Sunday, December 10, 2023

Watford preview: More of the same, please

It’s Watford today at the Emirates as we look for three points to take into what will be an interminably long Interlull.

There’s not a great deal for Mikel Arteta to consider when it comes to team selection. In fact, there’s a great big ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ vibe to today’s team. If Kieran Tierney is fully fit, he could replace Nuno Tavares, but the young Portuguese hasn’t done anything to merit losing his place, per se. Still, at this point in his Arsenal career, his job is to deputise first and foremost, so it wouldn’t be a massive surprise if the more experienced man came in (fitness notwithstanding).

Further forward, it’s Alexandre Lacazette or Martin Odegaard in that role behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The Frenchman has done well in the last couple of weeks, but he can’t give you 90 minutes so it depends on what the manager is expecting from Watford today. He might feel he’s better served with the Odegaard’s greater craft and precision, and keeping Lacazette as a bit of a game-changer late on if that’s not working.

Beyond that, it’s pretty much as you were, surely? We’ve played well of late, there isn’t a great need to change anything, and what we’re looking for is more of the same. The one thing I would be slightly cautious about is any kind of complacency. I don’t really think that will be an issue, because Arteta has been quite clear about the need for this team to prove itself, but if today is harder work that we might expect, how do we deal with that?

We’ve been a very effective opening stages team in the last few weeks, but if we do that again and Watford weather the storm, we’re going to have to produce in the middle/end stages of the game if we want all three points. A good team has to be able to win in different ways, at different times, so while I’d thoroughly enjoy another early blitz, I’m also interested to see if we can do it in another fashion. It can still end up being convincing, but Watford will surely be well prepared for Arsenal to come out of the blocks quickly today, so we might need to find another way.

Arteta says of today’s opponents:

They had an incredible run last year and to do what they did, now they have changed the manager, it is always difficult in this league for any team so imagine coming from the Championship is even harder. But it is a team that has been for many year in the league, they are our neighbours next to us and they are tough to beat.

In front of a supportive, but also expectant, home crowd, let’s hope we can take another three points. At the time of writing a win would take us to 20 points, level with fourth-placed West Ham who are taking on Liverpool today so they could well stand still in the table. Another small motivational factor to add to the mix.

Meanwhile, Josh Kroenke has been speaking to Sky Sports about various stuff, including the squad rebuild this summer:

Our strategy has changed drastically. Now the summer has settled and the players are on the pitch, we’re closing the gap slowly but surely. They have lots of resources. We have resources as well and as long as we’re using those resources smart, appropriately and intelligently, one plus one eventually will add up to three.

Not sure about his maths, but there you go. He also dismissed the idea that KSE would be open to selling:

We get bids for the club all the time, from many different parties around the world and that speaks to the strength of the Arsenal. It’s a wonderful institution, Arsenal Football Club is a global brand and my only response to anything is the club is not for sale, we’re just getting started.

I’d love to know who all these bids are coming from. There are surely only a finite number of potential buyers, most of whom would have no interest in owning a football club anyway. Still, if you read, there’s a lot of stuff you’d expect him to say, a lot of corporate sounding jargon, and some stuff that comes across as pretty disingenuous, such as the idea that the Super League was just foisted on us at the last minute, and that KSE have only really been owners since 2018 when in reality they’ve been in control for a lot longer than that.

On the flip side though, we have long bemoaned the fact the owners have been distant, and from what I understand Josh Kroenke has been far more involved. Not always publicly visible but around a lot more. This is ‘his’ club, not Stan’s, so the focus is now well and truly on him as the owner, and I suppose when you look at the age profiles of him, Mikel Arteta, Edu, Vinai, there’s a commonality there. KSE also gave the green light for a big summer of spending and we’re seeing the benefits of that on the pitch right now.

Nevertheless, there’s still a lot of work for the owners to do to convince fans they are capable of delivering a club that can challenge for the biggest trophies. They have consistently said that’s what their aims are, but saying it is the easy part. I can say I want to climb Mount Everest, but doing it is a different kettle of fish entirely.

Right, let’s leave it there for now. As ever we’ll have live blog coverage, plus all the post-game stuff on Arseblog News. Catch you later for the game.

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