SURPRISE package Watford will look to take advantage of Arsenal’s less-than-convincing start to the season when they host the Gunners on Saturday.
The Hornets, under new management in Marco Silva, are eighth after seven games having lost just once – a 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Premier League leaders Manchester City.
Although Arsene Wenger’s side are fifth, the Gunners have already suffered defeats at Stoke City and Liverpool, where they were crushed 4-0.
A run of four wins in all competitions has helped improve the mood at the Emirates Stadium but the North Londoners are only ever one poor result from mutiny.
Our friends at Football Whispers provide the ultimate preview of the game with key battles, team news and all the statistics you need.
Key battle: Tom Cleverley v Alexis Sanchez
The onus will be on Watford’s midfield to shackle key man and Manchester City transfer target Alexis Sanchez, who scored 30 times in all competitions last season.
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After failing to secure a move away from Arsenal over the summer, Sanchez has slowly been reintegrated into the side and has started the Gunners’ last two Premier League fixtures.
The Chilean led the line last term but has reverted to a No.10 role this season following the arrival of Alexandre Lacazette from Lyon.
That will make former England international Cleverley’s job harder as the ex-Barcelona forward could pop up anywhere in a role with greater freedom to drift between the lines.
Cleverley, who has shone since returning to Watford in January seven years after a highly impressive loan spell, should be tasked with restricting Sanchez’s influence.
The former Manchester United and Everton man has caught the eye as a No.10 too this season but has dropped to the base of midfield following injury to Nathaniel Chalobah and averages 1.3 tackles and one interception per game.
Potential match winners: Richarlison & Alexandre Lacazette
A one-time Chelsea transfer target, Brazilian forward Richarlison was signed from under the noses of Europa League runners-up Ajax and has made a flying start to life in England following his summer switch from Fluminense.
The Brazil Under-20 international opened his Watford account in the 2-0 win at Bournemouth before bagging stoppage time strikes at Swansea and West Brom to grab a win and rescue a draw.
Tricky but with a build which makes him perfect for the Premier League, Richarlison has made more tackles (20) than any other forward player in the top flight.
He takes more shots per game (3.3) than any other Hornets player while averaging 2.1 dribbles per match and 1.4 key passes.
Arsenal, meanwhile, finally upgraded their striking options this summer with the club-record capture of Lyon hitman Lacazette.
After hitting at least 20 Ligue 1 goals in three consecutive seasons, the French international moved to England in a £46.5m deal.
Lacazette hit the ground running with a second-minute goal on his debut against Leicester, setting the Gunners on their way to a 4-3 win over the Foxes.
He has scored three more since but all four of his goals have come at home. The 26-year-old must now take that form into an away game and prove he is the man to lead the line and not Everton transfer target Olivier Giroud.
Silva’s impact on Watford has been swift. The Hornets play higher up the field, press their opponents harder and move the ball quicker than they ever did under predecessor Walter Mazzarri.
The Portuguese coach, who quickly enhanced his reputation by almost keeping Hull in the Premier League last season, has set his side up in a 4-3-3 and, more recently, a 4-2-3-1 system.
Wenger, meanwhile, has stuck to the 3-4-2-1 formation which served Arsenal well in the latter stages of last season.
That means summer signing Sead Kolasinac playing as a left wing-back with Hector Bellerin – who spent time on loan at Watford during the 2013/14 campaign – on the opposite flank.
Sanchez should start behind Lacazette with Alex Iwobi, who scored the only goal in Nigeria’s World Cup qualifying win over Zambia during the international break, battling Mesut Ozil for the other No.10 slot.
Watford are without several centre-halves. Younes Kaboul (hamstring), Craig Cathcart (knee) and Tommie Hoban (knee) all long-term absentees while Sebastian Prodl (hamstring) faces a race against time to be fit.
If the big Austrian fails to make it, Adrian Mariappa and Christian Kabasele should continue at the heart of the hosts’ defence.
Chalobah (knee) and Isaac Success (knee) are also sidelined for the Hornets.
Wenger’s injury woes continue to mount with Shkodran Mustafi (hamstring) ruled out for the trip to Vicarage Road and the next six weeks.
The German joins fellow defenders Laurent Koscielny (Achilles) and Calum Chambers (hip) in the treatment room meaning a rare league start for Per Mertesacker is in prospect.
Midfield magician Santi Cazorla is out long term with a plantaris injury.
Watford’s 2-1 win at Arsenal in January was their first top-flight victory against the Gunners since a 1-0 victory at Highbury in April 1988.
The Hornets have not won a home game against the North Londoners since March 1987 when they triumphed 2-0 at Vicarage Road.
For Arsenal, Sanchez has played a part in 35 goals (24 goals, 11 assists) for the Gunners since the start of last season – more than twice any of his team-mates.
Wantaway playmaker Ozil (17) comes closest.
The Gunners’ current run of four successive top-flight clean sheets is their best since May 2014.