Robin van Persie got the north London side out of jail last season although the Dutchman is no longer around to pinch the three points and there’s real pressure on the players to get a win from their weekend match against West Brom.
Meanwhile, there are lots of potential relegation tussles, with Harry Redknapp still looking for his first win with QPR after successive draws and a trip to Wigan might not be pretty. The same applies when Southampton and Reading meet at St Mary’s.
Arsenal v West Brom 15.00
Arsene Wenger claimed during the week that it’s fashionable to criticise Arsenal although it’s not just people from the outside who are finding fault with this current Gunners team. Many supporters are now wondering if the Frenchman’s time with the north London club has run its cause, especially after a listless performance against Swansea last weekend which saw them lose 2-0.
Victory is imperative on Saturday and the best price about this happening is 1/2 (William Hill free bets), although whether punters trust Arsenal enough to part with their money at this price is open to question.
The home side have won just three of their seven games at the Emirates this season and that 5-2 win against Spurs in the north London derby occurred principally because of Emmanuel Adebayor’s rash challenge, although Wenger did rest his star players during the week.
Perhaps Lukas Podolski can provide some cut and thrust against the Baggies, with Coral offering 6/1 that the German opens the scoring, while Theo Walcott has been finding the net lately and is on offer at 11/2 (Paddy Power bookmaker).
As for West Brom, they were going very nicely until back-to-back defeats against Swansea and Stoke City, although Steve Clarke’s team are still five points better off than their opponents and might be playing this fixture at a good time. Bet365 offer 13/2 about an Albion victory and it could be worth a bet on the visitors with some kind of handicap or even on the Draw No Bet market.
Aston Villa v Stoke City 15.00
It was only a few seasons ago when the Potters would have been massive underdogs for this fixture, although while Stoke have become a permanent fixture in the Premier League, the Villans have gone backwards under a string of managers since Martin O’Neill and continue to sit just above the relegation zone.
A victory against Reading and a point at QPR keeps the ship fairly steady for Paul Lambert’s team although the Scot would love to get some breathing space and you can get 6/4 (Blue Square free bets) about Aston Villa winning this Midlands derby against a team who are building up a head of steam themselves.
What we know about Villa at home is that they are usually defensively sound as was the case when drawing 0-0 with Arsenal recently. While Darren Bent is out of favour, Christian Benteke is an 11/2 chance to score first and Tony Pulis would probably like a robust player like him on the books at the Britannia.
City don’t score a lot on the road although they needed just the one to defeat West Brom at The Hawthorns last weekend and will be plotting a similar game plan for this encounter, with Sky Bet offering a tempting 23/10 that the Potters celebrate their third win on the bounce.
Goals are sure to be at a premium in this game and the 4/6 about two goals or less should probably be snapped up with both teams looking to keep things tight and try to nick a goal from a set piece.
Southampton v Reading 15.00
This was a Championship fixture last season and both teams have their work cut out if they are to avoid relegation from the Premier League this term. Reading have managed just one win despite taking the lead on numerous occasions and Brian McDermott would be tearing his hair out if he had any left!
This was a fixture that the Royals won last season and how the visitors would love to return home with a maximum haul that would see them leapfrog their opponents in the table. There was plenty to like about the way they attacked Manchester United last weekend and odds of 16/5 (Betfred free bets) look big about the away win.
Adam Le Fondre was playing for League Two Rotherham not so long ago, although the forward is now starting to score regularly in the top flight and has three goals in his last four games, with odds of 9/1 (Paddy Power) on offer that Alf breaks the deadlock in this game.
Southampton were enjoying a mini-revival until last weekend’s trip to Anfield and a 1-0 defeat was about the best they could have hoped for considering Liverpool had enough chances to win by several goals.
Even so, the Saints beat Newcastle recently at St Mary’s and this match represents an opportunity for Nigel Adkins’ men to establish a six-point gap between themselves and Reading in the table, with the bookies offering even money (BetVictor) that this happens.
25 goals have been scored at St Mary’s already this season and there’s every reason to think that both teams will score in this match, with Reading capable of doing their usual trick of taking the lead before letting it slip. A 2-2 scoreline is a 14/1 poke and a 3-2 win for Southampton can be backed at 28/1 (Stan James).
Sunderland v Chelsea 15.00
Rafael Benitez broke his duck as Chelsea manager during the week although the Spaniard remains unpopular with sections of the Stamford Bridge supporters and the visiting fans at Upton Park last week even started rebelling against Roman Abramovich.
Chelsea are right off the Premier League title pace with Manchester United ten points clear after 15 games played and nothing less than victory at the Stadium of Light will suffice if the London club are to challenge for honours this season. Coral offer a best price 5/6 that the visitors claim the three points and make life even tougher for Martin O’Neill.
Last Sunday’s 2-1 defeat at Norwich saw the Wearside team serve up a lacklustre first-half display before threatening an equaliser and the manager will hope to hit the ground running in this game, although the bookies are prepared to offer 4/1 (Betfred bookmaker) about a home win.
Scoring goals have been a problem at the Stadium of Light with just five bagged in the six matches played to date, although a tight defence could end up seeing this match finish goalless and No Goalscorer could be a decent shout at 11/1, despite the fact that Chelsea put six past their Danish opponents on Wednesday night.
Benitez will certainly be looking to avoid a repeat of last weekend’s match at Upton Park where the defence crumbled in the second half and we could see a return to defensively stout ways in a low-scoring encounter.
Swansea City v Norwich City 15.00
Defeats against Aston Villa, Everton and Stoke in September suggested that the Swansea bubble had burst after a promising start, although Michael Laudrup’s team have recently embarked on a seven-match unbeaten run and could go fourth in the Premier League table with a victory on Saturday afternoon.
The Swans are full of confidence after consecutive victories against West Brom and Arsenal, with the bookies going odds-on across the board about the Welsh side beating Norwich in front of their own supporters and the best price is currently 20/23 (BetVictor free bets).
Perhaps it’s decent value about a team that claimed a late win at the Emirates thanks to a brace from Michu and the Spaniard has been a brilliant signing for the Swans, helping them to firmly put the Brendan Rodgers regime behind City and focus on being even better under Laudrup.
The former Rayo Vallecano midfielder is the 11/2 favourite to score the first goal of the game and is now being deployed as a forward, with Wayne Routledge potentially offering more value as the winger gets into plenty of scoring positions for his team.
As for Norwich City, they are going very nicely under Chris Hughton who looked to be struggling in the early part of the season but has swiftly set about the task of making the Canaries hard to beat and they can boast a similar unbeaten record.
The visitors seem intent on drawing their away games with a defensive strategy and then landing all three points at home with more attacking intent and BetVictor go 15/4 about them winning the match and 13/5 that this one ends all square.
Wigan v QPR 15.00
While the likes of West Ham were jetting over to Dublin for a Christmas knees-up, the Queens Park Rangers squad have been told in no uncertain terms that their annual festive party has been cancelled on account of the club’s rock bottom status in the Premier League.
Harry Redknapp is not known as a disciplinarian but he made it clear to his inherited squad that they had underperformed to only have four points on the board after 13 games, although consecutive draws against Sunderland and Aston Villa mean that QPR are still seven points from safety and with a worse goal difference than any other team.
There’s still plenty of time to turn things around for the west London club who travel to the DW Stadium looking for their first win of the season and Redknapp will be encouraged that the Latics have lost four of their eight matches at home this season and conceded a total of 15 goals.
Perhaps this is where it all starts to come together for the visitors who are an 11/5 chance (Betfred bookmaker) to claim a valuable three points ahead of a hectic fixture schedule which will see Rangers play several of their relegation opponents.
As for Wigan, Roberto Martinez might be a touch concerned that they have lost four of their last five games and the only victory of that quintet was a 3-2 win against Reading which required a late Jordi Gomez winner.
However, the Latics haven’t scored in four of those last five matches and perhaps QPR can edge this by a solitary goal, with the odds on a 1-0 win looking reasonably tasty at 9/1.