Arsenal Football Club, currently fifth in the Premier League, will take on relegation-stricken Watford Sunday, March 6 as the Gunners jockey for a spot in the top four.
While you might be getting ready to fill out your March Madness bracket, the Premier League’s race for Champions League qualification is growing increasingly intense. Arsenal is challenging for a spot alongside Wolverhampton Wanderers, Manchester United, West Ham United, and Tottenham Hotspur.
Arsenal still has three games in hand on league leaders Manchester United, meaning that the impending clash is of the utmost importance.
Previewing Arsenal and Watford
Arsenal has a record of 14-3-7 this season, earning 45 points from a possible 72. They have won three straight Premier League games, two of which were wins against Wolverhampton Wolves. Alexandre Lacazette scored a 95th-minute winner after Nicolas Pepe had knotted the score in the 82nd their last time out.
Arsenal has been a team building for the future for the entire Mikel Arteta era– progress was so slow that many supporters began to question if he was the right man for the job despite his legendary playing career and a nod of approval from Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.
AFC set out with a 4-2-3-1 the last time they played and managed to find gaps in the Wanderers’ defense with intricate passing and driving runs from the forwards, ultimately creating a couple of great looks for Alexandre Lacazette, who converted the biggest one.
Other top-four challengers around the league will be playing their very best knowing that they need to win to realistically stay within a shout of Champions League qualification.
Watford has had a few moments this season, including a 4-1 win against Manchester United, but has ultimately proven to be one of the lesser teams in the league. Their squad is not developed enough to sustain a Premier League challenge, and their coaching carousel is not simplifying any of the matters. Watford has scored the fourth-fewest goals this season and allowed the third-most goals in the league.
Arsenal is closer to the top in goals for and against, ranking sixth in scoring and fifth in defense. They are more complete on both ends and have been playing with much better cohesion lately.
For all intents and purposes, the top three spots in the Premier League have been sealed off; one of Liverpool or Man City will win the title, and Chelsea will finish third. That leaves Arsenal, Wolves, Tottenham, Man U, and West Ham to duke it out for the fourth and final Champions League spot.
Granted, if Arsenal does qualify for European competition, it will need to focus on player recruitment and bolster its squad further, as it is already lacking in depth. It would still be better to qualify and receive the financial bonuses as opposed to missing out, however.
A lot will be understood about Arsenal’s team between now and the end of the campaign. Their young talent in players like Martinelli, Bukayo Saka, and Emile Smith Rowe has been making noise but need to prove that they can contribute to winning seasons and not just games.
Above all, the Arsenal board needs to see that Arteta is progressing as a coach and can make his team competitive atop the Prem. That will open the door to more financial investment and create a better future for the team— who knows, maybe the rumors of Erling Haaland being linked to the Emirates could turn true this summer.
All of that is to be determined in the future, but right now, all that matters is Arsenal coming out on top of Watford in two weeks. A win could hypothetically move the Gunners up to fourth in the league, depending upon the rest of the results throughout the league in this matchweek. This is their best chance to reach the top-four and they need to capitalize on the next stretch of games.