EPL Betting: Persie for PFA player of year
I think van Persie's got one more big performance left in him
With Chelsea's mind possibly on their midweek Champions League date with Barcelona, Lee Dixon believes Arsenal are the bet in this weekend's Premier League match-up.
Over the course of nine days Chelsea will have played Tottenham, Barcelona (twice) and Arsenal and you don't get too many bigger games in club football than those. Still, Roberto Di Matteo is a pragmatic man and now that he's in with a real chance of making the final of the Champions League, we may get a slightly unfamiliar starting XI for Chelsea Saturday lunchtime.
And that could be a huge factor in this game.
It's hard to explain how Arsenal lost to Wigan on Monday night.
They had most of the ball, the lion's share of the chances and boasted a wonderful record against Wigan prior to that match. To an extentthat Chelsea can relate to because it was a pretty similar story when they beat Barcelona on Wednesday night, albeit Barca were far more dominant over Chelsea than Arsenal were over Wigan.
A full-strength Chelsea team could have given Arsenal some real headaches here and exploit a somewhat fragile level of confidence after that Wigan defeat. Didier Drogba in particular could give the Arsenal back four some problems, as he has so many times before. But I don't think he'll start and we may even see other key players like Juan Mata or Frank Lampard start on the bench as well. Next Tuesday they'll have to run themselves into the ground to stop Barcelona from overturning that one goal deficit and the players Di Matteo has pencilled in to start that match will need a rest. Fabulous athlete though Drogba is, he's on the wrong side of 30 so that should mean a recall for Fernando Torres for this match, before Drogba is restored to the starting line-up in midweek.
Arsenal will of course have to make do without Mikel Arteta, ruled out till the end of the season. He's been the best of this season's signings. With all due respect to Everton, Arsenal are a club with more realistic chances of silverware and that brings its own pressures. Some players can trake the step up and handle it, some can't. Arteta has shown that he's more than good enough to play Champions League football and hold his own against the very best.
Even without the Spaniard I think Arsenal will win this. Opta tell us their home record this season is very good with 12 wins from 16 matches so far this season in the league and remind us that the Gunners became the first side to score five against Chelsea in the league since Liverpool in September 1996 when they did so towards the start of this year's campaign. With Chelsea having an eye on that Barca tie and Arsenal fully committed to this match I'm taking the 2.0 about the home win.
I'm not too sure this match will have the goals and excitement that some may expect. When the big guns have played each other this season we've had some high scoring matches. Manchester United 8 Arsenal 2, Manchester United 1 Manchester City 6, Chelsea 3 Arsenal 5, Arsenal 5 Tottenham 2. But this one may turn out a little different. For starters, these 12:45 kick-offs don't have quite the atmosphere that later kick-offs do.
I've already mentioned the fact Chelsea's forward line may be depleted and have spoken in recent weeks about an improvement in Arsenal's defence, despite the fact they conceded two at home to Wigan. All in all, I can't see too many goals here and 'unders' is very much the bet.
It's a shame the voting for PFA Player Of The Year is done as early as January. And it would be a travesty if as a result of that, Robin van Persie doesn't win it. All the other nominees have been extremely good in their own way but van Persie was the captain who prevented his ship from sinking. As some were talking about a mid-table finishes for the Gunners he kept plugging on, scoring goals, dragging his team out of trouble time and time again. No wonder he looks exhausted. But I think he's got one more big performance left in him. Let's just hope it's not his last one in an Arsenal shirt. I'm backing him to open the scoring at around 6.0.