Weblog: The football punter

Fast-starting Liverpool can hurt Arsenal early

Premier League
BT Sport 1, 5.30pm Saturday

Money came for Liverpool on Friday with punters taking the view that Jurgen Klopp’s free-scoring Reds will put resurgent Arsenal in their place – and Gunners fans have to be fearful that their slow starters could be put out of their misery early.

This is a fixture which historically produces thrills and spills with goals aplenty, and a best price of 8-15 about over 2.5 goals leaves no doubt what the industry expects from part one of this Saturday evening's Premier League double-header.

What’s also not in doubt is that Arsenal under Unai Emery are finding it difficult to get going in the first half of matches and against a side who are as in-your-face from the first whistle as Liverpool are, that could spell danger.

It might be worth looking away from the outright market, where the Merseysiders have been shortening all the time, and side with them on the double result market instead. Arsenal have yet to be ahead at the 45-minute mark of any of their ten Premier League games and have scored just six first-half goals.

Liverpool, in contrast, are top of the first-half table having held the lead eight times in ten matches.

If Liverpool are to win the likelihood is that they will get the job done sharpish, especially with Arsenal’s wobbly backline facing another tweak courtesy of Hector Bellerin’s injury.

There’s no doubt that on the evidence of this season, Arsenal’s good form under Emery – they are unbeaten in 13 – has been built on a fluid attacking style rather than any great transformation of a defence which looks as uneasy as it ever did when Arsene Wenger was in charge.

Liverpool’s famed front three must be licking their lips at the prospect of getting stuck into a defensive unit which has already shipped 17 goals in 15 matches this term. Liverpool have let in just nine.

Alarmingly, Arsenal are offering up 14 shooting chances per game to the opposition – that’s more than Southampton, Cardiff or Huddersfield.

The league table, as we’re continually told, doesn’t lie but the reality is that anyone who has seen Arsenal this season has witnessed a team riding their luck on the grandest scale and sooner or later, with this defence, they are going to get chinned.

What they do have by way of counter-balance is a puncher’s response. The Gunners have firepower in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, a born finisher, and Alexandre Lacazette, whose scoring record in recent seasons has been exemplary, and if Mesut Ozil is in the mood – which is anyone’s guess – then Arsenal are a threat to anyone, even Jurgen Klopp’s newly-strengthened defence.

And that’s why there might not be a great deal in the final scoreline. There probably still will be goals and Liverpool are the better side. But if they do win, it could well be by the finest of margins and it’s quite likely that they’ll have got the job done early.

Liverpool-Liverpool double result

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