Arsenal can put their summer transfer woes behind them with an opening day win against Aston Villa, with Arsene Wenger’s side to be winning at both half-time and full-time at 10/11 the pick of the bets
The Luis Suarez saga rumbles on, but Arsenal’s strong form in pre-season – which included a 3-1 win against Manchester City in Helsinki and eight goals for the improving Olivier Giroud – bodes well for the tie with Villa, who did not pick up a point in the Premier League until September last season.
Arsenal have not won on the opening day since walloping Everton 6-1 at Goodison Park four years ago and while there are a few minor injury concerns, with midfielder Mikel Arteta and defenders Nacho Monreal and Thomas Vermaelen out, Arsenal will start the season with a strong squad in fine fettle.
Paul Lambert’s Villa have been dealt a cruel hand in the opening fixtures – with a trip to Chelsea next up before hosting Liverpool – but will feel confident after their surge to safety last season, which saw four wins in the last seven games.
However, Arsenal finished the campaign even better and are unbeaten in the League since March, with three points secured in eight of their last ten games, making them the form team coming into the opening weekend.
Four of those wins came when Wenger’s side were ahead at half-time and with Giroud’s cracking goal-scoring form – and Theo Walcott fresh from a goal against Scotland in midweek – Arsenal can strike early at Villa’s shaky defence, which conceded more away goals than any other team in the league last season.
Giroud and Walcott share favouritism in the first goalscorer market at 4/1, but at a bigger price Per Mertesacker at 13/2 to score at any time appeals, as the former Werder Bremen man chipped in with three league goals last season from defence.
Villa centre-half Ron Vlaar had a nightmare against six-foot-four-inch Bradford striker James Hanson in last year’s League Cup semi-final and with 91-cap German Mertesacker a couple of inches taller, he is the pick to rise above it all at the Emirates.