Even though it has been several weeks since the release of the fixture list, the gravity of some opening day fixtures is not lost on anyone. It seems somewhat fitting that – albeit alphabetically – Arsenal vs. Manchester City should stand proudly atop the list.
City to ruin Emery debut
Despite Arsenal having home advantage, with an atmosphere bolstered by the presence of Unai Emery on the touchline, City are odds-on, or at least at evens, across the board to take the points. In one case, the champions are a mere 13/2 to beat Arsenal by at least three goals.
With Manchester City also having ‘trophy specials’ prior to 2018/19, there are no prizes for guessing which team the bookmakers have their own money on.
Unquestionably, from a betting perspective, this match will be the main draw of 2018/19’s opening weekend, especially those that want to use a free bet calculator after including the match in an accumulator. The match will mark the twentieth time that Arsenal FC has opened a Premier League (PL) season on North London turf.
Goals galore at the Grove?
Openers at Arsenal seldom want for goals, and with an outcome yielding over 2.5 goals odds-on across the board, this could easily be a classic. Only one of the nineteen Highbury/Emirates PL openers to date has produced a 0-0 draw; namely, when the Gunners hosted Sunderland in 2012.
A repeat of that 0-0 scoreline, between Arsenal and City, is priced at an average of 352/25 in current correct score markets. By contrast, three or more goals will see Arsenal become the first Premier League club to host over 100 opening day goals.
Though Arsenal F.C has been granted an extraordinary number of home openers in the PL era, it has not always gone to plan for the Gunners.
The Manchester City of 2018 is an entirely different entity from what it once was but, for what it is worth, this is the second time the fixture computer has fated City to open at Arsenal in the PL era. The first occasion was in 1994 when Arsenal strolled to a 3-0 win against a club about to embark on a Lucifer-esque fall from grace through the leagues.
With the tally currently at 97, the average per game is 5.10. An aggregate score involving seven or more goals will also make it the third season in succession that the Emirates has seen such a goalfest unfold – unheard of in the age of offside and (now) VAR!
Curse of the champions – a new phenomenon
Despite finishing 2017/18 with 100 points, Pep Guardiola’s nigh-unplayable Manchester City squad has plenty of reason to be wary. The reigning PL champions from a previous season have now lost in successive years for the first time ever. Indeed, it was not until 2016 that any champion (Leicester) lost a PL opener.
A failure for City to win will make it four years in a row that a reigning champion has failed to win an opener, with three already a record in any case. Regardless of the newly-impoverished record of reigning champions on the opening day, the club is on a run of seven straight opening day wins.
Pep Guardiola can also take encouragement from City’s recent PL record in away openers under the Khaldoon Al Mubarak regime.
City squads have scored twice as many (10) as they have conceded (5) on away openers during that time. If the 4-2 away defeat to Aston Villa (August 2008) is taken out of the equation, City squads have conceded just 0.2 goals per opening day road trip since 2009.