In Arsenal’s last 13 Premier League season openers, they’ve won just six. They’ve lost four, drawn three and conceded 18 times, while only finding the net 21 times by comparison.
That might not seem too bad, but there are years in there where they genuinely felt they could contend for the title.
In fact, the only game in that run where Arsenal managed to win by more than a single goal came in a 6-1 thrashing of Everton back in 2009, accounting for over a quarter of their opening day goals since the 2007/08 campaign.
Concern? You could call it that. But the overriding point I’m trying to make is that they do not do it the easy way. At least not like they used to, and that trend where Arsenal start slowly and become the best team in England come January never really balanced out.
They went from starting slowly and finishing strong to starting slowly and finishing slowly. But the optimism around Mikel Arteta and his vision adds more a stable reliance than perhaps at any stage in the last decade.
Is the season opener going to be a statement from the Gunners, or a reminder that, despite how much things change, they will, ultimately, always stay the same?
Here’s your three best bets.
We’ve read this script countless times. Arsenal end up going a goal down to a set-piece and the heads drop. It’s a story as old as the hills, and in the seasons prior, their reaction to these moments have foreshadowed what’s to come for the remainder of the campaign.
In this particular encounter, I feel the soft underbelly of Fulham and perhaps a touch of naivety might play into Arsenal’s hands as ParkerBall tries to turn the south London outfit into an expansive project.
Do you know who were an expansive project? Bournemouth. Let’s not be too keen to repeat their exploits, Scotty my boy.
Arsenal will finally be effective on the break from both flanks thanks to the shrewd signing of Willian.
The Brazilian has spent the last number of years landing plaudits for his set pieces and ability to cut inside, but no player in the last decade has been more suited to being the following runner after a breakaway in the opposite half.
While Aubameyang may have felt his pace often left him short when it came to the final pass that he could just square across the box, he now has it through Willian, and let me tell you as good a player as Kenny Tete is, he does like a tackle. If he’s caught out of position, then expect him to drag the veteran winger to the ground.
Speak of the devil – Willian is the most likely goalscorer on this occasion, as Fulham surely shift defensive focus over to Aubameyang’s base position.
Willian is probably going to take up free-kick duties, giving Arsenal their best set-piece taker since Thierry Henry. That’s a lot of involvement and should be worth a small investment as a side bet.
Fulham v Arsenal best bets
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