20 mins: The free-kick is lifted into the area, it comes off Kabasele and drops to Cathcart, whose volley goalwards is saved!
19 mins: Massive cheers as Watford get their first free-kick of the game, when Torreira brings down Capoue. “Off! Off! Off!” shout the home fans.
17 mins: Iwobi gets down the left and crosses, Aubameyang reaches it at the near post, but the ball deflects wide off Cathcart.
17 mins: It has been a mind-boggling implosion from Watford, who had started the game so well but have gifted their opponents a goal and a man advantage. Bizarre decision-making from two very experienced players.
14 mins: Hughes tackles Mkhitaryan, who collapses to the floor and rolls around clutching his ankle. The referee tells him to get up, and so he stops rolling around, gets up and trots off, completely fine.
12 mins: I think that’s not a terrible call. Deeney ran past Torreira and as he did so pushed his forearm into his opponent. It wasn’t very violent, but it was entirely unnecessary.
Troy Deeney gets sent off!
11 mins: The referee, or his assistant, has seen something the cameras have not. There was apparently a coming together with Torreira. Arsenal claim there was an elbow, and the referee brings out a red card!
11 mins: Aubameyang closed down the keeper well there, but that is just a hideous goal to concede.
GOAL! Watford 0-1 Arsenal (Aubameyang, 10 mins)
Arsenal take the lead, and that is an absolute gift! Janmaat passes back to Foster, whose first touch is poor, and whose clearance hits Aubameyang’s ankle and rebounds into the net!
8 mins: Xhaka’s ridiculous collapse when Masina lays a flat palm gently against his back earns Arsenal a free-kick, and a bit of a breather.
7 mins: It’s been a fine start for the home side, who seem to be winning all the 50/50 challenges, and a fair few 60/40 and 70/30s as well.
5 mins: That leads to a Watford corner, from which they pressure the Arsenal defence for a while, until Hughes shanks a volley wide.
4 mins: Femenia slightly overhits a pass to Gray, and Mavrapanos cuts it out to end a briefly very promising Watford attack.
2 mins: Gray closes down Leno, and forces the keeper into a panicked clearance. The crowd roars.
Arsenal are in their third kit, which for those who haven’t seen it is “a modern green base colour with navy detailing”.
Javi Gracia has a pre-match chat. He says his team will start with a back three, which is a significant departure for him:
With the players we have we can change shape during the game. It depends on different circumstances. [Emery] came to see us many times but I think it’s not the most important to know each other. The most important is what is happening on the pitch and at this moment the main protagonists are the players. I think we’ll see a good game and I hope we’ll have a good result at the end for us.
I think the absence of both Pereyra and Deulofeu is very significant for Watford. The Argentinian has been in mediocre form for much of the season, but either of those players can conjure a goal at any moment, and without them their attack is rather prosaic.
Here’s the Press Association’s team-news-based update:
Arsenal made six changes for their Premier League clash at Watford as Konstantinos Mavropanos made his first start since May.
The Gunners face Napoli in the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final and travel to Italy defending a 2-0 lead.
Unai Emery is likely to have one eye on that fixture with Mavropanos starting as well as fellow recalled players Shkodran Mustafi, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alex Iwobi and Bernd Leno, while Granit Xhaka recovered from a groin problem to be included.
Watford meanwhile made four alterations from their victorious FA Cup semi-final win over Wolves as Ben Foster, Christian Kabasele, Daryl Janmaat and Adam Masina came in.
Moody sunset photograph of the day:
Good stat from Bill Edgar in the Times this morning: if Watford do not beat Arsenal tonight it will ensure that this will be the first top-flight case of three seasons in a row with the same teams filling the top six places (in any order).
These are today’s teams:
Watford: Foster, Janmaat, Kabasele, Cathcart, Masina, Femenia, Capoue, Doucoure, Hughes, Deeney, Gray. Subs: Gomes, Britos, Mariappa, Success, Sema, Chalobah, Navarro.
Arsenal: Leno, Mustafi, Koscielny, Mavropanos, Monreal, Torreira, Xhaka, Mkhitaryan, Ramsey, Iwobi, Aubameyang. Subs: Cech, Elneny, Lacazette, Ozil, Maitland-Niles, Guendouzi, Kolasinac.
Referee: Craig Pawson.
Watford won this fixture last year, a riproaring 2-1 victory sealed by Tom Cleverley’s stoppage-time strike which prompted Troy Deeney, scorer of his side’s other goal that night, to deliver his sermon about Arsenal and their issue with “cojones”. So the Gunners will be wanting to make amends for that.
Arsenal won their home game against Watford in September, two goals in three late minutes bringing them a 2-0 victory. They only had two shots on target that day (Watford had five) and most observers declared that the visitors should have won it. So the Hornets will be wanting to make amends for that.
Then there’s the matter of Arsenal’s away form this season. They have the division’s third-best home record, accumulating three points less than Liverpool have at Anfield and four points less than Manchester City have at the Etihad. There are nine teams that have won more points away from home (though Arsenal have played two fewer away matches than most top-flight teams) and of the Gunners’ five away wins three came against teams in the relegation zone. The highest-placed team they have beaten away from home this season is Bournemouth, in 12th. So they will want to make amends for that.
Factor in the fact that the managers are former teammates, having spent a year together at Real Sociedad, and paid-up members of a mutual appreciation society. “He’s a good friend and it’s good to see him again, we are very close,” says Javi Gracia. “We sometimes talk away from football and spend time together. We had dinner, their coaches and with our coaches,” says Unai Emery. “They are my friends, not only Javi Gracia but also his assistant Zigor Aranalde and Iñigo Arteaga.”
Plus Watford want to finish seventh, and to be in full form for next month’s FA Cup final, while Arsenal want to finish in the top four. Thus, and to summarise, there’s plenty riding on this. Should be a good ’un.