Arsenal looks set to finally crack open its dust-smothered checkbook and make some necessary additions to its squad, but any new signings won’t arrive in time to aid the club’s quest for a first Premier League win of the season at Watford on Saturday. Supporter frustration surrounding a lack of transfer business has built during the first two weeks of the season as Arsenal lost at home to Liverpool and was then held to a goalless result by champions Leicester City.
Two new signings now look to finally be on the way to address glaring needs in the squad. Spanish striker Lucas Pérez is expected to arrive for £17 million from Deportivo La Coruna, while center-back Shokdran Mustafi is set to sign for a fee of £35 million from Valencia. And the usually cautious Arsene Wenger spoke with optimism about the moves on Friday.
“We are working on the deals,” he said ahead of the visit to Vicarage Road. “We are not close enough to announce today that they will sign for us. And will we sign anybody before the end of the transfer window? I am 99 percent confident.”
Arsenal’s need in defense is most severe, with Per Mertesacker out until at least December and Gabriel still facing several more weeks on the sidelines. For Saturday, though, Wenger will again likely start with Rob Holding, the 20-year-old who joined from Bolton Wanderers in the summer.
At the other end of the pitch, Wenger could again be without striker Olivier Giroud. The France international returned to training late following Euro 2016 and only made his first appearance of the season after coming off the bench for the final 12 minutes against Leicester last Saturday. But Wenger said on Friday that he was “still a little fraction behind physically.”
Wenger did suggest that Mesut Ozil could make his first start of the season. And the Arsenal manager has stressed that, while talk surrounding the club has been dominated by transfer activity, or lack of it, it is now vital that the club avoids falling further behind the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea, who have all taken maximum points from their first two games.
“We need a first win after our game at Leicester,” he said. “We know the priority is to get results and win your next game, especially as we have shot ourselves in our foot, so we have to respond very quickly because when you look at the other teams they’ve got points.”
Arsenal took maximum points from Watford on the Hertfordshire club’s first season back in the Premier League last season, although Watford did triumph at the Emirates in the FA Cup. But there have again been big changes at Watford over the close season.
As well as new manager Walter Mazzarri, eight new signings have arrived, including three just this past week. Midfielder Roberto Pereyra, from Juventus, former Sunderland defender Younes Kaboul and most recently right-back Daryl Janmaat from Newcastle have all now joined up with the squad. However, Mazzarri wouldn’t confirm how many, if any, of that trio would feature against Arsenal.
“I need to evaluate the new signings,” he said. “They have just arrived and I need to be sure they know what they need to do. And I want to start from the good things we did against Chelsea. It’s nearly impossible that all three will start.”
Watford has taken the lead in both of its Premier League game so far this season, but ended up coming away with just a single point at Southampton and no points from last week’s visit of Chelsea.
Prediction: There may be some initial difficulty for Arsenal in coming up against Mazzarri’s three-man backline, a formation that is now far from common in the Premier League. Wenger’s big selection decision is, given that Ozil returns to the side, whether Santi Cazorla drops back into the central midfield two and breaks up the more physical partnership of Granit Xhaka and Francis Coquelin. With Watford having three men in the midfield, it could be difficult for Arsenal to make inroads through the center. But Wenger’s side could exploit Watford’s wing-backs out wide, particularly in behind the defensively suspect Nordin Amrabat. That could help Arsenal pick up its first win of the campaign.
Predicted Score: Watford 1-2 Manchester United
Kickoff Time: 10 a.m. EDT
TV Channel: Premier League Extra Time
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra