Unai Emery says he expects Watford to demand a lot from Arsenal on Monday as he goes head-to-head with former teammate Javi Gracia.
The two Spaniards played together for a year at Real Sociedad in the mid-90s and have stayed in touch ever since, crossing swords as managers on numerous occasions in La Liga.
The Hornets have enjoyed a solid campaign in the Premier League – they currently sit tenth in the table – and last weekend beat Wolves to reach the FA Cup final.
Given Arsenal’s poor form away from home, Emery knows his players have their work cut out if they’re to take the three points.
“I know Javi Gracia and above all his teams are very organised with a big commitment to helping each other,” he told his pre-game press conference.
“They are very difficult teams to battle because defensively they are very strong and this is now at Watford.
“They are a very organised team, with a big capacity offensively because they create a good movement and a good idea, a good style to take that.
“They are going to demand a lot from us on Monday but it is a good match and I appreciate it a lot, and I want to play matches against Javi Gracia and Watford because I think they are doing a big season.”
Emery also faces a reunion with Gerard Deulofeu, a player he had on loan at Sevilla. The 25-year-old midfielder grabbed the headlines on Sunday when he came off the bench to bag a brace.
Given his form, he’s likely to be a big threat for the home side and he may well have a point to prove; Emery once called into question his ‘maturity and capability for sacrifice’.
“He is playing also now very well,” said Emery. “He made the difference last week against Wolves in the FA Cup semi-final, with an amazing two goals.
“I like this player a lot. I think Javi Gracia is doing big work with him and he is showing now a big performance and also I think Watford supporters are enjoying him.
“He played at Milan, he played at Barcelona, he played at Sevilla, he needs his process also and he is finding a good team, a good atmosphere, a good coach with him [who is] developing him. His career continues in this process to improve and to grow up.”