We’re heading to Watford for another “London” (actually Hertfordshire, since it’s never been in London) derby. Though it could be called a Herts. neighbours’ derby, since our training grounds border each other near London Colney, a village just south of St. Albans.
That said, Watford has established itself as a firm Premier League club in recent years, and is a testament to the spirit laid down by the late Graham Taylor, John Barnes, and Luther Blissett.
They look like they’ve established themselves as a mid-table club (way above their enemies Luton Town in League Two), and it won’t be an easy game. However, we are due an away win, and it would be opportune to continue our good form of late.
Mustafi picked up a serious injury playing for his country in the week, whilst it was a mixed week for our players overall. Elneny, Bellerin, Monreal (in other games this round), Mustafi, Welbeck, Lacazette, Koscielny, Giroud, and Xhaka all helped their countries reach Russia in some capacity. Ramsey and Alexis no less however has missed out. Will this mix of triumph and disappoint affect the game? Possibly. And if it should, it may act as a booster.
Other issues are:
Will Ozil start?
Wenger has said that Ozil may leave in January. Is he really injured, or just being phased out? Or is he on strike, and both he and Wenger have agreed not to disclose anything to the media? Who knows? That said, this would be a good match to get in some match practice, especially as we play Man City and the adjacent to Edmonton lot relatively soon.
Wenger also said lately that Alexis may leave. But then he did, unfortunately for him, not qualify for Russia with Chile. It seems the end of Chile’s golden era, and his tenure at Arsenal, no less. Nonetheless, I suspect he may play on the bench, since it’s a long flight from South America. He may also have had little time to train prior.
Chambers, Holding or Per?
With Mustafi injured, whom will we see as his replacement? I believe Holding, or even new-long-termer Chambers, should start, the latter still not fully fit perhaps. Per has a lot to offer still, but then Holding/Chambers are definitely the future. I think pacey defenders, who can control the ball, and can also be effective stoppers, are what is required in the Premier League now. I think this is why Koscielny has been such an able defender for us, since he fits this mould. Van Dijk and Alderweireld also are in this type, and Chambers/Holding have the potential to be at that level. I’d argue they, along with Kos, Bailly, Luiz, Azpilicueta, and Vertonghen, are the best defenders in the league, so both Holding and Chambers have a high bar to reach, and I’m confident with the proper guidance they can.
Kolasinac returned with a little bit hip niggle, (maybe picked up when he bounced Fellaini?) but Wenger seemed positive that the Tank would be available for today’s game. I’m presuming he is, and if he is, he starts.
Can the golden Eagle feature here? Why not? Possibly the departures of Alexis/Ozil can be blessings in disguise, if he can get more game time. He clearly has the potential to progress, and to Wenger’s credit he is still adept at moulding youth. He also has good familial aid, as his uncle was a boss player too.
This is my team below:
Watford 1-2 Arsenal
A good three points would do us well, going into the City and Scum games.
If we can be in the top four by the City/Scum games, then it’s possible. The other top six play each other in the interim, and some of them will lose points. I believe it’s pretty imperative that we get the win here, and I believe we can.