With five winners from his last six selections, Adrian Clarke is a man in form!
It feels good to have picked up five wins from my last six selections, but this is not the time to ease up. We go again! I start my look ahead to the weekend with another Arsenal-related fancy…
GOAL-HUNGRY GUNNERS SHOULD HAVE TOO MUCH FOR LEEDS
Mikel Arteta’s burgeoning, ultra-confident side made it 11 wins from 12 with an instantly forgettable 1-0 success in Norway on Thursday night, and the next stop for Arsenal’s fun bus takes them to Elland Road.
It’s a ground they like.
They battered Leeds 4-1 away from home last season, and the eye test tells you they are definitely playing well enough to repeat the trick on Sunday.
Marcelo Bielsa’s kamikaze man-to-man marking system won’t provide the Gunners with as much space this time, but once they get to grips with Jesse Marsch’s full-pelt style of play, they should have enough class to win the game.
Gabriel Jesus had his feet up midweek and should return fully recharged.
Around him, the rest of the side picks itself on current form, with Messrs Saka, Martinelli, Odegaard and Xhaka all full to the brim with self-belief.
Leeds are not in especially good shape.
It feels a long time since they overpowered Chelsea 3-0 and beat Wolves 2-1 in front of their own fans. In fact, since then, they’ve lost to Brighton, Brentford and Crystal Palace and been embroiled in bore draws against Everton and Aston Villa.
Patrick Bamford’s return lifts them, but the hosts are priced up by Matchbook as 6.4 underdogs for a reason.
I can’t back Arteta’s men on the nose at 1.59, so it’s best to pair the table-topping Gunners with a goals angle.
Arsenal matches have averaged 3.67 goals this term, with Leeds games featuring 2.88.
We haven’t yet seen a contest at Elland Road with over three goals, but when you study both teams’ respective records in the Over 1.5 category, it’s far more reassuring.
In total, this season, 15 of their combined 17 fixtures have produced more than one goal.
Leaders Arsenal have scored in every match, and in eight of their nine Premier League runouts, they have eclipsed the 1.5 goal mark all on their own.
There’s no doubt that Marsch’s Leeds do not have as many obvious flaws as they did under the old regime, but defensively you still wouldn’t put your house on them to keep clean sheets.
Not against a Gunners side, that’s playing this well, this freely, and this free-scoring.
It has to be Arsenal and Over 1.5 goals at 1.82.
SPURS SHOULD FIND A WAY TO GRIND DOWN STUBBORN EVERTON
What happens when two counter-attacking teams that don’t want too much of the ball collide?
Often it’s a pretty tough watch, so I am not expecting a gung-ho classic when Tottenham Hotspur entertain Everton this weekend.
The Toffees are very comfortable soaking up pressure.
What new signings James Tarkowski and Conor Coady lack in pace, they more than make up for with smart defensive positioning and nous. And those two experienced central defenders are very much the leaders of Frank Lampard’s Everton side.
Clearing, heading, blocking; they’ve added genuine steel to a team that remarkably boasts the joint-best defensive record in the Premier League, with just nine goals conceded.
Six of Everton’s nine matches to date have featured two or less goals, and every single fixture has dipped below the under 3.5 goals mark. They know how to keep things tight.
There is a grit and organisation about them, which makes the Merseysiders tough to break down.
That’s a necessity for Lampard, who is struggling to unlock regular goals at the other end of the pitch.
Tottenham are an outstanding side, but so often this season, they have also been a boring side to watch.
Antonio Conte’s back three regularly morphs into a narrow back five, with two or three midfielders practically sitting on the centre backs’ toes.
They protect their 18-yard box exceptionally well before springing devastating counterattacks that release the likes of Son Heung-Min, Harry Kane and Richarlison.
In this match, they may not get lots of opportunities to do that. Instead, they will have to probe patiently inside the final third, which isn’t something Conte especially enjoys.
Ultimately, Spurs are a significantly better team than Everton – and they have home advantage – so I can’t back against them here.
They have scored in every game so far, and no matter how well Pickford, Tarkowski and Coady play (all have been brilliant this season), Tottenham should continue that run.
The Toffees have only scored more than one goal on just a single occasion, so it’s unlikely we see them notch two in this clash.
Add in their resilience and Tottenham’s issues when they face packed defences, and what I come up with as an angle is a low-scoring home win.
I am tempted by Tottenham & Under 3.5 goals at 2.34 but will take the slightly more cautious route by backing Spurs & Under 4.5 instead.
This is available at 1.8 with Matchbook, and that’s the selection I recommend.
- Arsenal and Over 1.5 goals vs Leeds United (1.82)
- Tottenham & Under 4.5 goals vs Everton (1.81)