Emery out? Of course not, unless you want to make lame jokes on Twitter every time Arsenal go behind this season. But the Gooners’ new gaffer was certainly out of luck when the fixture computer did its usual trick of stitching up whichever team you support.
Facing the two most recent champions in your first two matches would be bad enough anyway, but throw in Arsenal’s fairly abysmal record against both teams and Emery must really be cursing the gods of football.
It certainly looks like the Blues will prevail here if history is anything to go by. Arsenal may have picked up a 0-0 draw on their last league visit, but they lost the five prior to that by a 15-2 aggregate score line. In fact, with three sendings-off across those matches, the Gunners have picked up more red cards than goal celebrations in their last six league trips to Stamford Bridge. Ouch.
It’s no wonder the hosts are priced at 8/11 to win, with the draw 11/4 and an Arsenal win available at 16/5. Seeing as Chelsea weren’t great last year and have a new manager too, is there any value in that Arsenal price? What do you think?
The Wenger boys won just four times on the road last season, and their last league win at one of the big six was way back in January 2015.
Anything’s possible, I guess, but an Arsenal win on Saturday evening feels less likely than Arsene emerging victorious on Strictly Come Dancing this year. You heard it here first.
However, while a Chelsea win seems like a fairly safe bet, it’s not clear how many goals there will be in the match. Stamford Bridge saw the most Premier League games featuring at least three goals in 2016/17, but only six grounds saw fewer such matches last season. If any stat illustrates the transformation in Conte’s Chelsea from champions to chumps, this might be it.
The lack of goals in west London was particularly stark in the big matches last season. As well as the aforementioned bore draw with Arsenal, the three giants from the north-west either won or lost 1-0 on the Blues’ patch too. The exception to this absence of scoring was Chelsea’s 3-1 defeat to Spurs, which was their fifth defeat in seven league matches as the Conte era really unravelled.
And as much as Arsenal took some hidings last season, there have been fewer than three goals in four of their last ten league trips to other members of the big six. Chelsea’s Italian coach will be happy to keep the game tight (other national stereotypes are available on request), so I think I’ll be taking the 6/5 for there to be under 2.5 goals in this match. Paddy has odds of 13/8 for there to be over 2.5 goals, so he clearly disagrees with me.
But a lack of goals doesn’t automatically mean both teams won’t score, and that’s particularly true when the big boys clash. Over the last two seasons, 11 percent of Premier League matches ended in a 1-1 draw, but for games among the big six in the same period it was 23 percent.
Paddy will give you 6/1 if you think this match will end in a 1-1 tie, and it wouldn’t be the worst bet in the world. However, only the Uniteds of Manchester and Newcastle had fewer home games than Chelsea where both sides found the net in 2017/18.
With Arsenal being goal-shy on the road last year – none of their players scored more than three away goals in the league – I think the bet in the both teams to score market should be No. Nyet, eh, Roman? It’s yours at 5/4.
The Gunners’ lack of likely goal-grabbers is reflected in the goalscorer market, where even their most likely scorer is only priced as the sixth most likely overall. The man in question is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and as only five of his 23 league goals for Dortmund and Arsenal were away from home last season, it’s little surprise he’s priced at 13/8 to score at any time, or 6/1 to stop the plastic blue flags waving with the opener.
What is surprising is that Alvaro Morata is Paddy’s favourite, as the Spaniard has scored one league goal in 2018. The former Real Madrid man is evens to score, or 4/1 to get the first of the match. It’s not like he hasn’t had chances though; the nerdy stats suggest he should’ve scored four or five league goals this year, so the next one can’t be too far away.
The man in form, though, is Pedro.
Including pre-season he has scored three of Chelsea’s last six goals, and you can’t rely on the scorers of the other three – Rudiger, Kante and Jorginho – to weigh in with a goal either. With a potential exit for Hazard still a possibility, Pedro should definitely play, and he can be backed at 11/2 to score first, or the 7/4 for a goal at any time looks good to me.
Although Arsenal should test the world’s most expensive goalkeeper more than Huddersfield did last weekend, I reckon Kepa can keepa the Gunners at bay. Chelsea to win to nil is 12/5, and is my final tip of the week.
The ref is Martin Atkinson and the Blues have lost only two of 22 matches when he has been in charge, conceding a total of just eight goals along the way. Conspiracy theorist, me?