It’s do or die for Watford in terms of Premier League survival on Sunday as they travel to Arsenal knowing they must win to stay up.
The Hornets have had a turbulent week to say the least, with last Sunday’s shock sacking of Nigel Pearson followed up with a 4-0 loss to Manchester City which greatly damages the Hornets goal difference.
The heavy defeat to City, coupled with Aston Villa’s win over Arsenal, sucked Watford into the bottom three as well as drawing them level on goal difference with 19th placed Bournemouth.
Mathematically a draw with Arsenal could still keep the Hornets in the Premier League depending on the amount of goals in the game, but caretaker boss Hayden Mullins won’t want to rely on results elsewhere.
If Aston Villa and Bournemouth – who take on West Ham and Everton respectively – can scrape a win between them, then Watford are down.
Arsenal would not have envisioned playing such a big role in the relegation scrap, and although inadvertent, that’s the way it has transpired.
Defeat to Aston Villa last time out handed Dean Smith’s side a huge survival lifeline, whilst at the same time extinguishing any hopes the Gunners had of a Europa League finish.
Arsenal undoubtedly consider themselves a top 4 club, and failure to qualify for the Champions League means it is 4 consecutive seasons away from Europe’s premier club competition.
That will hurt for Mikel Arteta, who seems astute in his designs on an Arsenal rebuild – and although guaranteed a top 10 finish the Spaniard will not want to end the season with a whimper.
No Premier League club currently has more injuries than the Gunners, who will be without several first team regulars, with Pablo Mari, Shkodran Mustafi, Calum Chambers, Gabriel Martinelli and Bernd Leno all sidelined.
Mesut Ozil could feature after a recent back injury, and Reiss Nelson may play despite carrying a groin strain.
Matteo Guendouzi is unlikely to be involved after a recent disagreement with Arteta, with some suggesting the midfielder may well have played his last game for the club.
Watford will conclude the season without Gerard Deulofeu, Isaac Success and Daryl Janmaat, who have all been absent since the season resumed.
Etienne Capoue is touch-and-go for the trip to the Emirates, whilst Troy Deeney continues to battle with a plaguing knee problem – not that he will want to miss such a crucial game for his team.
With Arsenal’s season now solely about FA Cup glory against Chelsea on August 1, can Watford pick up 3 crucial points to avoid falling through the Premier League trapdoor?
Arsenal v Watford at the Emirates Stadium kicks off at 4pm on Sunday, July 26.