Watford won this fixture last year, a riproaring 2-1 victory sealed by Tom Cleverley’s stoppage-time strike which prompted Troy Deeney, scorer of his side’s other goal that night, to deliver his sermon about Arsenal and their issue with “cojones”. So the Gunners will be wanting to make amends for that.
Arsenal won their home game against Watford in September, two goals in three late minutes bringing them a 2-0 victory. They only had two shots on target that day (Watford had five) and most observers declared that the visitors should have won it. So the Hornets will be wanting to make amends for that.
Then there’s the matter of Arsenal’s away form this season. They have the division’s third-best home record, accumulating three points less than Liverpool have at Anfield and four points less than Manchester City have at the Etihad. There are nine teams that have won more points away from home (though Arsenal have played two fewer away matches than most top-flight teams) and of the Gunners’ five away wins three came against teams in the relegation zone. The highest-placed team they have beaten away from home this season is Bournemouth, in 12th. So they will want to make amends for that.
Factor in the fact that the managers are former teammates, having spent a year together at Real Sociedad, and paid-up members of a mutual appreciation society. “He’s a good friend and it’s good to see him again, we are very close,” says Javi Gracia. “We sometimes talk away from football and spend time together. We had dinner, their coaches and with our coaches,” says Unai Emery. “They are my friends, not only Javi Gracia but also his assistant Zigor Aranalde and Iñigo Arteaga.”
Plus Watford want to finish seventh, and to be in full form for next month’s FA Cup final, while Arsenal want to finish in the top four. Thus, and to summarise, there’s plenty riding on this. Should be a good ’un.