Arsenal couldn’t have picked a better opponent for the opening day if you’re a believer of head-to-head records as the Gunners have won the last nine Premier League meetings between the teams. Arsenal have enjoyed an excellent pre-season, lifting the Community Shield last weekend, and they start the campaign with greater expectations than for several years. West Ham, meanwhile, have already faced six Europa League matches as well as a number of friendlies so should be one of the sharpest teams in the league during the opening weeks.
The Hammers form tailed off badly in the second half of last season as they failed to win any of their last 12 away games whilst scoring just five times – though they did travel to seven of the top eight finishers in that time. They’ve made some fine signings this summer but with Enner Valencia and Andy Carroll injured they remain short of options in attack and it’s hard to see them troubling the home defence too often. In the past three seasons, West Ham have lost 15 of their 18 trips to top-six finishers with nine defeats to nil, 11 by at least two clear goals and including six 2-0 scores.
Arsenal’s last nine home wins have been after leading at half-time and they haven’t conceded a first-half goal in their last 15 home games. Defensively they looked increasingly solid in the second half of last season and with Petr Cech now in goal they should improve on their 50% clean sheet record at home over the last two campaigns.
Slaven Bilic has a reputation as an under-goals manager from his time in Turkey and as manager of Croatia. With their problems in attack West Ham will most likely set up defensively here to try and avoid defeat. However, while they may be able to frustrate Arsenal for a while, particularly with Alexis Sanchez set to miss out, they look unlikely to be able to stop them for a whole 90 minutes and the Arsenal Win to Nil at 42/41 looks the way to go.
Stoke v Liverpool, Sun 16:00
Stoke will have been looking forward to this game ever since the fixtures were announced having thrashed Liverpool 6-1 here on the final day of last season. In fact the Potters have beaten Liverpool here in four of the past five seasons and three of the wins were by more than one goal.
The Britannia has always had a reputation as a tough place to go and that has very much been the case during Mark Hughes’ two seasons in charge, with Stoke winning 53% of their home games including wins over 15 of the 16 teams to be in the league both years (Man City are the only side not to have lost here). Furthermore, Stoke have won half their home games against top-half finishers in this time with just five defeats.
While Stoke have a reputation for over-achieving at home Liverpool have definitely under-performed on the road in recent years. They won five of their trips to the bottom seven last term but otherwise had a very poor record of W3-D3-L6 away with all six defeats by more than one goal. With the contrasting stats of the two teams it is impossible to ignore the price on the Stoke win at 3.50 and the 6.0 for Stoke/Stoke on the Half-Time/Full-Time market is also worth a punt.
For goals backers it’s worth noting that 10 of Stoke’s last 16 home games have had at least three goals as did seven of their nine home matches against top-half finishers last term. Hughes has developed a stylish team and they certainly won’t be afraid to attack here.
Liverpool should pose a greater attacking threat than last season themselves, with Jordan Ibe continuing to improve and Firmino, Benteke and Ings all offering excellent options up front. So both teams to score and over-goals all look good value while Stoke backers should consider the win and both teams to score market.