Mark O’Haire returns with two midweek selections for an intriguing slate of Premier League games.
Defensive Injury Crisis Will Not Thwart The Gunners On Tuesday Night
Arsenal exited the FA Cup on Friday night and have endured a degree of injury misfortune over the past fortnight. With Rob Holding already a long-term injury absentee, the Gunners have lost first-choice defenders Hector Bellerin, Laurent Koscielny and Sokratis Papastathopoulos in their most recent two outings.
It means Unai Emery’s only available centre-backs for their midweek match with Cardiff are Shkodran Mustafi and Konstantinos Mavropanos. With Mavropanos boasting relatively little senior football experience, Granit Xhaka could slot back into the heart of the backline here, whilst Nacho Monreal and Stephan Lichtsteiner have experienced at centre-back.
On the face of it, there are clearly issues to overcome for Arsenal here but in truth, I’m not hugely concerned by a potential back-four featuring Sead Kolasinac, Mustafi, Xhaka/Monreal and Ainsley Maitland-Niles. It’s certainly good enough to keep lowly Cardiff at bay on Tuesday night at The Emirates.
I’d expect the Gunners to persist with Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in attack and their ability in the final-third should prove decisive here. The hosts have won 9 of 12 Premier League encounters on home soil, with eight of those victories arriving by a two-goal margin – I’m happy to back a repeat at 1.76.
Since the start of 2016/17, Arsenal have W22-D1-L1 when welcoming bottom-half teams here – 16 of those matches resulted in the capital club running out victories by at least two goals. The North Londoners racked up at least two goals in all bar three of those 24 fixtures, and are returning 1.78 Expected Goals this season on home soil.
Cardiff’s listless 3-0 reverse at Newcastle saw the Bluebirds drop into the relegation zone and the promoted club have tended to toil when taking on the division’s big-hitters. The Welsh outfit have lost all six meetings with the Big Six by an aggregate 7-25, shipping at least three goals on six occasions.
Neil Warnock’s charges have been beaten in eight of their 11 away days in 2018/19, leaking three goals or more five times as they’ve also fired blanks in six of those 11 contests. Only Huddersfield (31%) rank lower in the away xG Premier League table than Cardiff (36%) and their weekend home showdown with Bournemouth is surely higher on the priority list.
Blues To Shine Down South
Bournemouth’s 2-0 victory at home to West Ham 11 days ago was unusually tame and timid.
The win propelled Eddie Howe’s men to within a point of the top-half although the Hammers’ came in for plenty of criticism for their dour performance that saw them land just a sole effort on-target.
The Cherries are bound to receive a much sterner examination on Wednesday evening when Chelsea pitch up on the south coast. The Blues booked their place in the EFL Cup final thanks to an impressive display against Spurs last midweek before swiping Sheffield Wednesday aside in the FA Cup on Sunday, keeping their hopes of three trophies alive.
Now Maurizio Sarri’s men will be keen to cement their position in the top-four with Arsenal and Manchester United in hot pursuit. Chelsea should be backed to deliver the goods at Dean Court with the Blues tending to produce the goods when posed with the Premier League’s lesser lights.
This season, Chelsea have W11-D3-L0 against clubs in 10th and below, collecting 19 points from a possible 21 on their travels against the same standard of opposition. The Blues have bagged two or more goals in 10 of those 14 encounters and conceded on just five occasions, making the 1.70 available to support on an away victory too good to ignore.
Bournemouth are notoriously poor when posed with Big Six opposition; the Cherries have returned W5-D4-L27 across their 36 Premier League games against the league’s elite, that includes W3-D2-L13 when hosting the Big Six.
Chelsea have won on each of their three trips to Dean Court and boast an 81% win rate at the bottom-half since the start of last season. The guests are enjoying a 65% share of xG on the road and convincingly rank third across a range of performance data metrics. What’s more, the Blues have been priced up shorter for visits to West Ham, Southampton, Wolves, Southampton and Watford this season.
- Arsenal -1.5 Asian Handicap (1.76)
- Chelsea to win (1.70)