With the new Premier League season upon us it is time for me once again to put my neck on the line and stake my reputation, and my money, on a home banker treble which this week features Arsenal at home to Sunderland, Fulham at home to Norwich and Queens Park Rangers at home to Swansea City.
Arsenal have added wisely in the summer and should still have too much for Sunderland despite the loss of Robin van Persie to Manchester United. Fulham have a superb home record against Norwich, whose squad hasn’t really been improved upon since last term, while new-look QPR will be confident of disposing of a Swansea side who have lost on the opening day of the season for the last six years.
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Arsenal to beat Sunderland @ 7/20
Arsenal might still be reeling from the loss of Robin van Persie to Manchester United, but at least the silver lining is that it is a move that was hardly unexpected.
Arsene Wenger has been preparing for RVP’s exit since the end of last season and the irony is that, as his star man prepares to leave, he has been quietly building what looks to be one of his strongest squads for years.
The additions of Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski should compensate for the loss of Van Persie’s goals, while Santi Cazorla will provide plenty of ammunition from midfield.
Martin O’Neill is renowned for his ability to build teams that are difficult to beat, but his lack of activity in the transfer market over the summer must be concerning for the Sunderland faithful, particularly when they consider their team’s options up front. While Asamoah Gyan has departed and Nicklas Bendtner has returned to the Emirates, replacements have been harder to come by.
34-year-old Louis Saha signed on the dotted line on Thursday but he may not be fit enough to feature fully at the Emirates, while Wolves continue to drag their heels over Steven Fletcher. On top of this, Sunderland haven’t won away at Arsenal since 1983 and so a positive opening-day result seems unlikely.
Expect Arsene’s new boys to shine in a comfortable Arsenal win.
Fulham to beat Norwich @ 3/4
Fulham have an excellent record against Norwich in the last two decades and, with their marquee signing Hugo Rodallega ready to fire, they should dispose of the Canaries again at the Cottage on Saturday.
Norwich haven’t beaten Fulham in any competition since a 2-1 win in Division 2 in 1985. In fact, in the ten games between the two sides since then they have drawn only two and lost the other eight. That run includes a 6-0 win for Fulham at Craven Cottage in 2005, and last season’s 2-1 win for the Cottagers in what was the last match between the two teams.
There is also the danger that Norwich, now without Paul Lambert at the helm, could catch a bout of the infamous second-season syndrome that has afflicted the likes of Ipswich, Hull City and Reading in recent years. They have only added three players to their squad over the summer, and one of them – Steven Whittaker – is currently out injured, so a lot will rest on new boss Chris Hughton’s ability to get as much out of his journeymen as Lambert managed to do last season.
Fulham’s squad, on the other hand, is bustling with Premier League experience and their manager, Martin Jol, has proven that he can do it at the highest level with Spurs, Hamburg, Ajax and now the Lilywhites. Expect this experience to count with a home win on Saturday.
QPR to beat Swansea @ Evens
Swansea have lost their opening match of the campaign in every one of the last six seasons (to Cheltenham, Oldham, Charlton, Leicester, Hull and Man City). On top of this, they have not beaten QPR in five consecutive matches and lost heavily on their last two visits to Loftus Road – 3-0 in the Premier League last season and 4-0 in the Championship the season before that. To add to their concerns, new manager Michael Laudrup remains a relatively unknown quantity at this level, and how Swansea will cope with the loss of Joe Allen remains to be seen.
QPR have added impressively to their squad over the summer, bringing in, amongst others, Park Ji Sung, Robert Green, Junior Hoilett, Andrew Johnson, Ryan Nelson and Fabio Da Silva. They finished last season relatively strongly, picking up five wins from their final ten games, and will be free from the circus that is Joey Barton for at least the next 12 matches. Swansea might have finished above Rangers in the league last season, but the signs still point to a home win in this one.
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