Both clubs were undone by Manchester opposition last time out – Fulham losing 3-0 at City and Watford being beaten 2-1 at home by United – and will be looking to bounce back this weekend in a game both will consider winnable.
The Hornets though have made a fine start to the season and will see the United defeat merely as a blip on their otherwise unblemished start to the campaign; four wins that included a victory over Pochettino’s Spurs.
The Cottagers’ start has been less eye-catching – just the one win over Burnley – but with an expensively assembled squad, with several quality arrivals over the summer months, their slowish start will be mainly perceived as part of the bedding in process for their new squad
In Aleksandar Mitrovic, Fulham have a striker who is bang in form and who, given the right supply, will cause the Watford defence problems. He’s big, strong, puts himself about, and when confident in front of goal, as he is right now, he’ll be well worth a shout for first goalscorer (9/2). Only Eden Hazard has scored more goals than the Serb so far this season, whose hot streak extended into the international break when he netted a brace for his country against Romania.
Of slightly more concern to Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic will be the fact that his side is yet to earn a clean sheet and, while keeper Marcus Bettinelli will be high on confidence after being included in Gareth Southgate’s recent England squad, until that first sheet arrives it will remain a concern at Craven Cottage.
Against Man City, Fulham were torn apart at the back, although they’ll be far from alone this season, and Kevin McDonald and Jean Michael Seri will possibly not find themselves as exposed again this campaign, but what they will need to eliminate are the individual errors; Seri, for example, giving the ball away cheaply ahead of Leroy Sane’s early goal for City.
They will be desperate to avoid these types of mistakes against Watford, and instead hoping that their attacking players – Schurrle and Mitrovic in particular – will have some joy against a Watford back line who have conceded five in five.
For their part, the Hornets will look to write off the home defeat and United and instead tap into the rich vein that saw them win their first four opening games on the bounce. Even against the Red Devils they showed signs of getting back in the game when Andre Gray’s well-taken finish on 65 minutes triggered a late rally, even though they had been well and truly outplayed for the first hour of the game – something that manager Javi Gracia will try and turn into a positive.
Like Fulham, they will look to make the most out of their attacking strength and will play the game on the front foot, hoping to outscore their opponents rather than settling for a draw or a smash and grab win. Their game is built around playing at a high tempo and right now, in Roberto Pereyra, they too have someone who has been on a hot streak.
The Argentinian, who can either play up top or as an attacking midfielder, has fitted into Gracia’s system perfectly and dating back to the Spaniard’s arrival back in January has netted seven times. Some players thrive under certain managers – Pereyra is one of those and will be looking to continue that streak at Craven Cottage.
If this game was at Vicarage Road, we’d be leaning heavily towards a Watford win, but being at home Fulham will be looking to find the form that saw them beat Burnley 4-2. They’ll find it tough against Watford however and it’s hard to find an argument for them finding their first clean sheet of the season.
The Hornets, while not impregnable at the back, will still find Mitrovic a handful and so we can see this one being a firecracker of a draw. A 1-1 draw is tempting (11/2) but we think this one that could to and fro and so the 2-2 – at a cracking +1200 with 188Bet – looks well worthy of a shout.
We’ve been bigging up Mitrovic, so him as either first goalscorer ( +400 ) or anytime goalscorer ( +120 ) is well worth considering, but we have a strong hunch that Watford will come flying out of the traps and so Troy Deeney as first goalscorer at +180 ( 188Bet ) looks the pick of the bunch to us.
Fulham and Watford to draw 2-2
Saturday 22, September. 12:30 GMT
Troy Deeney to be first goalscorer
Saturday 22, September. 12:30 GMT
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Arsenal’s home record against Everton is a good one – they’ve beaten them in their last four Premier League meetings at the Emirates – and everything points to them continuing this fine run.
While the Gunners go into the game off the back of a good away win at St James’ Park, Everton’s 3-1 home defeat (as mentioned earlier) was a setback, after them having had an unbeaten start to the season. The problem for the Toffees, however, was that three of their opening four games were draws and so a dip in performance level saw them slip to a spirit-crushing defeat. For the record, their one win was at home against Southampton.
Arsenal, under Unai Emery, have quietly gone about their business – not always something that can be said of a Gunners side – and after a nightmare opening to the campaign, when they were defeated by Man City and Chelsea in the space of a week, they have won three on the bounce.
Some have been quick to point out the similarities between Emery’s team and Wenger’s most recent iteration – fragile, vulnerable at the back etc – but a new Arsenal is quietly emerging and the Gooners are starting to like it.
The win at Newcastle was impressive in that the Toon put Arsenal under the cosh for spells in the first half, but still, they emerged relatively unscathed and with Lucas Torreira’s introduction at half-time impacting proceedings, goals from Granit Xhaka and Mesut Ozil were then enough to earn them a very good win.
Everton, as mentioned at the start of the preview, have had a couple of disappointing results at Goodison – they drew with Huddersfield just prior to the international break – and while the Gunners will feel they are on the up, the Merseysiders are on a downward curve.
What Everton will cling to, however, is that they have scored in every match they have played so far this season and, given Arsenal’s perceived frailty at the back, Marco Silva will be confident his side can get themselves a goal.
The big question, of course, is can they quell the Gunners’ attacking threat, and all things considered, we think the answer is no. Arsenal are looking increasingly dangerous as an attacking threat and Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang both have shown signs of ‘clicking’ under Emery.
Also, with Everton having conceded ten goals in their two games against the Gunners, there is already a big psychological advantage in favour of the home side.
So, while we can see Everton snaffling a goal, it’s hard to see anything other than an Arsenal win and we expect Emery’s men to make life very difficult indeed for the visitors. The prospect of both sides scoring and Arsenal winning is well worth a look (and a couple of quid) but we’ll go one step further and predict a 3-1 win for the Gunners ( +1000 with 188Bet).
Either Lacazette ( -133 ) or Aubameyang ( -111 ) are good shouts for first goalscorer, but we’d like to hedge our bets a little on this one and instead, we think Aaron Ramsey as an ‘anytime’ goalscorer at +180 with BetVictor is a really decent bet.
Arsenal to beat Everton 3-1
Sunday, 23 September. 16:00 GMT
Aaron Ramsey – Anytime goalscorer
Sunday, 23 September. 16:00 GMT
West Ham’s win at Goodison last weekend was both welcome and overdue – until then the Hammers’ start of the season had been little short of a nightmare – but of equal importance was the manner of their victory. A fluent style of play that saw some of their summer signings flourish was the perfect fillip ahead of the visit of Chelsea to east London, but Manuel Pellegrini will know only too well that the Blues are unlikely to be as accommodating as Everton.
Chelsea are, in fact, seeking a sixth straight Premier League triumph under the tutelage of new boss Maurizio Sarri and, in addition, have their talismanic playmaker Eden Hazard playing at the top of his game. The wide-open spaces of the London Stadium will suit him.
West Ham though will take great heart from events at Goodison Park and will be particularly buoyed by the fact that summer signing Andriy Yarmolenko opened his Hammers’ account with a double in Sunday’s first half. So too his link-up play with Marko Arnautovic.
Pellegrini was also chuffed with the way his side stood up to the mental and physical battle at Goodison and how they refused to wilt even after Sigurðsson pulled a goal back for the Toffees. They stood firm and he’ll be hoping for more of the same at the weekend, as Chelsea are bound to offer a sterner test.
He’ll also be acutely aware that his team now face a tough run of matches which, after Chelsea, sees them take on Manchester United and then Tottenham. So, any points they can squeeze out of the Chelsea game will be most welcome.
Chelsea, for their part, romped home at the weekend with an emphatic 4-1 Stamford Bridge win over newly promoted Cardiff, but still went behind from an early set-piece – something that will offer Pellegrini’s men hope.
The tricky part, of course, will be containing the Blues’ attacking threat, in particular, Hazard who netted a hat-trick against the Bluebirds – taking his tally to an impressive five goals in just three Premier League starts. Sarri has specifically tasked the Belgian with scoring more goals and has even talked of him being a 40-goals-a-season player, so West Ham had better be prepared.
In addition to Hazard, both Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata provide excellent attacking options alongside the Belgian and, unlike many of the Premier League’s other summer arrivals, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic have both caught the eye in the Chelsea midfield.
If West Ham are looking for positives, it could possibly come in the form of Chelsea’s Thursday night trip to Greece to play PAOK in the Europa League, although it’s expected that Sarri will make use of his talented squad and use it as a chance to offer game time to those who’ve yet to feature regularly in the Premier League. The travelling does, however, often have an impact.
However, regardless of European excursions, the bookies unsurprisingly fancy Chelsea for this one and have them heavily odds-on to win, some as short as -200 . Interestingly though, in their last five meetings, there have been one draw and two wins each, suggesting that the white heat of a London derby does sometimes act as a leveller, another factor for Pellegrini to cling on to.
But it’s hard to see past a Chelsea win, although we don’t see it being the easy ride that the bookies assume. We also see West Ham getting themselves a goal, and so a narrow away win, say 1-0 ( +740 ) or 2-1 ( +700 ), is certainly worth thinking about. In fact, we’re particularly drawn to the prospect of West Ham taking the lead but Chelsea coming from behind to get the win, which at +700 with 888Sport looks very decent value.
For a fun bet, we think first booking is an interesting one. In a London derby where the tackles will be flying in early on, especially in that crowded midfield area, Mark Noble’s name jumps out at us, even at +160 ( BetVictor).
Chelsea to win from behind
Saturday 23, September. 13:30 GMT
Mark Noble – First to be shown a card
Saturday 15, September. 15:00 GMT