Mark O'Haire: "This Game Feels Much More Like A Pick ‘em To Me At The Emirates"

12 min

Mark O’Haire has a trio of Premier League bets for the weekend.

Home Comforts To Continue For The Gunners?

Arsenal received plenty of deserved criticism for their defeat at West Ham last weekend. The Gunners rarely looked like finding a way back into that encounter at the London Stadium after falling behind, but a return to their fortress Emirates base and a meeting with capital rivals Chelsea should ignite a reaction on Saturday evening.

Manchester United’s recent resurgence means there’s extra importance on this contest with a top-four finish the number one aim of all three clubs between now and May. Chelsea currently hold onto the final berth, sitting six points ahead of both the Gunners and United coming into this weekend’s showdown. The pressure is on!

Wretched road results and ponderous performances on their travels have dogged Arsenal over the past few seasons.

However, the Gunners tend to excel when appearing at The Emirates, and although I understand the prices ahead of Saturday’s tussle, I feel like the market may have underestimated Unai Emery’s outfit.

The current odds imply Arsenal have just a 32% chance of success, with Chelsea’s price suggesting they boast a 42% chance of triumphing. Whilst those probabilities are driven by performance data, this game feels much more like a pick ‘em, to me, at The Emirates and therefore I’m happy to keep the hosts onside.

Sure, it’s been well documented that Arsenal have overperformed their figures fairly significantly this season, and my ratings rank Chelsea as the third best team in the division. Nevertheless, the Gunners have a knack of producing when welcoming Premier League teams to their North London base, and their quality in forward areas deserves respect.

Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea have excelled against clubs in the bottom half but have been average against the top guns.

Arsenal are W8-D2-L0 here since losing their first game of the season to Man City – that sample includes a thrilling victory over Spurs, as well as holding Liverpool to a deserved draw. And despite finishing fifth and sixth in their last two terms, the Gunners have lost just four of 13 matches when hosting Big Six clubs, scoring at least twice on eight occasions.

Chelsea have tended to be flat-track bullies since Maurizio Sarri took charge, claiming W11-D1-L1 against bottom-half clubs.

But the Blues have managed only W3-D4-L2 against the top-half, even though six of those nine matches took place at Stamford Bridge with their lack of a top-class striker potentially proving decisive.

With Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud failing to fire, Edin Hazard is tasked with both the creativity and goalscoring burden, giving Arsenal the upper hand in the final third. What’s more, Chelsea’s defence has also proven a little problematic in recent weeks as they’ve only managed to silence Crystal Palace on the road since October.

I wouldn’t be too surprised to see these two teams play out an enjoyable draw but at the odds on offer, I want Arsenal onside with the 1.88 available on a +0.25 start an appealing poke for Saturday’s standout showdown.

Goals + Bournemouth = Winning Bets

Nine defeats in 12 have seen Eddie Howe and Bournemouth come in for some unwarranted criticism. Half of those fixtures were against Big Six opposition and the Cherries have also faced Watford, Wolves and Everton in that sample so it’s probably fair to say the south coast club are actually probably hitting par with their results.

Ask any Bournemouth supporter and to be nine points clear of the relegation zone and only three points adrift of Everton at this stage and they would consider it a success, so it’s unfair to view the Cherries campaign with such short-termism.

Anyhow, Saturday’s meeting with West Ham gives us the hosts a decent opportunity to get more points on the board. These two teams are well matched in the performance data metrics, and Expected Points has Bournemouth ranked above the Hammers thus far, so a home success wouldn’t be a major surprise this weekend.

Instead of supporting a home win, I’m returning to an old favourite fancy – goals in Bournemouth matches.

The hosts have leaked 26 goals in their last 10 games, recording only five clean sheets in 22 across the whole campaign. go back further and the Cherries have shutout just seven of their past 47 opponents, leaking an average of 1.72 goals-per-game since the start of last season.

Overs and Bournemouth go hand in hand like gravy on mash!

Howe hasn’t managed to find a way to tighten up his troops at the back, but he still employs an enjoyable, attacking approach in possession. At Dean Court only Liverpool and Southampton have stopped Bournemouth scoring this term as they’ve notched at least twice in seven of their 11 outings here. Those matches have averaged 3.11 Expected Goals in total, which is just below the 3.27 goals-per-game average.

Overall, 16 of Bournemouth’s 22 games have featured at least three goals and considering the last 7 meetings with West Ham have produced 28 goals, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest another high-scoring game could be on the cards.

Marko Arnautovic is still with West Ham, Samir Nasri was excellent on his debut last weekend and Felipe Anderson has really impressed since joining in the summer.

The visitors have scored at least twice in half of their last 18 Premier League games and so I’ve no concerns surrounding their ability to hurt Bournemouth when going forward.

However, the Londoners’ only away clean sheets came at Newcastle and Fulham and the Hammers are giving up 1.65 Expected Goals per-game away, which is the second-worst figure in the division despite Manuel Pellegrini’s men only facing two of the Big Six on their travels this term.

Both Bournemouth and West Ham are giving up 1.11 Expected Goals from open play per-game – only Fulham and Burnley are giving up more – and their collective games are averaging 3.07 goals-per-game, so I’ll happily take Over 2.75 Goals at 1.83. This could be a case of dodgy defences and exciting attacks combining for a very watchable affair.

Snoozefest On Tyneside?

I’m not going to delve too deep on this encounter as it’s a prime candidate to be last on Match of the Day this Saturday night. It’s too easy to snap up the 1.83 available on Under 2.25 Goals when these two struggles collide on Tyneside.

If we look at the duos collective matches against bottom-seven rivals, Newcastle and Cardiff have combined to deliver 0-0 draws in 8/13 matches – that’s 62%!

A further two fixtures ended 1-0, so you’re looking at 10/13 games finishing with a maximum of one goal – that’s a 77% strike rate for Under 1.5 Goals backers.

Unsurprisingly Rafa Benitez’s side have been a solid bet on Unders this season.

Both teams are lacking star quality in forward areas, the two clubs tend to be built from the back, priding themselves on organisation and hard work. They’ve combined to score just 13 goals in 21 collective home/away games and the gravity of this game should ensure neither team will want to lose.

Recommended Bets

  • Arsenal v Chelsea – Arsenal +0.25 Asian Handicap (1.88)
  • Bournemouth v West Ham – Over 2.75 Goals (1.83)
  • Newcastle v Cardiff – Under 2.25 Goals (1.83)