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Watford v Arsenal

Image by GoonerKev @kevdavis736

The Prologue
Some things are far more important than football. Freedom, human lives and dignity will do for a start. Those things have been under threat and in too many cases already lost in Ukraine during the last couple of weeks. We have to start by wishing everyone in Ukraine, and everyone around the world with ties of any kind to that country, our very best hopes for their safety and eventual release from the despicable events that currently affect them. 

There has been some early criticism of the Premier League for allowing this weekend’s matches to be shown in Russia. However, the League is doing so with the motive that viewers in Russia will see the reaction of people here to events in Ukraine, which will hopefully enlighten them and motivate them to rise against their government. Given the litigious nature of some people, it is probably better to be no more specific than that. We all wish the ordinary people of Ukraine and Russia the very, very best in their heroic endeavours.

The Football
If there is anything left in football to set the heart racing, the stomach churning and excitement levels through the roof, it is probably not the prospect of playing Watford at Vicarage Road. The stomach just might actually be churning as, after another ten day break since the victory over Wolves, the team returns to action and faces another “cup final”, with three vital points at stake in the pursuit of a Champions League place. Say it quietly, but we do seem to have found a way to win difficult, close games having just beaten Brentford and done the double over a resurgent Wolves side.

Watford is not a team I enjoy watching us play against. Under one of their recentish managers – I think probably Kicky Flores (sic) – they tried, for a while, to at least start matches playing a bit of decent football. Once a goal down however, they would become very kicky indeed and resort to the cojones busting tackling so favoured by their now departed captain, Troy Deeney. At least we no longer have to listen to him talking us down and kicking us up in the air in his sad efforts to get one over us.

So proud was he of his own cojones, that Mr Deeney reportedly walked into a sperm donor bank in London one day. “I’d like to donate some sperm,” he said to the receptionist.“Certainly Sir”, the receptionist replied, “ have you ever donated here before ?”“Yes I have,” replied Deeney, “you should have my details on your computer.”“Oh yes, I’ve found your details,” the receptionist said, “but I see you’re going to need help. Shall I call your wife for you ?”“Why do I need help ?” Deeney asked.“Well,” the receptionist replied, “ it says on your record that you’re a useless wanker ……”

Roy Hodgson took over as Watford manager at the end of January, their fifteenth appointment in the last 10 years. I thought they might be in close competition with Tottenham as the most unstable club currently in the Premier League, but they have absolutely battered them in even that race, the Spuds having had a mere eight managers over the same period. But as we know, Tottenham do get battered ………..

I always approach games against Watford with a degree of trepidation, expecting a much tougher and closer game than maybe we should have, bearing in mind the relative statures of the two clubs. Results since 2000 have been quite mixed – we’ve had some good victories but they did knock us out of the FA Cup in a 1-2 reversal at the Emirates in March 2016 – and they’ve held us to two draws and beaten us once in the league since the 2016/17 season. Overall though we have taken 38 of 45 points available in Premier League games against them, we’ve scored in all 15 PL games played, and scored first in 14 of those 15. 

However, Roy Hodgson has had an immediate impact, and In the 6 league games they have played under him, they have kept 3 clean sheets, as many as they had in their previous 38 league matches. So it looks like we can expect to find a determined defence fighting for its Premier League survival – the reason why it’s so important to observe the old managerial cliché about taking each game one at a time and making no assumptions about which ones should be winnable, or otherwise.

Our record against them in the 1980s is best forgotten as they had something of an Indian sign over us for most of that decade. Our overall head to head record against them shows that in a total of 33 matches played, we have Won 19, Lost 12 and Drawn 2.

The Teams
I have to say these are names I know nothing about but Watford will definitely be without Oghenekaro (Peter) Etebo, a central midfielder, who has a knee injury, and left winger Kwadwo Baah, out with a fractured ankle. Ismaila Sarr is doubtful and Nicolas N’Koulou is out until mid-March, both with hamstring injuries. Kiko Femenia, a defender, is also rated doubtful with a “knock” injury.

Watford have lost 3, won 1 and drawn 0-0 with Man Utd in their last five games. They sit 19th in the league table having Played 26, W5, D4, L17 Pts 19, GD -22.

The Arsenal should have an almost full squad to choose from. Kieran Tierney suffered no lasting damage after going off early against Wolves, and Emile Smith-Rowe has recovered from Covid-19. Both have been training this week. Tomiyasu news is elusive, however, and I can find no mention of him on the club site and I couldn’t spot him in any of the 25 training photos, so it’s a fair bet that the much improved Cédric will continue. Mikel Arteta has now confirmed that Tomiyasu will not be available this weekend.

In light of all that, I would expect to see us line up as:


Cédric, White, Gabriel, Tierney

Partey, Xhaka

Saka, Ødegaard, Smith-Rowe


Martinelli, Pépé and Nketiah are our obvious attacking options off the bench. It’s possible that Martinelli will start and Smith-Rowe will continue his super-sub role, but the latter is such a driving force for our attack that I think he will start if his fitness issues have been fully resolved.  

We have 14 “cup finals” to go. Fourth place is in our hands. Third place could be in our hands depending on how distracted or tired Chelsea become with their continuing Champions League and FA Cup involvements – and we still have to play them too. The main danger to us this weekend is that we take a while to get going after another ten day break as we seemed to do against Wolves. 

The Holic Pound
Bet365 have us odds on to win at 4/7, so if it’s excitement you’re looking for, a score cast might be more fun – they’re offering 16/1 against a 3-0 Arsenal win, Bukayo Saka is 9/1 to be first goal scorer, while Emile Smith-Rowe is 18/1 to score any time during the match.Paddy Power will also only give you 4/7 on an Arsenal win but have a 3-1 victory at 12/1. Or you can keep your hard earned for the gas bill which will be arriving soon …….

The Men In Black
This week’s 12th man playing against the Arsenal is ……. wait for it …… who would you want in charge against a team that usually likes to knock you around a bit ? ….. it’s Craaaiiiig Paaaaaawsonnnn (in the voice of that fella who introduces boxers to the ring). Fourth official is Simon Hooper – Whooooper ?

The man appointed to decide the outcome of the game, with a carefully selected number of camera angles on a screen about 200 miles away is Darren England. He has an assistant to ensure he gets every contentious issue completely wrong, and he will be Eddie Smart. Let’s hope he is.

The game is on Sunday March 6th, kicks off at 14.00 UK time, and will be shown on Sky Sports. Whether you’re going to Vicarage Road, watching in the pub or hiding behind the sofa, enjoy the game, ‘holics !

66 Drinks to “Watford v Arsenal”

  1. 1
    North Bank Ned says:

    A very well put opening couple of paragraphs, Trev. Bravo.

    Russia may be showing this weekend’s games, but not China apparently. We couldn’t have anyone politicising sport now, could we?

  2. 2
    North Bank Ned says:

    We’ll need our shooting boots on Sunday. Woy has managed 20 games against us with his various clubs, losing half of them, and winning only three. But we’ve only won two in which we scored less than three goals.

  3. 3
    bt8 says:

    Brilliant write-up Trev. Ukraine, Refs, Deeney and all points in between. Watford’s a misnomer, more appropriate would be the What For? football club, and we’d best give them the old “what for” early and often. COYG

  4. 4
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Trophy spot!

  5. 5
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Just finished reading.

    That’s a helluva preview Trev. Smashed it, as the boss might say, top bins.


  6. 6
    Bathgooner says:

    Superb preview Trev and you’ve caught the zeitgeist perfectly.




  7. 7
    Ollie says:

    Great stuff, Trev.
    And I’ll take a good old one-nil to the Arsenal tomorrow.

  8. 8
    bt8 says:

    An impressive show of solidarity with the cause of Ukraine, to be sure.


  9. 9
    TTG says:

    Excellent preview Trev . Many thanks .
    I can add little to a comprehensive assessment . Tomayisu has injured his other calf and may be absent for a few weeks . I suspect the side that began against Wolves will start.
    I hope we can sneak this one but it won’t be easy. Woy is good at cagey defensive performances so I will suggest a 2-1 victory to the Gunners

  10. 10
    Silly Second Yella says:

    bleeding hearts all of sudden in football

    hypocrites if you ask me

    never saw an iraq flag twenty years ago and they are seven thousand miles from us of a

    not to mention a serbia


  11. 11
    Bathgooner says:

    There were plenty of Iraq flags being waved by protestors against the illegal invasion of Iraq twenty years ago, SSY. I don’t know where you were then.

    As to your mention of Serbia – in the Balkan war, Serbia were the aggressors and as a result it was Serbians who were tried for war crimes after peace was achieved. So waving a Serbian flag thirty years ago would be equivalent to waving a Russian flag now.

    Go figure.

  12. 12
    bt8 says:

    Raises a hand as one who demonstrated in the streets against Bush’s campaign drumming up support to invade Iraq prior to the invasion, and one who never stopped speaking against it. Now is the time to speak out against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which most people are doing.

  13. 13
    Uplympian says:

    Great preview Trev.
    As TTG advises above Woy has a history of operating a cagy defensive approach so it will probably be a tough afternoons work. There’s enough quality & determination to overcome that in this side – 2-0 to the good guys will do very nicely.
    SSY – check your history. The majority of UK were against the Iraq invasion, one million marched in London protesting at the time.

  14. 14
    Silly Second Yella says:

    well, Bathgooner

    I’ve been to Iraq, before and after and to Serbia, before and after

    all lies and you swallowed it (you’re not alone)

    ever heard of geopoiltics? Check it out. Take a look at NATO map. Then put your finger on your forehead and, you know,


    (but i got better things to do, like thinking about Watford game or to mourn this guy)

    you probably never heard of him

  15. 15
    bt8 says:

    Woy may not be able to pronounce his r’s but there’s no reason to think that will hinder his players tomorrow. At least probably not. Maybe the right winger could get a bit confused.

  16. 16
    Lonestar Gooner says:

    Well done, Trev.

    Indeed, everywhere they go…

  17. 17
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Excellent preview Trev! Especially like your take on the men in charge or officiating (?) the game. 🙂

    And thank you for your best wishes to the brave people of Ukraine. And thanks GoonerKev for the image.

    Arteta has spoken so respectfully and warmly of Hodgson multiple times. I think all the football managers do realize that how admirable that kind of longevity in this profession is.

    Would like to see Saka to get a bit of a break, just to freshen him up. But maybe with Tomi still a doubt, our right side — even though Cedric is doing well enough as the deputy — would need Saka because even when he is not at his best, nowadays just his presence on that wing makes the opposition commit two players around him and thereby reducing their potency for attack down their left.

    If Partey and Ødegaard carry on their form and control the middle of the pitch, between ESR, Saka, Gabi and Pépé wee should have enough firepower to put a few past Watford. Would like to see Laca score a goal or two though to get some confidence back.

    Enjoy the match everyone!

  18. 18
    Noosa Gooner says:

    Thanks Trev,
    I like the 16/1 for 3-0 and I like Laca to score one that he gets to keep this time.

  19. 19
    Trev says:

    Morning all ! – and thank you for the kind words.

    I have no editorial power on this blog but isn’t it great that those who do, choose to leave in place comments that completely oppose the popular view, even when their arrogance is a little bit insulting. If only all the world were as tolerant.

    Careful though, ‘cos when the arrogance becomes abusive – out you go.

    House rules. Applied to all. Equally. 😏

  20. 20
    Sancho Panza says:

    Don’t think anyone thought you’d been to Iraq or Serbia but thanks for telling us it was all lies.

  21. 21
    Esso says:

  22. 22
    North Bank Ned says:

    ESR still out? Fresh injury or ill again?

  23. 23
    Esso says:

  24. 24
    North Bank Ned says:

    BBC says ESR is ill.

  25. 25
    Esso says:


  26. 26
    Trev says:

    ESR still positive or suffering the lingering effects….

  27. 27
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks for the excellent preview Trev, 3-1 to The Arsenal at 12s looks good to me.

  28. 28
    ClockEndRider says:

    Away boys making quite a racket

  29. 29
    ClockEndRider says:

    Jeez that’s poor. Thank heavens for the Lino

  30. 30
    ClockEndRider says:

    What a goal

  31. 31
    OsakaMatt says:

    An early moment of panic followed by a goal!
    Get in!!!

  32. 32
    Gooner_KS says:

    I will call him OdeGOLD

  33. 33
    Gooner_KS says:

    Wow, pure class

  34. 34
    OsakaMatt says:

    Great bit of skill from Odegaard, nice cutback from Bakary and well finished. Too good for Watford anyway.

  35. 35
    ClockEndRider says:

    Also a great goal.

  36. 36
    OsakaMatt says:

    He’ll never do it again but yeah a great finish

  37. 37
    Gooner_KS says:

    Oooh Partey just cannot get a break, that was close, next one

  38. 38
    ClockEndRider says:

    Normal service resumed.

  39. 39
    OsakaMatt says:

    Get in Bakary!! 2-1

  40. 40
    Gooner_KS says:

    @OM Sagna 😁

  41. 41
    bt8 says:

    Away boys doing quite a job even without c100.

  42. 42
    OsakaMatt says:

    Haha yes, Bukayo I should say. Must have Sagna on the brain.
    Anyway, good goals from Martin and Bukayo see us 2-1 up at half time.

  43. 43
    Bathgooner says:

    We have been very silky going forward but surprisingly shaky at the back. Gabriel clearly hasn’t got over his jitters from the last couple of games but Ødegaard and Saka are magnificent.

    Don’t relax.

    Work still to be done here.

  44. 44
    ClockEndRider says:

    Agreed, Bath. Given this is the referee who sent off Luiz last year for having been caught by the Wolves forwards backlift, we need to make sure we put this well beyond he opposition in case something equally, erm odd, happens,

  45. 45
    ClockEndRider says:

    Superb. Superb.

  46. 46
    Gooner_KS says:

    Get in Martinelli
    2 great assists for Laca, hope he gets HIS goal

  47. 47
    Cynic says:

    The quality of the goals in this game is off the charts. Has there been a game with four better goals than these?

  48. 48
    OsakaMatt says:

    Got lucky on a bad miss by Dennis,

  49. 49
    OsakaMatt says:

    Hmmm, no penalty

    Pépé on for Martinelli

  50. 50
    Esso says:

    Ave it!

  51. 51
    OsakaMatt says:

    3 points, up to 4th. Job done with some great finishing but a little sloppy defensively at times. On we go 😃

  52. 52
    North Bank Ned says:

    I told you we would need to score at least three times to beat Watford.

    That was a game we should have won by a larger margin than 3-2 given our dominance provided by Saka, Ødergaard and Laca.

  53. 53
    North Bank Ned says:

    Well in for the half-ton, Esso.

  54. 54
    North Bank Ned says:

    You are right about the defence being sloppy at times, OM. Arteta will not be happy with some of the decision-making. A team that could score goals would have punished us for that.

    Also, I didn’t like the red shorts. The is no colour-clash reason for not playing in white. Meeting commercial obligations to Adidas, no doubt.

  55. 55
    bt8 says:

    Agreed Ned on the red shorts. Poor.

    Must rearrange my hibernation schedule as it is only seven days until we play again. Fox hunt, doncha know.

  56. 56
  57. 57
    Bathgooner says:

    A win, a palpable win!

    We are still on course for fourth or better if we can keep those wins coming.

    But oh dear, it should have been far, far, less fraught at the end!

    Well done though, lads. It required all your battling skills and determination.


  58. 58
    Cynic says:

    Excellent goals but that was far more tense than it should have been.

    I’ve said it before, but the way this team behaves at times is embarrassing and even worse, totally counter productive. Gabriel goes down under the slightest tap when we’re getting to the end of games and he does us no favours at all, because the time just gets added on. Cedric’s “cramp” was awful time wasting and fake.

    Tierney going to ground after having the ball given to him was ridiculous, and he even he knew it because after an initial bout of death that lasted about a second, he thought better of it and got up.

    I liked the performance but this team is so difficult to like sometimes.

  59. 59
    Countryman100 says:

  60. 60
    Countryman100 says:

    It’s being so cheerful that keeps you going isn’t it Cynic? 😂😂

  61. 61
    Cynic says:

    I take no pleasure in unsubtle shithousery. If they were actually a bit less fuckwitted with the way they do it, and when, it wouldn’t be so bad.

    Teams in general wind me up when they think “being injured” is helping their team and I get the argument that it breaks the game up, but the additional time is too big a price to pay. If I was winning 3-2 away with five minutes to go, I’d want the game to flow and get it over asap. It’s particularly stupid for us because we function better in a flowing game. Stop starting and allowing teams to pressure us with long throws, free kicks etc drives me up the wall. Always has, always will.

  62. 62
    Gooner_KS says:

    What’s up with everybody calling Bukayo Bacary today?

  63. 63
    Gooner_KS says:

    Missed the attachment

  64. 64
    Countryman100 says:

    We’ve taken 25 out of the last 30 league points. If playing the same game as everybody else is all you have to moan about, long may that continue.

  65. 65
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Not everyone, Gooner KS.

    The Waford left back has been calling him “that red blur that keeps going past me.”

  66. 66
    Bathgooner says: