Chelsea V Arsenal
The Premier League’s sole remaining unbeaten teams will meet at Stamford Bridge on Sunday as Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger celebrates 18 years at the helm of the north London club. The Frenchman will be hoping for a more enjoyable trip to Chelsea than his last encounter – suffering a 6-0 thrashing as he celebrated his 1,000th game in charge. As impressive and consistent as Wenger’s record has been at Arsenal there is still a feeling that he has under-performed in the second half of his tenure, particularly against the bigger teams. The aforementioned result against Chelsea, the 8-2 loss to Manchester United, a 6-3 to Manchester City and a 5-1 defeat at Liverpool in recent seasons are simply unacceptable for a club of Arsenal’s stature. It appears as though Jose Mourinho has moulded the squad to his liking this season after a year of transition. The additions of Diego Costa and former Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas have transformed an already strong squad into one that should be challenging for all the major honours this season. The harmonious midfield partnership that Fabregas has forged with Nemanja Matic in midfield is something that Arsenal sorely lack this season and could be one of the key areas where Chelsea overpower their London rivals. Despite a morale-boosting victory over Galatasaray in midweek with a Danny Welbeck hat-trick to boot, there is simply no way Chelsea’s defence will be as accommodating as the Turkish side’s. Mourinho has never lost a competitive game against Wenger (W6, D5) and it is almost impossible to look past a Chelsea win here at odds of -135.
Jose Mourinho appears to have loosened the shackles on his players following his return to Chelsea last summer when compared to his first stint in charge. Whether it was his time at Real Madrid where the fans, club hierarchy and media insist on attractive play or simply an evolution in his footballing philosophy with age, it now seems rare to see the Portuguese manager shut up shop after going a goal up. Although the club were not as prolific as Liverpool or Manchester City last season that owed more to their lack of quality up front than anything else. The addition of Costa up front has added real potency to their side and Chelsea have scored seven more goals than any other in the division in their six games so far – including the best shots to goals conversion rate (26%) of any side.
Chelsea win (-135)
West Ham V QPR
Despite accepting plaudits for the more progressive style Sam Allardyce has adopted this season, West Ham have still had something of an inconsistent season so far. A draw with Hull was followed by a great win over Liverpool, but that was then slightly undermined by a defeat to Manchester United. That said, the Hammers were unlucky to not get at least something from the game at Old Trafford and are likely to be still full of confidence ahead of QPR’s visit to the Boleyn Ground. West Ham’s new signings have looked good, they don’t find it tough to score goals and if they can address some of the sloppiness that’s dogged them and cost them points, there’s no reason they can’t put Harry Redknapp’s men to the sword, and in some style. However, if they are to win on Sunday, they will need to do it without captain Mark Noble and new signing Cheikhou Kouyaté who will both miss out through injury. Andy Carroll and Joey O’Brien are still out long-term, but Matt Jarvis may make a return to the matchday squad.
Despite manager Harry Redknapp stating that QPR would ‘stay up this season, no problem’, the west Londoners are yet to show any sort of consistent form and have lost four of their six Premier League games so far. The only win to their name has come in the shape of a narrow 1-0 over Sunderland, and last time out they were beaten by Southampton. Starting the season with a fairly disastrous looking 3-5-2 formation in which several of the players didn’t really seem to know their roles, Redknapp has switched back to a more traditional 4-4-1-1 and his side now look slightly more solid. The problem is, it’s no good looking ‘slightly more solid’ if you’re still going to concede eight goals in your last three games and the Hoops are going to need to up their performance level to get a win at West Ham this weekend. Positives come in the shape of Niko Kranjcar, who has looked a creative threat since signing before the deadline, and Charlie Austin, who is threatening to find his scoring boots consistently. If those two hit their straps at Upton Park then West Ham could be in for a shock. But the Rs are going to need to tighten up in a big way if they want to record a positive result.
West Ham will go into this game a shade under odds-on. They currently trade at -105, and although at first glance that looks a trifle stingy, given their last performance at home and the level of opposition they face here that is actually a pretty good price. I feel like it’s difficult to make a case for any other outcome here, even a draw, unless the Hammers massively under-perform.
All of West Ham’s last four games and three of QPR’s have gone Overs, which currently trades at an odds-against price of +102. That should tell you all you need to know, trends and odds-wise, but there’s probably a bit more to steer you towards the Overs call.
– We know there’ll be chances created – no English player has created more chances since the start of the 2013-14 Premier League season than Stewart Downing, who was great against Liverpool.
– Diafra Sakho is in good goalscoring form, he’s scored in every start he’s made so far this season, so there should be someone there to finish those chances as well.
– Rangers can’t keep clean sheets to save their lives and Rio Ferdinand has looked a yard off the pace since he signed.
– West Ham haven’t kept a clean sheet all season.
That’s that, then.
West Ham win (-105)
Over 2.5 goals (+102)