The race for the top four hots up once more on Sunday afternoon, as a visiting Arsenal side look to cling to their position inside the coveted Champions League qualification places. The Gunners travel to take on West Ham at the London Stadium (4.30pm; TV: Live on Sky Sports).
How will this vital clash work out? Read this WHUFC vs AFC preview, with betting tips, to find out.
West Ham’s Champions League hopes took a bit of a hit on Thursday evening, as they were downed on home soil by Frankfurt. Unlike Arsenal and Tottenham who are vying for a place in next season’s UCL, the Hammers are trying to enter Europe’s premier competition as Europa League winners, but they will now need to get a win in Germany to make that happen.
Finishing in the top four isn’t out of the question for David Moyes’ men. If they win here, then they’ll be five points behind Arsenal, but there would be very little room for error with only three left to play. What’s more, the hosts don’t exactly have momentum on their side, as they not only tasted defeat on Thursday, but have won none of their last three Premier League fixtures, two of which they’ve lost.
For Arsenal, things continued to improve last weekend, as they got the better of Manchester United in front of a home crowd. It was far from plain sailing, and they once again looked shaky at the back, but the attacking quality of Mikel Arteta’s men shone through, much as it did when they beat Chelsea just a few days before downing the Red Devils at the Emirates. After two wins on the spin, the visitors will make the short trip to east London in buoyant mood.
Hammers out of sorts offensively
It is bit strange to say about a team that is the sixth highest scoring in the division, but the Hammers go into Sunday’s game in reasonably poor attacking form. They scored just once against Frankfurt at this venue on Thursday, mustering just two shots on target. They failed to score at Chelsea last weekend, again conjuring up just two shots that troubled the opposition keeper. They have now scored just once in their last 270 minutes of Premier League football. It is hardly becoming of a team looking to enter the highest level of continental competition.
In their last seven Premier League games, the Hammers have scored only six goals, failing to score on three occasions. During that time, they’ve delivered a modest (at best) average of 1.08 expected goals per 90 minutes. Such a figure certainly doesn’t scream attacking threat.
WHU vs AFC: What’s the best bet?
The big question is this: will the hosts be motivated to win this game? Sure, it’s a London derby, so the Hammers aren’t likely to down tools, and with a top-four position still just about up for grabs, they’ll want to give it a good go, but their trip to Frankfurt could weigh heavy on their minds. After all, Moyes’ men are within touching distance of European final, and they’ll know all too well that they must give everything on the continent in little more than three days after this fixture.
It is West Ham’s upcoming continental excursion that explains Arsenal’s odds-on price-tag ahead of this game. The visitors do seem the most likely winners, but can they really be backed at odds of 4/5? For this preview’s money, the answer is no.
At the prices, the best bet looks to be ‘Under 2.5 Goals’. For reasons mentioned above, the hosts will probably look to keep things nice and low-key here, while they have not exactly been scoring for fun of late, scoring more than once in just one of their last six in all competitions. They have also scored just one goal in their last three Premier League games.
The visitors come here off the back of a few pleasing attacking efforts, scoring four at Chelsea and three at home to Man United, but we shouldn’t expect the same here, especially as the hosts are highly likely to adopt a more pragmatic approach rather than opening the game up by getting on the front foot, which we know is when the Gunners start to thrive. Moreover, Arteta’s side haven’t always been in hot scoring form on the road. Prior to Chelsea, they failed to score at both Southampton and Palace, while they notched just once at Villa before that.
Interestingly, less than three goals have been scored in each of West Ham’s last three Premier League games, and it would be little surprise if a relatively low-scoring game unfolded on Sunday afternoon.
If any single player is going to thrive offensively on Sunday, then it’s likely to be Bukayo Saka, who has been in fine form of late. The Englishman netted for the second game in a row last weekend, scoring his 11th league goal of the season, a strike which made him Arsenal’s top scorer.
Playing off the right-hand side, Saka has found himself cutting in more and more as the campaign has gone on, and he’s done so to great effect, shooting (and scoring) with regularity. As he averages 0.31 expected goals and 2.87 shots per 90 minutes, the 20-year-old is worth backing to add to his tally at attractive odds. So these are our brace of betting tips for this WHUFC vs AFC preview, at best odds with the bookies:
Bradley Gibbs is an experienced football writer. He is an expert analyst on Premier League, and all global football leagues & tournaments, for Just Bookies. Bradley has been published by many respected outlets, including USA Betting and the Racing & Football Outlook. He has also written betting strategy guides.