Arsenal travel to Vicarage Road tomorrow to face Premier League new boys Watford, and the Gunners camp is full of optimism ahead of what is perhaps a banana skin of a game. The north Londoners currently sit second on the league table, and their morale received a massive boost when they steamrollered Manchester United in their last league game.
The 3–0 win over United will be the benchmark of the season for the Gunners, and manager Arsene Wenger will certainly hope for more of the same from his players at Watford. Wenger now has an attacking trident of Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott in form and full of confidence, a welcome respite for the Frenchman given the criticism he is constantly subjected to, reminding him of his transfer market non-activity.
In Arsenal’s last two league games, the trident has been directly involved in seven of the eight goals scored, a statistic to strike fear into opponents and set the Gooners’ pulses racing. Wenger is particularly excited about Sanchez’s impact, which was slow in coming but is now in full bloom.
Sanchez is in fine form of late, for both club and country, and is on the back of nine goals in his last five games, including a hat-trick in Arsenal’s last away game. Watford and Quique Sanchez Flores will be wary of Sanchez’s threat tomorrow, and this could see the Spanish manager devise special tactics to keep the Chilean in check.
Wenger has no complaints though, and is delighted his star player is back to his best after a somewhat slow start to the season which took him seven games to find the back of the net. Wenger has talked up Sanchez’s attributes and what he brings to Arsenal’s game, excitement clearly emanating from the veteran manager.
“He [Sanchez] has a bit of a difficult start because he came back late [from the Copa America] and you could see that but now he is back to his level and even better than before,” he said in his pre-match press conference.
“His overall game and finishing, contributing and assists is excellent. He works hard for the team and he finishes. His enthusiasm is contagious. He always gives you hope that he is going to do something and he always gets defenders on the back foot, provokes and that is top class.”
Wenger isn’t just sticking to Sanchez though; the Frenchman also talked up Ozil after his virtuoso performance against Manchester United saw the German score his first goal of the season. Wenger feels Ozil can be at his game on a regular basis, saying more is to come from Arsenal’s record signing.
“You want Mesut to score as well in a big game and he did that against Man United. When you are an offensive player that is an important part of it. I believe there are goals in him and in that game he has shown it. I think it can increase the belief and the hunger of the team. On the other hand you have to show that you can come into every game with that focus,” Wenger said of Ozil.
With the club’s two star players in peak form, there is every reason for Wenger to be excited about. Arsenal sit just two points behind league leaders Manchester City, and with the Citizens blighted by injuries of late, Wenger could sense an opportunity to seize the initiative in the title race, which seems more open this season than the previous years.
Getting carried away will be the last thing Arsenal would want at this stage, and a win against Watford is the bare minimum expected of the Gunners. Whether Sanchez, Ozil and co deliver on the expectations remains to be seen, but this surely is a good time to be an Arsenal fan.
Laurent Koscielny will undergo a fitness test ahead of the Watford game, but Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini are back in the fold and available for selection.
“The only thing today is Koscielny has a definite test to see if he is available or not. At the time Arteta and Flamini will be certainly will certainly be available for selection. We have three players who could come back and be available again and I don’t think we lost anybody from our last game,” Wenger said.
Forward Danny Welbeck is expected to be back by January, and Jack Wilshere is recovering well. Both England internationals are long-term absentees, and will definitely miss the first half of the season.
“They [Wilshere and Welbeck] are progressing well. Danny Welbeck at the earliest will be back [at the] beginning of January.”
Sanchez went off to South America last week carrying an injury he had suffered during the Manchester United game, but went on to play a major part in Chile’s wins over Brazil and Peru in the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers. Wenger says the situation with Sanchez is always tricky, owing to the player’s enthusiasm to play for his country despite being injured, although there are no signs of any injury he sustained while on international duty.
“I cannot do a lot about it. He came off as you have seen against Manchester United with a hip problem, a problem with the rotator muscle and he wanted to go. He played in the last two games and we have to see how he comes back but it is always a tricky situation Chile are trying to qualify for the World Cup and he is an important player for them but they will use him if they can. He is a guy that always wants to play so I knew that was always going to be a tricky situation,” Wenger added.
Social Media Arsenal
Alexis Sanchez arrived back at Arsenal yesterday and he was accompanied by a special guest on his way back from international exertions. Sanchez posted the following with a photo on his official Instagram account: “What a surprise I found myself with on the plane with the wonder boy. Alexis Sanchez”