Gunners wait; Sunderland shock
We are backing Sunderland to surprise Everton in our preview of Saturday's action in the Premier League.
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It hasn't been too good a week for Arsenal after losing 2-1 at Manchester United last Saturday and drawing 2-2 against Schalke in midweek after failing to hold a 2-0 lead. Now the Gunners return to the Emirates and there looks to be a bit of value in this clash. Arsenal's previous two home games have seen the opening goal arrive in the final 20 minutes - the 1-0 win over QPR and 2-0 defeat against Schalke - so I will take note of that run. You can get 22/1 for the first goal to arrive between 71 and 80 minutes and 28/1 for the opener to come between 81 minutes and full-time so small stakes will be used in those markets. Fulham are unbeaten in three games on the road - against Reading, Southampton and Wigan - but this represents a step up in trip and they are expected to fall just before the curtain comes down.
Verdict: Arsenal 1 Fulham 0 (NH)
Things haven't been going to plan for Sunderland in the last few weeks but I reckon they are worth getting involved with in this clash. The Black Cats are currently without a win in five games - with two 1-0 defeats in a row - and their goalscoring problems have been widely documented. Steven Fletcher is the only Sunderland player to strike in the Premier League this season, with five goals to his name so far, but Martin O'Neill is sure all his men will get on the right track soon. "We need to score goals and I'd like that to happen pretty soon," he told the Sunderland Echo after losing to Aston Villa. "The most encouraging thing for me, though, was the amount of times we got one-on-one with opponents. We are playing with wingers and there were plenty of times when Adam Johnson and later James McClean were one-on-one. It didn't happen on the day, but I have faith in my players and I don't think it's misplaced faith." Everton enter this clash on the back of four draws in a row so the 8/15 for the home win looks a little short. Sunderland have drawn four of their five away games in the league this term and that is worth taking note of. The 19/4 for the Black Cats in the draw no bet market makes appeal to me and is worth a small play.
Verdict: Everton 0 Sunderland 1 (NH)
After heavy defeats to Liverpool and Chelsea, Norwich have responded with three wins from four games and Chris Hughton has praised his side for becoming far more solid. This is likely to be a key to their survival chances in the Premier League and they will be tested again by a lively Reading side who are reaching the point of desperation in terms of recording a league success. They have been in front five times so far and pegged back on each occasion, including last weekend in the 1-1 draw at QPR. Brian McDermott got a very good performance from his side after the midweek 7-5 Capital One Cup shambles against Arsenal and it is hard to be overly critical of the Royals after some of the football they have produced. This is a tricky affair to call with both teams trying to do something they have yet to achieve - Norwich to win away and Reading to just win. I have a sneaking suspicion the latter are going to be left disappointed once more but the 13/5 about a Canaries victory is not hugely appealing and this is perhaps best left alone.
Verdict: Reading 1 Norwich 2 (DJ)
I think Southampton will win this match, but I don't think they make any kind of appeal at 7/5 for the victory after a very poor run of form. The Saints are without a Premier League success since beating Aston Villa 4-1 on September 22 but there are still reasons to like them, although clearly not in defence. They have conceded nine more goals than any other side in the league but any team with Gaston Ramirez, Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert should be regular scorers. Nigel Adkins remains in charge for this clash and it would be crazy to remove him from his job after two promotions in a row and little time to integrate his new signings into the club. Swansea boss Michael Laudrup is certainly smiling a bit more as his men continue to bring plenty of panache to proceedings. The Welsh outfit are great to watch but without a league win on the road since the opening day they should be swerved here.
Verdict: Southampton 2 Swansea 1 (NH)
The question to get to grips with in this fixture is whether Stoke can start converting some of their dominance and chances into positive results. They had much the better of things at Norwich and still walked away empty handed as the frustration starts to increase at the Britannia. They face a team that has conceded the second most goals so far this season and the pressure is also rising for Mark Hughes and his expensively assembled mixed bag of players. This was the scene of QPR's last away win 12 months ago and although they showed some fight to get a point against Reading at Loftus Road in their last outing, you would hardly be in rush to back the visitors at 7/2. There is the chance that the Potters could fill their boots finally but both these have managed to find the net just eight times in 10 games so far and despite the visitors leaky backline (19 goals so far), I still think that going for under 2.5 goals in total should pay dividends.
Verdict: Stoke 2 QPR 0 (DJ)
Both Wigan and West Brom will be feeling mighty good about life ahead of this tough to call clash. The Latics have won two Premier League games in a row to sit nicely in mid-table with the 2-1 victory over West Ham securing their first home win at the fifth attempt. The Baggies will be smiling even more broadly as they stand fifth following Monday night's 2-0 victory over Southampton at The Hawthorns. However, West Brom's phenomenal start to the campaign has been based on a superb home record - the best in the division - and not their away record. Steve Clarke's side are without a win on the road this term but they have picked up draws at Tottenham and Aston Villa. All this makes it a very intriguing and evenly-matched contest at the DW Stadium and one to serve from a punting perspective.
Verdict: Wigan 1 West Brom 1 (NH)
This will provide a teatime treat. Manchester United games have been full of goals in recent weeks with the last six results reading: 4-2, 3-2, 3-2, 4-5 (AET), 2-1 and 3-1. There will be more excitement here and the 8/11 about both teams to score will have its backers. Indeed we are one of them with the game featuring as our Premier League selection in the ever-popular Going For Goals feature. One interesting stat from the Red Devils is they have been leading after 15 minutes in three of their last four Premier League games. The only problem is the10/3 is a little skinny for us but it's certainly a record to take note of. I fully expect Villa to come good this season and comfortably sit in the mid-table places. Paul Lambert's men will still find this a tough ask and it will be a surprise to see them come away with anything. United are 4/7 with Coral to take the victory but that isn't for us so the preview ends here.
Verdict: Aston Villa 1 Manchester United 3 (NH)