Weblog: The football punter

In-form Arsenal can outgun Leicester

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Arsenal were getting plenty of criticism after losses to Manchester City and Chelsea early in the season but they can make it ten wins from ten in all competitions by beating Leicester at the Emirates.

After the Gunners' sorry start there were concerns about them being competitive in top-four race.

But if their winning streak carries on, those fears will be replaced by hopes of featuring in the title race.

Three points will take the Londoners back into the top four and two points adrift of pace-setters Manchester City and Liverpool.

A lot of Arsenal's victories have been unconvincing but that was not the case when they romped to a 5-1 success at Fulham a fortnight ago.

Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang contributed two goals each but the pick of the bunch was Aaron Ramsey's 67th-minute strike, a superb team goal.

It was the tenth successive game in which Arsenal had scored two goals or more and any team with such a potent attack has to be taken seriously.

Clinical finishing has been key because Arsenal are not showing up well on expected goals statistics, which suggest they should have scored eight fewer goals and accumulated seven fewer points.

Disciples of those statistics may feel the Gunners are heading for a fall - and they may be proved right over the longer term.

But the quality Arsenal possess in attacking areas is not going to disappear overnight and their finishing prowess should help them rack up plenty more victories, even when the shot statistics are weighted against them.

The area Arsenal could do with improving is defence.

They have conceded ten goals – just as they had at the same stage of last season – and often look vulnerable to swift counter-attacks.

Leicester will have noted the Gunners' weakness and in Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho they have the ideal weapons to expose it.

Vardy – a one-time Arsenal target – has had a fairly quiet start, scoring three goals in eight games, but has scored six goals in his last six matches against the Gunners.

Leicester's season has been stop-start with four wins and four defeats and many of their fans still see manager Claude Puel as too dour and defensive.

However, there is a case for arguing that Leicester could do with being less expansive and more focused at the back.

They are the top scorers among the clubs outside the top nine but have kept just two clean sheets in their last 12 top-flight fixtures.

Containing Arsenal is going to be a tough challenge, although it is arguable Leicester will be more solid without suspended centre-back Wes Morgan, who has had a very shaky start to the season.

Jonny Evans should slot in alongside Harry Maguire in a solid pairing.

However, the Leicester defenders are going to have their hands full trying to contain such a fluid, potent Gunners attack and anything their attackers achieve at the other end may be no more than a consolation.

Arsenal are 4-7 to win but there is better value in backing the home side to triumph and both teams to score at 9-5.

Arsenal to win and both teams to score

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Match in Focus


Newport Co v Tranmere

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Newport are unbeaten in 12 matches.
Expert verdict
Michael Flynn’s Newport headed into the playoffs as the fourth tier’s form side, securing seventh spot by finishing the season ten games unbeaten. Tranmere will know all too well about County’s disciplined defensive, having failed to score in both league meetings with them and, even with James Norwood leading the line, they look vulnerable.