Watford will be hoping for an immediate new manager bounce when they host Arsenal in the Premier League this weekend (11:30am ET Sunday).
Four matches into the season, Watford find themselves dead last in the Premier League table. Following defeats to Brighton, Everton and West Ham, they finally got their first point on the board in a 1-1 draw away to Newcastle prior to the international break.
It took Watford less than 90 seconds to go ahead at St James’ Park. Tom Cleverley’s long-range effort ricocheted kindly into the path of Will Hughes, who fired in from close range. Their hosts came back at them and equalized following a penalty area scramble just before half time. An even second half failed to produce another goal for either side.
Coach Javi Gracia described it as a “good point,” and said that he hoped it could prove the catalyst for improved results going forward. If it does, it won’t be under him. He was sacked the following Saturday and replaced by his fellow Spaniard Quique Sanchez Flores. He is returning for his second spell at a club he led to a 13th-place finish in the 2015-16 season.
Flores proved himself to be an able defensive organizer in his first spell at the club and that might be exactly what Watford need right now. Gracia was able to get them playing more expansive football than they had previously. After a good first half of last season, his attack was unable to balance out weakening top-line and underlying defensive numbers. Watford conceded over two goals per match down the final stretch.
In a way, it is easy to see why Watford’s owners decided to sack Gracia. Across this season and backend of last, they have now gone eight matches without a win, and have won just three of their last 15. Their haul of just 0.73 points per match over that 15-match period represents relegation form. Most of that information was already available at the end of last season. It is difficult to find sense in their decision to sack him now, just four matches in.
Flores steps into a difficult set of fixtures that see Watford face four of last season’s top six across the next seven matches, including an away engagement at reigning champions Manchester City next weekend. Sunday’s opponents Arsenal won home and away against Watford last season. The Gunners have have won three and lost just one of the four encounters at Vicarage Road since Watford’s return to the top flight in 2015.
Arsenal have also made a decent start to the season. They began with wins away at Newcastle and at home to Burnley, lost 1-3 away to Liverpool and then came back from two goals down to rescue a point in a 2-2 draw with local rivals Tottenham Hotspur prior to the international break. Alexandre Lacazette pulled one back just before half-time and Arsenal’s second half pressure finally told when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang equalized with 20 minutes to go.
Unai Emery’s side only narrowly missed out on the top four last season and are likely to be in that race again. They had a very open style last season, with their matches seeing an average of 3.26 goals. That was the second-highest mark in the league. They had the division’s third-best attack but conceded 12 more goals than any of the four sides who finished above them, all of whom had better overall goal difference.
The club’s summer business shifted the balance of the side even further towards attack, but their strengths and weaknesses so far seem to have carried over almost untouched from the previous campaign. With their defence unlikely to improve significantly, the attack still needs to go up a level beyond its current output if Arsenal are to better last season’s points haul, regardless of whether or not they actually need to in order to finish in the top four.
Our Betting Preview’s Watford vs Arsenal Predictions & Picks Verdict
Sunday’s match has potential banana skin written all over it. Part of Watford’s problem to date has been an inability to finish off eminently presentable chances, something that usually ebbs and flows with fortune. If Flores can get them better organized defensively, they are due a bit more luck in front of goal. Balancing their chances of victory with the possibility of a draw by using the “draw no bet” market seems a solid way to go this weekend. So, having checked the options with the U.S. betting sites, this preview’s betting pick is:
- Bet on Watford to win on the “draw no bet” market @ +155 with Bovada or Intertops.