It wasn’t the best of starts for us last week for some English Premier League soccer action, but what a thrilling week nonetheless. For those who critique soccer on its boring, slow-pace, with few goals – the EPL’s Week One did not align with those beliefs! The English domestic league is a fast-paced and physical style, with goals and upsets proving to be the norm over the past few years. It remains one of the most exciting soccer leagues worldwide, and here’s hoping that Week 2 will be no different – except for more profits!
Crystal Palace was dismal last week – getting shut out to newly promoted Huddersfield. They’re now without Wilfried Zaha for a month, and suddenly my dark horses for EPL success in 2017-2018 may be facing yet another relagation fight. Luckily, the week was salvaged with a 1-1 record when the bonus selection of Everton easily disposed of Stoke City at home. They continue to be a team to watch, and will face a stern test on Monday when they take on Manchester City.
Onto this week however, where our featured Saturday match-up focuses on the much-maligned Gunners of Arsenal as they travel to Stoke City. Arsenal is wildly inconsistent, but there’s no doubting their talent. They played a thrilling opener last Friday vs. Leicester City, coming back to win 4-3. They are skilled and lethal going forward, but questions remain about their defense and structure.
For Stoke, they lack key pieces all over the pitch. Their performance last week was uninspiring, and after selling off a lot of their more talented individuals they remain heavily goal-challenged. Will a visit from the Gunners bring out their best on Saturday? Read on below for a game analysis and prediction for Stoke and Arsenal.
Stoke City vs. Arsenal Betting Odds:
Stoke City (+345)
Over 2.5 (-125)
Under 2.5 (+105)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Stoke City vs. Arsenal Pick:
Arsenal has a history of struggling in these types of fixtures. The ones where they’re expected to win, but find it difficult to make a breakthrough against a peskier opponent. Sure, they remain a skilled and talented group, but after displaying some horrid deficiencies last week to Leicester, questions remain.
Luckily for Arsene Wenger’s side, Stoke City are in disarray at the moment – seemingly having nothing to offer by way of offense. Calls for manager Mark Hughes’ job have been going on for some time now, and a slow start from Stoke could end up having him relieved of duties.
One huge bright spot for Arsenal on day one, was the play of their newly signed French striker Alexandre Lacazette. The speedy youngster was electric on the pitch, and Leicester had no answers for him every time he touched the ball. He seemed to fit in quite well with what Wenger wanted from his side, and the chemistry and pace was there in just his first showing with a new team. He’s only going to get better and that is bad news for Stoke.
Arsenal will likely still be without prominent scorer in Alexis Sanchez. Even though transfer rumours swirl, it seems like he will stay with the Gunners – for now. Stoke will be debuting the talented Jese Rodriguez, the former Real Madrid striker, currently on loan from Paris-St. Germain. He oozes skill but just hasn’t been able to put it together. Though hopes are high, don’t count on all that much in just his first-ever Premier League showing.
While I think Stoke will show improvements from last week – it won’t be enough against a powerful Arsenal side. The Potters lack skill going forward, and their creaky back-line isn’t strong enough to hold off a French onslaught of Lacazette and Giroud for 90 minutes. Expect both teams to score in a thrilling affair, but the flair, creativity, and skill of the Gunners will simply be too much. Look for a 2-1 or 3-1 scoreline in favour of Arsenal.
PICK = Arsenal (-120)
Bonus Pick – Leicester City (-135) to win vs. Brighton & Hove Albion
The champs of 2015-2016 looked very solid in long stretches in Week 1, but it just wasn’t enough on the road against a formidable Arsenal side. The Foxes though sent a message that their attacking flair and skill are back and that big things are expected from them in this year’s Premier League. Last year the squad was stretched thin in having to play a slew of extra Champions League matches. While this season, their main and sole focus is surely the Premier League.
Expect the link-play from Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy to once again be in fine form against an overmatched Brighton back-line. And surely nobody can match the pace of the ‘Vardy Party’. Brighton showed very little last week – basically rolling over for Manchester City, and with an average back-line and little to no attacking threat, look for the Foxes to get on the board with three easy points on Saturday.
Enjoy Gameweek Two of the English Premier League! We’ll be back for more featured articles for Sunday & Monday’s matches.