The EPL kicks off on Friday night at the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal take on Leicester City in the first Premier League game of the new season.
On paper, at least, it would seem to be a nailed-on home win for Arsene Wenger’s boys, and the bookies here in the UK agree. But is it?
The Gunners are notoriously slow starters in the Prem, having won their opening game of the campaign just ONCE in their last SEVEN seasons, suggesting the North London outfit like to take their sweet time to get things moving.
They’ve even had the good fortune of being drawn to play their first game of the season at home in each of the last five seasons. But despite being handed the home advantage, they’ve lost three of the last four season openers, conceding goals in all four games.
So for those of you looking to pile on the Gunners for the win at Leicester, beware!
Arsenal’s season opener: The last seven years
- 2016/17: LOST 4-3 vs Liverpool (H)
- 2015/16: LOST 2-0 vs West Ham (H)
- 2014/15: WON 2-1 vs Crystal Palace (H)
- 2013/14: LOST 3-1 vs Aston Villa (H)
- 2012/13: DREW 0-0 vs Sunderland (H)
- 2011/12: DREW 0-0 vs Newcastle (A)
- 2010/11: DREW 1-1 vs Liverpool (A)
I have a sneaking feeling we’ll see a few goals in this one, with Leicester set to field a fair amount of attacking talent themselves.
The signing of Kelechi Iheanacho has flown under the radar a little, but the former Manchester City man arrives at the Foxes with a point to prove, and could form a dynamic partnership with England front man Jamie Vardy.
Throw in Riyad Mahrez’s threat from wide areas and the tireless running of Shinji Okazaki and there are plenty of reasons to believe Leicester can give the Gunners’ back line some early-season headaches, whatever attacking lineup they choose to field.
Arsenal won’t be at full strength, either. Influential defender Laurent Koscielny (banned) is out, with Per Mertesacker (injured) also unlikely to feature. Alexis Sanchez is also missing, while midfield playmakers Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil are both doubts.
Despite this, Leicester are still a whopping 6/1 shot (Bet365, Ladbrokes, BlackType) to get the W. Given Arsenal’s historic early-season form and their list of likely absentees, I reckon that represents decent opening-day value.
But my main focus on this game is the Over/Under, with Over 2.5 Goals looking very tempting at 5/8 (188Bet). And for a sporting bet that’ll keep you invested right to the final whistle, Over 3.5 Goals can be had at 8/5 (Unibet, 32Red, 888Sport).
It’s my first game of the season, too…
For my team, Gillingham FC, the season is already well and truly underway.
We kicked off our League One (English football’s third tier) season with a goalless draw away from home at newly-promoted Doncaster Rovers, and on Tuesday night were knocked out of the League Cup at Championship side Reading, who scored two second-half goals to down us 2-0.
But the season proper gets underway on Saturday as we play our first home game of the campaign at Priestfield Stadium against promotion hopefuls Bradford City, and I’ll be there to watch it (follow me @simonhead on Twitter if you want a taste of life in the lower leagues this weekend).
The Gills (pronounced with a soft ‘G’) narrowly avoided relegation by a single point and a single goal on the final day of last season.
The Gills faithful (and my fingernails) are hoping we won’t have to go through that sort of stress again…
[Photo Credit: © Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports]