City to see off Gunners
Ben Coley's in-depth preview of this afternoon's action in the Barclays Premier League.
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The evidence so far suggests that Newcastle will, quite understandably, struggle to match last season's remarkable achievements. Regardless of the threat they posed on the break, they should've lost at Everton last time, and before that had to come from behind to salvage a home point against Aston Villa. Similar comments apply to Norwich, who have so far failed to win in the Premier League. That said, they've responded admirably to their opening day mauling at Fulham with draws against QPR, Tottenham and West Ham, and Chris Hughton's defensive influence is beginning to show. They remain a force going forward and although they'll probably need to score to get a point here, they're worth backing to do so at 3/1 with Stan James. Newcastle have shared the spoils in each of their last three in all competitions, and were it not for a late penalty against Spurs on the first day of the season it could be two points from two home games in the league. Their superior attacking quality entitles them to be favourites but not to the extent the prices suggest.
A fixture which City won by a solitary goal last season and that's where we'll look for value again. Early signs are that Arsenal may even have improved over the summer, despite the loss of Robin van Persie, but this game will tell us more as it clearly represents their toughest test yet. Such a threat never materialised at Anfield, and although Montpellier are the reigning French champions they're not a great side so Arsenal's 2-1 win on Tuesday doesn't look particularly strong form. That being said, Arsenal are always at their most dangerous when confident and with City having blown the lead twice at the Bernabeu, perhaps the visitors will be in better spirits. City will likely be without Samir Nasri but Sergio Aguero is set to return, while Roberto Mancini has downplayed rumours of another spat with Mario Balotelli and he too is in line for a recall. Arsenal have no fresh concerns, so two very strong line-ups will take to the field with the visitors unlikely to change much. Recent meetings between these sides have been very tight - Arsenal's 3-0 romp here two years ago came after City had Dedryck Boyata sent off after five minutes and three of the four subsequent meetings have ended 1-0 either way - and although the visitors look capable of winning this, in truth we expect City to edge it. They beat Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham by exactly a goal at home last season and we'll back them to continue that trend at 14/5. It could be worth being more precise and speculating that they'll do so 3-2 - 10 of their last 61 games have ended 3-2 either way - but that statistical anomaly is hard to explain so we won't attempt to.
This is a hard game to get a grip on. Spurs should be far too good for QPR, who are winless in 15 on the road, losing 12 of those games, and who will be without the likes of Andrew Johnson and Anton Ferdinand for their trip to White Hart Lane. The hosts are missing defenders too, but they've still not conceded a first-half goal this season and there were definite signs against Lazio that suggested they'll soon hit full stride. If and when they do, odds of 5/4 about them leading at half-time and going on to win will look excellent, especially against the likes of QPR. Last year they won 13 home Premier League games, and they led at the break in 11 of them. But until I see them stamp their undoubted quality on games like these, it's hard to side with them at such prices. Yes, they were better at Reading, but at home they need more than Jermain Defoe flying solo up-front and without Emmanuel Adebayor they still lack a bit of cutting edge. So, we're not willing to part with the hard-earned on a Spurs win, but 11/10 about the second half producing the most goals does look worth a punt. Not only has the second half been the highest scoring in all four of Spurs' Premier League games, but two of QPRs', and anything 10/11 or bigger looks generous.