Watford vs ArsenalEnglish Premier League, KO: 16:30 Sep 15, 2019, Vicarage Road
Less than four months ago Gracia led the Hornets out at Wembley to contest the FA Cup final, however a miserable run of three league wins from 15 – two of which came against relegated Huddersfield and Fulham – and a solitary point from four Premier League outings this season is perhaps why the Watford hierarchy felt there was a need for change.
Watford chairman Gino Pozzo has now pulled the trigger on five managers since Watford returned to the top-flight in 2015, so opting to re-appoint one of those victims, namely, Quique Sanches Flores as Gracia's successor has raised plenty of eyebrows.
Sanchez Flores was binned by Watford back in 2016 and was then subsequently sent packing by Espanyol in 2018, before leaving Chinese Super Club Shanghai Shenhua in July of this year.
Now back for a second stint in the Hornets hot-seat, Sanchez Flores' homecoming at rock-bottom Watford comes against an Arsenal team who have been as erratic as ever in the opening four rounds of fixtures.
True to tradition the Gunners have taken care of the league's lesser sides, yet have been left found wanting when going toe-to-toe with the heavyweights of division – taking just one point from recent tussles with Liverpool and Tottenham.
The Arsenal faithful were thrilled to see Unai Emery finally unleash the trio of Alexandre Lacazette, Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the north-London derby, however using all three at Vicarage Road won't be an option as Laczette is ruled out with an ankle injury.
Consequently, Aubameyang can be expected to be redeployed into his more natural centre-forward role after playing off the left-wing for the most part against Spurs.
Only Liverpool have locked out the Gunners hitman this season and after firing in his 44th goal in 65 appearances for Arsenal at the Emirates a fortnight ago I'll be having a flutter on Aubemyang to add to his astronomical goal-scoring record this weekend against Watford.
The prolific Gabonese striker grabbed the only goal of the game in this fixture last term and he is 15/4 (Bet 365) to repeat the feat of scoring first, however i'm more attracted to the 6/5 (Ladbrokes) that is available in the anytime goalscorer market on account of both sides shaky defences.
The home team are odds-against at 13/5 (William Hill) to make it a dream return to the Watford dugout for Sanchez Flores and the draw can be backed at the same price at 13/5 (PaddyPower) if you fancy the hosts to put their first home point of the season on the board.
The Hornets playing squad will almost certainly be out to impress their new boss and that could lead to a busy afternoon for card-happy referee Anthony Taylor.
Taylor flashed seven cards two Sundays ago, one of which was red, meaning that he has now dished out 17 cards in four top-flight matches this season – an average of 4.25 per- game.
There are several candidates to consider for this clash, and although Gunners hot-head Granit Xhaka appeals at 10/3 (Bet 365), I feel that better value could lie with Watford midfielder Etienne Capoue.
The former Spurs man is a frequent recipient of cards – he equalled the all-time Premier League yellow card record last season with a whopping 14 – and he is rarely as high as 3/1 (Betfred) to have his name taken.
Sanchez Flores will be hoping that some tenacity from his side can help tighten up a defence that has failed to keep a clean-sheet thus far – something their opponents Arsenal have only managed once.
Furthermore, Arsenal only recorded one shut-out on the road last season and that coupled with their firepower at the other end of the park points towards goals at Vicarage Road – which is reflected in the nominal 4/9 (BetVictor) on offer for both teams to find the back of the net.
Arsenal are tempting at 21/20 (BetVictor) to triumph, as is the more lucrative option of backing an away win with both teams scoring at 12/5 (Bet 365), yet I remain conscious of the Gunners bad bout of travel sickness from last season.
What's more, I wouldn't be surprised to see Sanchez Flores' presence generate the famed new manager bounce effect and as such Watford on the double chance also appeals at 5/6 (Unibet)
However, for the reasons mentioned above it may be a more shrewd move to consider combining both teams to score and over 2.5 goals at 4/5 (Bet 365) – a combination that would have delivered profit from Arsenal's last three fixtures.
This English Premier League match between Watford and Arsenal will be played on Sep 15, 2019 and kick off at 16:30