Where would Arsenal be without Robin van Persie? It’s a question that Gunners fans can barely ask themselves, as the answer points to the slow decline that has been occurring at the Emirates over several years.
Manager Arsene Wenger gave a robust defence of the club at this week’s stormy AGM, but the fact he had to call for unity in the first place is an indication that all is not well at a club that has swapped regular title wins for battles for Champions League qualification.
Still, if this Arsenal vintage is a long, long way short of Wenger’s best, they possess in Van Persie a player who could have graced any Arsenal side and with the Dutchman in the form of his life, I’ll be on the rather big 7/1 he opens the scoring in Saturday’s lunchtime kick off.
Quite simply, Van Persie (who is 2/1 to score anytime, which again is too big) belongs at the top table of European football and now injury-free, he is scoring goals for fun.
He has nine in 13 games this term, an incredible 25 goals this calendar year and with memories of his winning brace at Stamford Bridge in 2008 he can take advantage of Chelsea’s creaking back four.
Arsenal have scored in every away game in all competitions since their own opening-day goalless draw at Newcastle and they can definitely find the net at Stamford Bridge. Get on van Persie to do so.
Much has been made of Arsenal’s defensive frailties – you don’t need me to trot out the same old story – but Chelsea’s vulnerability seems to have fallen under the radar.
In nine Premier League games, the Blues have kept just one clean sheet, away to Stoke City in an opening-day draw. They have conceded in every game since, including each of their four home games against West Brom, Norwich City, Swansea City and Everton – hardly their toughest assignments.
Admittedly they have won all four of those games, and though they could well beat Arsenal as well you can’t ignore the problems in their defence: John Terry is beginning to show his age, David Luiz is a liability and I can’t remember the last time Chelsea had a reliable right-back.
Arsenal have scored in every away game in all competitions since their own opening-day goalless draw at Newcastle (remember, even in the hammering they took at Old Trafford they scored twice) and they can definitely find the net at Stamford Bridge. Get on van Persie to do so.
As for Chelsea, they are scoring plenty of goals at home (12 in the Premier League, a further seven in the Champions League) and it is inconceivable they won’t add to that on Saturday.
Manager Andre Villas-Boas still looks as though he is working out his best combinations, but one player who has benefitted most from the Portuguese’s reign is Daniel Sturridge and I like the look of the 9/2 he scores first and 6/5 he nets anytime.
Sturridge is also enjoying a fruitful 2011 after scoring eight goals in a loan spell at Bolton last season and is beginning to look a top-notch player.
He is Chelsea’s top scorer having registered four league goals (two of which were openers) to add to his Carling Cup winner against Everton in midweek and he can find the net again here.
As an outside shot, I think Ramires is overpriced at 14/1 to score first and 4/1 anytime. The Brazilian has three goals from midfield already this season and the way he gets forward means he’s likely to find himself in goalscoring positions regularly. I’d advise a small play.
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