Gunners can show their strength against bitter rivals


Arsenal vs Tottenham

Sunday 4.00pm

THINGS couldn’t have started much worse for Arsenal than a 3-1 home defeat to Aston Villa on the opening day of the season, but the Gunners have since bounced back with three wins, scoring eight goals and conceding just once.

The Emirates faithful vented their fury after the Villa game, their angst directed at Arsene Wenger and the board for failing once again to make a major signing. Arsenal have been outfoxed in the transfer market in recent seasons and the reluctance to spend money has led to mass frustration in the stands.

However, on their day, the Gunners are very good and there is no bigger game to get the players up for it than Sunday’s North London derby against Tottenham.

Andre Villas-Boas has been the total opposite of Sunday’s opposite number during the close season, securing a hatful of decent players, including Paulinho, Roberto Soldado and Nacer Chadli, with Roma’s Erik Lamela also seemingly on his way.

Obviously the Gareth Bale saga has been a major distraction, but Spurs have made a solid start to the campaign with two 1-0 victories against Crystal Palace and Swansea.

These two great rivals battled it out for fourth place last season, with Arsenal clinching the crucial spot by a solitary point. I’d expect them to occupy similar positions come May, but Spurs will be feeling confident their new acquisitions can propel them back into the Champions League.

The worry at this stage for Tottenham is how quickly their new stars can acclimatise to the demands of the Premier League. The team played reasonably well in both their opening two fixtures, but a derby against Arsenal is a completely different kettle of fish.

Recent clashes between these two have been very high scoring and it will be interesting to see if both managers adopt the gung-ho attitude again.

The last two meetings at the Emirates both finished 5-2 to Arsenal, while Spurs have won the last two at White Hart Lane 2-1. In fact, 11 of the past 12 meetings have produced at least three goals.

Home advantage has counted for plenty in recent seasons – the last four have been won by the hosts – and I can see that continuing here. Arsenal are never the safest of bets, but with the squad’s greater Premier League experience I would fancy them to edge this at 21/20 with Coral.

Olivier Giroud has been the first scorer in both of the Gunners’ opening two matches this term and there will be plenty of interest in him to repeat the feat at around 6/1.

However, I favour a total goals bet and see little downside in buying Sporting Index’s spread at 3.1 given the recent history of these games.


Liverpool vs Manchester United

Sunday 1.30pm

SUPER Sunday begins with Manchester United’s trip to Anfield where they will meet a Liverpool side who have started the season in the same vein as Tottenham with two 1-0 successes. The first was a nervy encounter at home against Stoke before they went to Aston Villa and left with all three points.

Brendan Rodgers will be pleased with his charges but, similarly to Andre Villas-Boas at Spurs, he knows that the first real test is this Sunday when United come to town.

With it looking increasingly likely that Wayne Rooney will stay at Old Trafford, David Moyes can now get on with the business of managing his side rather than dealing with the endless speculation.

The Scot will still feel the pressure on his first visit to Anfield as United boss, especially having never won there with Everton in 12 attempts. He never had the same talent at his disposal, though, so he will be confident he can put an end to that run.
United were impressive first time up against Swansea and a goalless draw at home against Chelsea was solid enough. They probably felt they should have won the game, yet it was always going to be set up as a defensive encounter and Moyes will be fairly happy with four points from his opening two games.

I’m actually quite surprised that the bookies have Liverpool as favourites in this one. The Merseysiders struggle for consistency and they were beaten by United in both fixtures last term. They might have won three of the past five league meetings at Anfield, but I think they may struggle on the weekend.

The 6/4 Coral offer about a home win doesn’t appeal and I’d far rather take the same firm’s 19/10 about an away win. Robin van Persie looks as sharp as ever while Rooney appears to be edging back towards full match fitness.

United’s defence is particularly strong with Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand a formidable partnership for a Liverpool strikeforce missing Luis Suarez to try to pierce.

I don’t actually think there will be much in this one and wouldn’t be at all surprised if it was to be settled by a single goal. I was tempted to put up the 1-0 United victory at 10/1 with Coral, but I’m leaning more towards the draw HT/United FT double result at 11/2.

Expect the defences to hold the key in the first half before United make their extra class count in the second period.