The Premiership throws up all different sorts of challenges, and every one of them is a true test of a team’s credentials. There are no easy games and our next opponent is a true measure of that.
Watford are riding high in the league, and their form and placing would have been hard to predict at the start of the season compared to their struggles - and now they are a real test this season.
We welcome Watford to The Emirates on the back of six straight wins, wins that have seen us rise back up the table, progress in the League Cup and also get off to a great start in our Europa League campaign.
We have also rotated the squad, especially in our cup matches. Unai Emery has seemed to keep a similar lineup for the Premier League, and one of the fixtures that seems to be taking hold is the appearance of our two star strikers in the same eleven - Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. Both players are starting to hit the net with regularity now - especially Lacazette - and the more games they play together in the same system, the more productive they will become.
Even with our good recent form though, Watford are still above us. A win would change that as they are a solitary point above us, but last season showed they will push us close - and they are a far better unit now.
Watford boss Javi Gracia engineered four straight wins from the first four games, but his team are on the back of a loss and a draw from their last two in the league. Their last game was a Carabao Cup exit on penalties to tottenham, a team they had defeated in the league only weeks before.
Gracia should have a full squad to call upon, and his strike force has been pretty settled so far, with Gray and Deeney providing a mixture of muscle, pace and aerial strength. This will mean our defence will need to be on their toes. Isaac Success has been knocking on the door to be selected, and his goal versus tottenham in midweek could upset the status quo up top for the Hornets.
They also have a formidable midfield, with Doucoure, Capoue, Hughes and Pereyra. All this spells out that our men will need to be on top form to engineer a seventh straight win.
Sokratis suffered a dead leg in our last league game and Rob Holding did a great job in filling in for the Greek defender, but Holding will most likely find himself back on the bench as Sokratis has been declared fit.
To combat Watford’s strong midfield, Lucas Torreira may well be used, and the Uruguayan has done well since earning his first start. Aaron Ramsey is in the firing line as far as the fans are concerned, after it was revealed the Welshman will most likely leave the club after this season, perhaps even in January.
Sead Kolasinac has recently returned to the squad, but this game may come too early for him. Nacho Monreal has played four games in twelve days and should keep his spot, with a potential well-earned rest coming on Thursday versus Qarabag.
How the game will go
Watford are far from long-ball merchants. They play to their strengths, and they have many. Up top, Gray can feed off Deeney’s knock downs, and Will Hughes is a great passer of the ball. Pereyra is capable of high-jinx that bamboozles defenders, and Capoue and Doucoure can carry the ball strongly. Whatever approach they take, they have players to adapt.
The Hornets will start of cagily though, and could wait until we are really pushing for a goal to unleash an attack. Mustafi must hold the line if we are pushing up, and Sokratis returning is a blessing.
If we can get Aubameyang and Lacazette the ball, we will break them, so Ozil needs a game where he comes to the fore. Mkhitaryan may not play after playing against Brentford on Wednesday, so Alex Iwobi may feature. Whoever takes the spots in attack, a clear head and an eye for a pass is essential.