Watford v Arsenal: we could be back in fourth at the end of the weekend

By Bulldog Drummond

It seems centuries since we last had a game, but here we are again playing Watford – the team with the worst home record in the league.   Arsenal have an average away record, but as you would expect (if you have been paying attention) Arsenal now have two away games in hand compared with most of the rest of the universe… or at least against the rest of the Premier League.

All the clubs above Arsenal in a league table made up only of away games, have played at least two, and in some cases three more away games than Arsenal, leaving the comparison with Watford at home looking like this.

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
20 Watford home 13 2 1 10 12 31 -19 7
9 Arsenal away 11 5 1 5 16 17 -1 16

Even without counting any games in hand Arsenal away are a lot more of a force than Watford and home, suggesting we will score twice as many as they will.  2-0 to the Arsenal.

Rather encouragingly Arsenal’s last three away league games in the league have signalled something of an upturn in results and goalscoring.

Date Match Res Score
2 Dec 2021 Manchester United v Arsenal L 3-2
6 Dec 2021 Everton v Arsenal L 2-1
18 Dec 2021 Leeds United v Arsenal W 1-4
26 Dec 2021 Norwich City v Arsenal W 0-5
10 Feb 2022 Wolverhampton Wanderers v Arsenal W 0-1

Watford’s last five home league games have shown no improvement and indeed show just two goals for the home side. On 25 January this year, Roy Hodgson was appointed manager of the club, having left Crystal Palace to enter retirement.  It wasn’t a very long retirement, nor an immediately successful return to management at least at Vicarage Road.

Date Match Res Score
28 Dec 2021 Watford v West Ham United L 1-4
1 Jan 2022 Watford v Tottenham Hotspur L 0-1
21 Jan 2022 Watford v Norwich City L 0-3
12 Feb 2022 Watford v Brighton and Hove Albion L 0-2
23 Feb 2022 Watford v Crystal Palace L 1-4

Overall the position of the two clubs does look very different and Watford are going to need some improvements to avoid relegation.

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 27 21 3 3 64 17 47 66
2 Liverpool 26 18 6 2 70 20 50 60
3 Chelsea 25 14 8 3 49 18 31 50
4 Manchester United 27 13 8 6 44 34 10 47
5 West Ham United 27 13 6 8 46 34 12 45
6 Arsenal 24 14 3 7 38 27 11 45
17 Everton 24 6 4 14 28 41 -13 22
18 Burnley 25 3 12 10 22 32 -10 21
19 Watford 26 5 4 17 25 47 -22 19
20 Norwich City 26 4 5 17 15 55 -40 17

It has oft been said that a team needs 40 points to avoid relegation, but like most things that are oft said in football, this is a load of old turnips.

Teams with 37 points would have retained their Premier League status in 16 of the past 23 seasons.   That leaves Watford aiming at getting 18 points from 12 games.  An average of 1.5 points a game from here on.  The club has been averaging 0.73 points per game so far, so Watford will need to perform twice as well through the rest of the season as they have been through the season so far.

The lowest number of points that kept a team in the Premier League was 34 for West Bromwich in 2004/5.   On the other hand in 2002/3 West Ham United got 42 points (above the magic level of 40 points which football writers claim is the safety position) and went down.  Sunderland and Bolton have also gone down with 40 points.   Like most tales that football journalists spin, 40 points for safety is simply make-believe.

Last season third from bottom Fulham went down on 28, the season before third from bottom Bournemouth went down with 34 points.

Watford’s main hope, therefore, is an upturn in their own form and a failure of the form of Everton and Burnley.

Looking back to the top of the league, West Ham play Liverpool away at 5.30pm and the defeat of WHAM by Liverpool! by at least two goals would see us rise up the league by one place, irrespective of any other result.

Manchester United are away to Manchester City tomorrow and a defeat for Manchester United and a win for Arsenal would take us back to fourth still with three games in hand over Manchester United!  That would be rather encouraging.

We have little chance of closing the gap on Chelsea this weekend, as they are against Burnley today and an upset there at 3pm today really would be an upset and a half suggesting perhaps a curse on all things Russian.

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