Arsenal v Liverpool feels like a fixture which should be subtitled ‘the grass is always greener’ derby.
Gunners fans would love a genuine title challenge every five years or so, and many Kopites would be happy to see their side qualify for the Champions League year after year. The title is definitely gone for Arsenal for another year, and Liverpool face a battle for a top four finish.
It’s this mentality that leads to Arsenal Fan TV meltdowns on one hand, and Reds fans whinging that only three of their fab four attackers are playing on the other. Those with longer memories (of say, oh I don’t know, three years) will remember when it was a toss-up between Mario Balotelli, Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini leading the line for Liverpool. It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times.
So, there’s every chance one set of fans will be grumbling their way through their Christmas turkey depending on how this one pans out, but what’s likely to happen?
Having mentioned Liverpool’s fab four, it’s surely worth putting a few quid on Sadio Mané to be amongst the goals. The Senegalese international is priced at 15/2 to score first, or 5/2 at any time. Mané has only scored the opener twice in the last 25 league matches, so perhaps the latter bet is the better option.
He has also scored four times against the Gunners in his career, including in all three matches for Liverpool. Jürgen Klopp even rested Mané last time out at Bournemouth, presumably with the aim of keeping him fit to give Nacho Monreal a nightmare before Christmas.
On the Arsenal side of the scorer market, there’s a couple of players due a goal.
The good news for you is that they’re players who normally score them too.
Alexandre Lacazette isn’t just the Gunner most likely to go off, but the player most due a goal in the whole of the Premier League. In the last four matches he has missed five of his six clear-cut chances.
That’s partly down to the record breaking display by David de Gea in United’s recent win at the Emirates, but the good news for you is that Simon Mignolet isn’t as good as de Gea. Well, I wouldn’t call that news exactly. But it is good, so have a flutter on the Frenchman to score first, at 9/2, or anytime, at 13/10.
Alexis Sanchez hasn’t scored in any of his last four league games, but has had 16 shots including five on target in those matches. He also hasn’t gone five league starts without a goal for almost two years, so a goal must be around the corner.
He might be playing for Manchester City by the time he scores it, but with the transfer window not yet open, it could be on Friday night. The Chilean is 5/1 to score first, or 6/4 to net at some point during the match.
As we know that the goals will undoubtedly be flowing for the aforementioned players, how about a bet on how many goals there will be in the match?
You can get 8/15 that there will be over 2.5 goals, and history suggests it’s even more likely than your family falling out over Brexit during your Christmas lunch.
There have been over 2.5 goals in eight of the last nine meetings, and in fact five of the last six encounters have featured at least four goals. Maybe a punt on over 3.5 goals at 5/4 shouldn’t be ruled out either?
Since the start of last season, these two teams are amongst the top four for playing matches which saw at least three goals, as you will see below. Hey, Arsenal and Liverpool fans? How many of you would take this for the league table in May?
Another bet which caught my eye is the market for the teams to score in both halves of the match. Arsenal are priced at 9/5, and a shade shorter than Liverpool who can be backed at 15/8. Yet it is the Reds who have scored both sides of half time more often in the past 50 league games, by a tally of 14 to 10.
Liverpool have also done so six times on the road this season, which is the joint-most in the division.
Arsenal perhaps deserve to be the shorter price in light of home advantage and Liverpool’s defensive record away from Anfield, but Klopp’s boys could be worth a bet here.
Speaking of Liverpool’s defence, their efforts in big away games this season can best be described as a form of absurdist performance art, or perhaps a satirical comment on the ultimate futility of life.
But since their mauling at Wembley by Spurs, they’ve tightened up considerably. The Reds have either drawn or won by at least three goals in their last nine league matches.
Over those nine games, only Burnley have conceded fewer goals than Liverpool in the Premier League. Can Klopp’s boys get Christmas started with a clean sheet at the Emirates? Paddy says it’s a 7/2 shot, and whilst I wouldn’t go large on it, I don’t think it can be ruled out either.
In terms of the result, I think one team will win by the odd goal in three.
It hasn’t been a common score for either team, but they feel pretty equally matched and there’s usually goals when they meet.
Eat, drink, be merry, and don’t cheat at Trivial Pursuit. Santa knows who’s naughty or nice, after all.
* All odds correct at time of posting.