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Gunners seem short of weapons

In a match between seventh and eighth, the lack of firepower tips odds against Arsenal

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 November, 2012, 3:04am

Another week, another big-six clash in the English Premier League , even if Arsenal and Tottenham find themselves outside the actual top six.

Tottenham are seventh and Arsenal a point behind in eighth spot, which emphasises how close this match is to call. Both attacks have scored 18 goals, although Arsenal's defence is better on paper (11 goals conceded against Tottenham's 16). Nor is there much between the two sides on form, with Tottenham having nine points from their past six games, while Arsenal have seven.

One angle for punters is over 2.5 goals, which has now come up in eight of the 11 showdowns between big-six clubs this season. Of the past 17 meetings between the north London rivals, 13 have had over 2.5 goals, while Tottenham have had seven out of 11 over 2.5 goals this season, so several factors point to another goal-fest.

Arsenal, strangely, have failed to score in three of their 11 league games, which suggests they are the more likely team to drag down the scoring. The problem for Arsene Wenger is that his side can no longer outscore teams on a regular basis, which is clear from a record of just four wins in 11 league games.

West Ham are the only team of any note beaten by Arsenal in the Premier League this season and it seems a long time since clean sheets in their opening three games encouraged the early view that Steve Bould, Wenger's assistant, had instilled better defensive organisation.

Arsenal have managed only one clean sheet since, in a drab 1-0 at home to bottom club QPR, and their alarming defensive frailty was exposed again last weekend when Fulham fought back from 2-0 down to force a 3-3 at the Emirates Stadium.

Tottenham's attacking prowess suggests they can cause Arsenal problems, having gradually found their feet under new manager Andre Villas-Boas. They scored three goals against Manchester United, two against Chelsea and one against Manchester City in their three big-six games this season, and on form today's game is an easier task.

Arsenal once had a clear upper hand over their local rivals but that is no longer the case (only two wins in the past 11 meetings) and at the odds Tottenham are the handicap pick.

According to the league table, the biggest match of the weekend is fifth-placed West Brom at home to Chelsea, who are third.

West Brom will have the confidence to give it their best shot, knowing defeat cannot seriously harm them with 20 points already on the board, and a big-odds victory is not out of the question.

Their form turnaround, which dates back to February when Roy Hodgson was still in charge, includes a 1-0 win over Chelsea in March that proved to be Villas-Boas' last game in charge of the London side.

West Brom have won nine of their past 13 home league games and the three teams who have beaten them - Newcastle and Arsenal last season and Manchester City this season - have all had to score at least two goals. Chelsea are capable of that, but are a big risk at the odds.

On a weekend with no standout bet in the Premier League, the ones to consider are Fulham, Newcastle and West Ham for home wins.

Fulham have been stopped only by Manchester City, Chelsea and Everton in their past nine league home games and Sunderland, while possibly open to plenty of improvement, are winless in six away games with only four goals scored.

Newcastle, despite last week's loss against West Ham, have a strong chance at home to Swansea, while the Hammers themselves can continue their good home form with victory over poor travellers Stoke on Monday night.

All of the top four won at Norwich last season and Manchester United (2-1 winners last season) should continue that record. Manchester City should beat Aston Villa, although there is little edge for punters.

Everton are priced up like a top-four team for their visit to Reading, which looks a little premature given their high number of draws (seven in their past 10 away games despite the upward curve of their form).

Liverpool, likewise, are a risk at short odds in their home game against Wigan. Liverpool have won only seven of their 25 home league games since the start of last season and Wigan won 2-1 at Anfield in March (as well as drawing 0-0 at home).



1 Fulham home win Home record against non-elite teams is hard to fault

2 West Ham home win Have the skill and muscle to beat Stoke

3 Doncaster on handicap Excellent away team can beat crisis-torn Portsmouth

4 Malaga on handicap Solid chance at bottom club Osasuna Atletico

5 Madrid away win Have won all five against bottom-half teams



Fulham, Newcastle, West Ham, Doncaster, Notts County, Malaga, Atletico Madrid.



TODAY (11pm unless stated): Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur (8:45pm), Liverpool v Wigan Athletic, Manchester City v Aston Villa, Newcastle United v Swansea City, Queens Park Rangers v Southampton, Reading v Everton, West Bromwich Albion v Chelsea, Norwich City v Manchester United (1:30am, Sun).

TOMORROW: Fulham v Sunderland (midnight).

MONDAY: West Ham United v Stoke City (4am, Tues).