel Arteta’s side are unbeaten in their last nine games, conceding just four goals and trailing only once in that spell.
Sunday will see Ramsdale et al go up against a Watford side who have been relatively low scoring. The visitors have scored five goals in their last four games, but all of those came in an incredible 5-2 victory against Everton, as Josh King bagged a hat-trick against his former club.
Last week saw a more typical display, with The Hornets held at arms length by Southampton in a game that had very few chances for either side. I would expect Arsenal to have similar success on Sunday afternoon and an Exchange price of 2.111/10 on the both teams to score – NO market is well worth a look.
Watford currently sit 16th in the table, above the relegation zone thanks to a pretty solid start to the season and poor performances from those around them. In recent weeks they have developed a bad habit of conceding goals early in games, with all of their last five league games seeing the Hornets fall behind in the first half an hour.
Claudio Ranieri’s three game tenure certainly hasn’t solved that problem – going behind to Liverpool in the 8th minute and Everton in the 3rd before managing to hold out for just 20 minutes against Southampton last week.
Unfortunately for Watford, Arsenal are the opposite of slow starters. While Watford have gone behind inside 30 minutes in their last five games, 64% of Arsenal’s Premier League goals this season have been scored before the half hour mark.
Youngsters Emile Smith-Rowe and Bukayo Saka offer support to the experienced pair of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette to form a front four who have been excellent in the last couple of weeks.
Watford will need their midfield, usually made up of Juraj Kucka and former Spurs man Moussa Sissoko, to try and impose themselves on the fixture if they are to quieten the home crowd and give their side a chance. Both will be asked to press the Arsenal midfield heavily, but the worry for Watford will be is that if that press is beaten, their hosts have a man in lethal form leading their attack.
Aubameyang has scored in every game he has played at the Emirates this season and the ever confident Gabon forward will fancy his chances of adding to that total, Arsenal to win the first half is 10/11, while a Bet Builder with the addition of their captain to score anytime creates a tempting price of 2.915/8.
Chances at a premium in low scoring affair
While Aubameyang is a major threat and Smith-Rowe has found the net in his last two games, Arsenal have not been the most prolific of sides this term so we could be in for a low scoring afternoon on Sunday. Despite losing, and continuing their run of conceding early, Watford showed signs of defensive improvement last week against Southampton. Ralph Hassenhuttl’s side certainly dominated possession, but their goal came from their only shot on target, a brilliant effort by Che Adams from the edge of the area.
Even Adams’ effort could best be described as a half chance so if the centre back pairing of Craig Cathcart and William Troost-Ekong can keep Arsenal’s attack at a similar distance then Ben Foster should be able to have a more comfortable afternoon than in previous weeks.
While I expect Arsenal to win, they certainly do not possess the attacking talent of Liverpool, who comfortably put five past Foster in mid-October. Arsenal start fast in games they often try to stifle the opposition in the second half, with last week’s win over Leicester the prime example.
A couple of early goals and then settling into their defensive shape to reduce the number of chances available to their opposition, with Ramsdale providing a superb last line of defence. Under 2.5 goals is great value @ 2.47/5 in a game that could well be closer than anticipated.