With only one game on Sunday (a second city derby between Villa and West Brom) and one on Monday (QPR take on West Ham) thereís a strangely packed Saturday of Premier League games this weekend. Whilst each of them offers something of interest the pick of the bunch is between two of the undefeated teams and title contenders, Arsenal and Chelsea.
Both Chelsea and Arsenal dismissed lower league opposition in the Milk Cup / Rumbalows / Capital One / League Cup mid week but while those matches allowed squad players to stretch their legs (didnít even realise Arshavin was still at Arsenal) this match will see the return of many of the rested.
Arsenal have started very strongly this year, bemoaning the draws in the opening fixtures has given way to the realisation that one of their previous failings, conceding too many goals, seems to have been rectified. How much this is down to the Arsenal old guard now forming more of the backroom team is open to debate, but something useful is happening there. The result against Man City was acceptable although they might have hoped for more with the way City have been playing and conceding. But as that result followed on from a good thumping of Liverpool and a Southampton side that had troubled Utd greatly in their previous fixture and this Arsenal team looks like one that can mix with the big boys. Cazorla has hit the ground running and is looking like a player of genuine quality, goals for Podolski and even Gervinho have soften the blow of losing RVP (although anyone would miss last seasonís top scorer and the current seasonís top scorer). Now that Giroud has got his first to settle his nerves and Walcott adding a couple they have an inform strike force instead of the single scorer they seemed to suffer from for much of last year.
You can see too many clips of goals, so instead of Arsenalís six of the best against Coventry midweek why not have a look at what the TV doesnít normally show; in this case two of the worst streakers ever (you really need to be naked to be a streaker) and then a penalty save. Thatís a good minute and a half of anyoneís life.
As for Chelsea, well having spanked a lot of money in the summer to reduce the age of the squad and the early results are suggesting it was well spent. Theyíve scored plenty of goals whilst maintaining their solidity at the back and last seasonís early issues with established players like Lampard seem to have been consigned to the past (although Lampard has also spent some time on the bench this season). Even the Terry FA hearing (for his previously cleared in a court of law but not cleared enough for the FA verbal volley at young Ferdinand) which has been rumbling on for nearly a year hasnít derailed the team (Terry will miss four games, but probably wonít start the ban, assuming he doesnít appeal, until after this match). Much credit then to Di Mateo who clearly built up a reserve of luck to get through last year with the Champions League and FA Cups as reward, but is now showing that he can bring a team together and firing. Last time out Chelsea needed a late goal from Ashley Cole of all people to get their deserved victory over Stoke, and although a two goal lead was squandered against Juventus the previous week they have shown enough to suggest they have the squad to challenge on all fronts this year. Whether itís with sufficient panache to satisfy Abramovic and his itchy managerial trigger finger will need to be discussed later in the season. With new boys Hazzard and Oscar settling in and joining the impressive Mata in the string pulling department it looks like a solid start could be continued through the autumn.
Last year this fixture ended goalless but donít let that fool you, this is a game that neither will want to lose, but both will want to win to really assert themselves as championship contenders (the good kind of championship, not the kind that comes after relegation).
So in spite of last seasonís evidence weíre backing both sides to get goals in this match. Apart from the obvious frustration of having to make wholesale changes to fantasy football backlines this means thereís also some interest in the first scorer markets.
Podolski 13/2 with BWin
Cazorla 10/1 with SkyBet
Torres 15/2 with Stanjames
Hazzard 10/1 with Bet365
Bit of a tempter may be Lampard whoís 12/1 with StanJames, less tempting is Chamakh at 9/1 with Totesport
Check out the daily offers page tomorrow to see whoís offering return of stake on these markets.
In terms of the outright winners:
Arsenal 5/4 with Betfred
Draw 88/35 with Pinnacle
Chelsea 49/18 again with Pinnacle
Get on the forum to hear more about relevant offers and see how the in-play markets move during the match.