Arsenal will want to build on their opening day win over Fulham by taking a further three points from another London derby at home to West Ham at the Etihad in the Premier League (3pm ET Saturday). So what of our Arsenal vs West Ham predictions for this preview?
Well, Arsenal recorded their worst league finish since 1995 when eighth last season. Visual signs of improvement after Mikel Arteta’s arrival in late December and their subsequent FA Cup triumph have generated optimism ahead of the new campaign.
That was bolstered by their comfortable 3-0 win over newly-promoted Fulham on Saturday. Alexandre Lacazette gave them an early lead, before further strikes from new signing Gabriel Magalhaes and last season’s top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sealed the win before the hour mark. Another new arrival Willian directly assisted two of the three goals.
It was a dominant display in which Fulham barely threatened the Arsenal goal. Aside from an early mistake, Gabriel performed well despite debuting ahead of schedule due to injuries to other central defenders. Willian slotted right into the side following his free transfer move from Chelsea and everyone else seemed well in tune.
Yet while it was clearly a promising start, it must also be noted that Fulham are one of the favorites for relegation. With none of their new purchases ready for action, they went out onto the field with what was essentially an upper-level Championship team. We will need a much larger sample of matches to assess whether Arsenal’s status as the team most fancied across the offshore oddssetters to finish fifth, and perhaps even challenge the top four, is justified.
Even more so because the improvements in their play that the eye seems to catch, or maybe just wants to see, haven’t yet been reflected in their metrics. It is relatively easy to see the stylistic changes Arteta has made, but there is so far little evidence to suggest a clear shift in the underlying quality of their performances.
That contrasts with the improvements David Moyes engineered after replacing Manuel Pellegrini as West Ham head coach around the same time that Arteta took charge of Arsenal. Although his side only claimed one more point in their 19 matches under him than in their previous 19, other top-line and underlying metrics got much better.
Following his arrival, West Ham scored more and conceded less, resulting in an improvement from an average goal difference of -0.58 per match under Pellegrini to -0.11 with Moyes on the bench. That also held true in terms of expected goals, with the team’s average expected goal difference improving from -0.59 per match to -0.17. That is the difference between bottom-three metrics and those of a solid mid-table side.
All that was allied to obvious stylistic changes. West Ham defended deeper and more passively than they had previously and leaned more on set pieces and transitional phases of play to create chances. It is a familiar blueprint for a Moyes team.
The improvements suggest that despite an inactive transfer window to date, relegation is unlikely to be as primary a concern it was for at least half of last season, although the Hammers didn’t get the new campaign off to the best of starts with a 0-2 defeat at home to Newcastle last weekend. They struggled to penetrate and only created one real chance of note. “I don’t think we could have played any worse,” midfielder Declan Rice said afterwards.
They certainly won’t have much opportunity to settle and get points on the board because Saturday’s match against Arsenal is followed by encounters with five other members of last season’s top eight, including champions Liverpool and runners up Manchester City.
West Ham actually produced a very credible performance in last season’s 0-1 defeat to Arsenal at the Etihad and this does feel like the kind of fixture in which Moyes and his side might just be able to stodge things up and make life difficult for their hosts. Arsenal may very well come away triumphant, but it is unlikely to be a match of many goals. So our Arsenal vs West Ham predictions conclude with this one betting pick:
- This EPL match preview recommends a bet on under 2.5 goals @ best odds of +130 (13/10) with Bovada.