Manchester City v Arsenal, Saturday 12:30 pm
By all accounts, the reigning champions have missed out on Harry Kane this summer so, not for the first time, a season without a recognized centre-forward awaits.
Last term of course, the highly unusual approach was forced on Pep Guardiola, with Sergio Aguero absent for the most part through injury. Now, having chased the Tottenham striker seemingly without a Plan B, the Blues must once again configure their front-line in such a way that it negates the need for a focal point, something they did to great effect in 2020/21, only then they had the element of surprise.
City certainly have the firepower to spare in the form of wingers and creative midfielders and it falls on these players to share around the goals. It’s notable that last season’s top scorer was Ilkay Gundogan with 13, the German midfielder being one of only two City stars to reach double figures in a campaign that saw them easily finish as the Premier League’s most prolific side.
To that end, it bodes well that Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, and their new artisan Jack Grealish all got off the mark against Norwich last weekend, though for the visit of Arsenal, Kevin de Bruyne is 50/50 to feature and Phil Foden is out. One to watch is yet another of their skilful attackers, Gabriel Jesus who was a revelation on the wing versus the Canaries.
Also in City’s favour is a head-to-head record against the Gunners that can only be described as domineering. Arsenal have twice hurt the Blues in FA Cup semi-finals in recent years but in the league have failed to win since 2015 and only managed two draws in that period too. To put the one-sided nature of this fixture into full perspective Mikel Arteta’s side have only scored once in the last four years.
And they will likely struggle again here, mired as they are in a muddle of identity and with early whispers of crisis loudening by the week. Arteta will be desperate to have Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and/or Alexandre Lacazette available with the pair scoring 42% of Arsenal’s league goals last season. Beyond them the Gunners look decidedly shot-shy with Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe – both fantastic talents – converting just four in their last 50 games combined.
For all the legitimate talk of Arsenal needing leaders, they are in fact most in need of firepower in the final third from a non-striker. Oh, for a Sterling, or a Gundogan, or a Grealish…
An early goal is worth a punt for this one. When City are up to full speed in seasons, they tend to gain control of games before killing opponents off. When under construction, however – as they presently are – they attempt to settle matters swiftly. In the first four games of last term Sterling and co scored inside 25 minutes while against Norwich the contest was over before sweat was broken.
5/6 is available on a goal being scored between 0 – 25 mins
Levy and #THFC come out of this saga best by a mile. Kane thwarted in his ambition, dents reputation. #MCFC miss out on the 1 player they really need. Levy successfully protects his club. Spurs have another year of a fantastic striker who will doubtless knuckle down, score loads.
— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) August 26, 2021
West Ham United v Crystal Palace, Saturday 3 pm
The last time West Ham consecutively scored four goals was all the way back in 2011 during a promotion-winning season in the Championship. A decade on, they’re rediscovered such ruthlessness, a development that may surprise given the reputation of their manager for favouring solidity and caution over ambition.
Perhaps though, this stereotype of David Moyes is long overdue a revision? Last season the Hammers out-scored Chelsea yet conceded more than Brighton and by all estimations, his teams are immensely fun to watch these days as evidenced by Monday’s 4-1 thrashing of Leicester.
That result took the Irons to the Premier League summit for only the second ever time while additionally being only the second time they have won both their opening games. The season may be barely afoot but already another top-six finish doesn’t look beyond them.
After their impressive victory over the Foxes, so much of the attention rightfully fell on Michail Antonio for becoming the club’s record Premier League goal-scorer, but the spike in form of Said Benrahma is equally deserving of recognition. The 26-year-old largely disappointed last year following his move from Brentford but has started this campaign with a bang, scoring two and assisting twice in his opening brace of games. With the dangerous Jarrod Bowen on the other side of Antonio this is a trio who can wreck serious damage in 2021/22.
The Hammers couldn’t have chosen better opponents to continue their goal-glut, coming up against a Crystal Palace side this weekend who offer minimum threat. A startling stat emerged after the Eagle’s 1-0 reverse in the EFL Cup on Tuesday that Manchester City have scored 108 cup goals since Palace last scored in a knock-out competition but in the league too, they are hardly productive, averaging just 1.07 goals across all of last season.
Under new boss Patrick Vieira, they have yet to find the net and generally appear a little lost at present.
West Ham are 9/4 to score 3+ goals for the third game in a row.
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) August 23, 2021
Liverpool v Chelsea, Saturday 5:30 pm
The prospect of Chelsea’s record purchase Romelu Lukaku locking horns with Virgil Van Dijk at Anfield this Saturday entices but arguably the real battle royale will take place at the other end of the pitch. It is there where this early top-six match-up could well be decided.
For Liverpool’s front three look revived already this season, with Sadio Mane and Mo Salah enjoying rare respite over the summer. In Diogo Jota meanwhile, the Reds possess a forward with two goals in two, clearly determined to atone for a disappointing Euros.
Yet will Jurgen Klopp start with his Portuguese front-man? So often in the bigger games, he turns to the tried-and-trusted dynamism and experience of Roberto Firmino though it’s worth noting that the Brazilian’s two in 13 against Chelsea is his worst return against any of Liverpool’s immediate rivals. Contrast this with Mane’s splendid seven in 17 versus the Blues.
Mane is 6/1 to be the game’s first goal-scorer but that would be some feat given how unbreachable Chelsea have become under Thomas Tuchel. Remarkably, they have kept clean sheets in 63.6% of the fixtures he has presided over since arriving last January while in their two matches so far they have conceded only four shots on target. Immediately after downing Arsenal 2-0 at the weekend Tuchel insisted his team had been ‘sloppy’. It is an intimidating thought then to imagine them on point.
From Chelsea’s many shut-outs, the one most pertinent is their frustration of Liverpool last season, departing Merseyside with a 1-0 win, but that was against a jaded Liverpool attack, made uncharacteristically ordinary by a season going awry. Now they’re back, firing on all cylinders
As too is Andy Robertson, set to return ahead of schedule following injury. While Salah, Mane and Firmino are the obvious threats to Chelsea’s impressive and sustained parsimony, the flying left-back has contributed the fourth-highest number of chances in the Premier League since the beginning of 2018/19.
✅ Robbie Fowler
✅ Steven Gerrard
✅ Michael Owen
✅ Mohamed Salah
🆕 Sadio Mane
— Premier League (@premierleague) August 21, 2021
Wolves v Manchester United, Sunday 4:30 pm
United head to the Black Country looking to secure the longest unbeaten away record in Premier League history but it should concern them that Wolves have been creating – and spurning – chances by the bucketload of late. Benteke’s Law, after all, states that sooner or later, they start to go in.
“I am confident with the process,” Wolves gaffer Bruno Lago said after seeing his side come undone at home to Spurs despite being the better side for the most part. “This is the fifth week we are together and we need time to grow up and improve.”
In total, 42 opportunities have come and gone in their opening two fixtures, with Adama Traore epitomizing his team’s frustrating brushes with excellence. The explosive winger has averaged 10 take-ons per game so far with just a finishing touch lacking. An unplayable talent on his day, he is one to watch against a marquee opponent as speculation mounts about a possible move to Tottenham.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer meanwhile will be buoyed by the return of Edinson Cavani who enjoyed a decent latter half to last season, scoring every 153 minutes in 2021. Goals however, are not a problem for the Reds at present, with Mason Greenwood sharp and confident while Paul Pogba racks up the assists. His five at this nascent juncture has already topped his tally from all of last term.
This same fixture took place just three months ago though there is little relevance to find as regards to Sunday’s clash. Then it was a seasonal send-off with little riding on it for either team but for what it’s worth United triumphed 2-1 via a second-string XI. A bumper 17/2 is available for the same result to occur here and that seems a reasonable shout, as Wolves finally locate the net while United emerge as record breakers.
27 – Manchester United are unbeaten in their last 27 away Premier League matches (W17 D10), equalling the longest away unbeaten in English top-flight history, set by Arsenal between April 2003 and September 2004. Adventures. pic.twitter.com/kC6TN7hiQa
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 22, 2021
All odds sourced from Bet365 and up to date as of 27/08/2021