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Watford have been one of the biggest surprises in the Premier League during the early part of the season, and they may be catching Arsenal at the perfect time Saturday as the Gunners will likely be down two defenders at Vicarage Road.
The Hornets (3-3-1) are eighth in the table on 12 points, trailing Burnley and Liverpool on goal difference. A large reason for that was their 6-0 thumping administered by Manchester City on Sept. 16, but Watford regrouped from that heavy defeat by getting four of six points on the road with a win over Swansea City and a draw versus West Bromwich Albion ahead of the international break.
A key reason for the success has been the seamless integration of 20-year-old Richarlison into the lineup. The Fluminense transfer has three goals thus far, but they've all been timely ones as two provided victories and the most recent - coming in the 95th minute - salvaged a point at The Hawthorns.
"He's a huge talent, an amazing boy," manager Marco Silva told the team's official website. "He's a worker. Every day he continues to improve. … The boy never gives up. We need to support him every day to improve as he will achieve fantastic things."
Richarlison's next challenge will be solving Arsenal's back line, which will definitely be without Shkodran Mustafi and possibly missing Laurent Koscielny and Calum Chambers through injuries. Mustafi is expected to be sidelined at least a month with a thigh injury suffered while playing for Germany during the international break.
Koscielny sat out France's final two World Cup qualifiers as he continues to recover from an Achilles injury that has limited him to four matches in all competitions for Arsenal this season. Chambers, who signed a two-year extension through 2021 with the Gunners on Wednesday, has been dealing with a knock but did take the time to address his new deal via Instagram.
"Proud to sign a new contract with arsenal," he wrote. "I know I'm still a young player and I want to have my best years playing football for this club. I want to win as many trophies with Arsenal as possible. I'm going to repay the fans for the faith they've shown in me. Can't wait to get going again."
Arsene Wenger's other options in defence are Rob Holding and Per Mertesacker, with the latter yet to play in the Premier League this season. Mustafi's value is hard to overstate as Arsenal (4-1-2) have recorded clean sheets in their last four league contests with the Germany international anchoring the central defence.
Watford have yet to win at home this season, getting two draws before being routed by Manchester City. They are winless in their last five (0-3-2) top-flight matches at Vicarage Road dating back to last season.
Offensively, Arsenal is waiting on the status of Alexis Sanchez, who had to swallow the bitter pill of failing to qualify for the World Cup with Chile as the reigning two-time Copa America champions finished sixth in South America. If Sanchez is unavailable, Olivier Giroud could feature since he is in good form after scoring for France in their 2-1 victory over Belarus that punched Les Bleus' ticket to Russia next year.
Sanchez was a surprising omission from the Ballon d'Or short list for the world's best player, and as has been the case all season, rumours regarding his availability in the January window persist. Mesut Ozil, also the subject of transfer speculation, likely will come off the bench for the Gunners and has not started a Premier League match since Arsenal's win over Bournemouth on Sept. 9.
Sanchez has three goals and three assists in five lifetime matches against Watford, while Ozil has a goal and three assists in five contests.
The road team won both matches last season, with Sanchez and Ozil scoring five minutes apart late in the first half of a 3-1 triumph at Vicarage Road. Watford returned the favour with a 2-1 win at the Emirates as Younes Kaboul and Troy Deeney beat Petr Cech within the first quarter-hour.
Arsenal are 4-0-0 in league play at Vicarage Road, outscoring Watford 11-4. Sanchez has two goals and an assist in the last two, while Ozil has a marker and two helpers in those contests.
Updated October 12, 2017