Arsenal vs Manchester United is a match featuring teams who have been in my last two previews, and both made a mockery of my predictions. Cheers, lads.
So we come to an FA Cup clash between the two this Friday night 7.55pm, not knowing which way it’s going to go.
Both sides have upset their big-game records in the last fortnight, they’re tied on 44 points in the Premier League, and who knows what rotation the managers will implement for this match?
Paddy appears to be as undecided as I am. Arsenal are narrow favourites to win at 6/4, but United aren’t much longer at 13/8. With the draw available at 12/5, there won’t have been many matches this season where all three possible outcomes are so close to being equally priced.
So which way to go?
Neither side will want a replay, and with none of the last four meetings at the Emirates ending level, a draw isn’t a common result in this fixture anyway.
Gunners to fire first?
Looking at their respective records in big league matches over the past three seasons, scoring first holds the key. Since the start of 2016/17, Arsenal have scored first at the Emirates against another top six side seven times, winning five of them.
They’ve also conceded the first goal seven times in that period, but they’ve won none of those matches. For United on the road, it’s a similar tale, as they’ve won just one of the nine big matches when they’ve conceded first.
On the plus side they’ve won 100 percent of the time when scoring first in away games against fellow top sides. On the down side, they’ve only scored first twice.
What do you think, Paddy? Arsenal are 10/11 to score the first goal, whereas United are… 10/11. Gee, thanks.
I’m going to punt on the Gunners scoring first, and therefore to win too. Excluding 0-0 draw for obvious reasons, the home side scores first, 57 per cent of the time in the Premier League, but that increases (perhaps surprisingly) to 65 percent when two of the ‘big six’ clash.
But who is going to break the deadlock for the home side? Their top scorer of opening goals in league games against the big six since the start of 2017/18 is… Shkodran Mustafi?
Strange but true – with a whopping two opening goals, including one at Old Trafford, the German is top of Arsenal’s catchily titled ‘big game first goal’ tree.
Emery kept him on the bench for the Chelsea match too, presumably with one eye on unleashing him against United. He’s 22/1 to score first by the way.
Failing that, we could always go for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The former Dortmund man is having a strange campaign. He became the first player for 11 years to score with 10 shots on target in a row earlier this season, but that was never going to last and he’s had a relatively lean spell since.
While has scored four times in his last nine league matches, Aubameyang has missed a remarkable 12 of the 13 clear-cut chances he’s had in those games, including his last six golden opportunities in a row. After de Gea played such a blinder at Wembley recently, what price Aubameyang burying the first great chance Arsenal have? He’s 7/2 to score first, or 5/6 to net at any time.
Romelu Lukaku is the favourite on United’s side of the goal scorer markets, at 7/5 to score or 5/1 to break the deadlock with the opening goal. As Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah are the only players who have scored more away goals in the 2018/19 Premier League, there’s some sense in that.
But the former Toffee has scored just once in a league game against a fellow top club since he joined United. That’s not great for £75 million, is it?
While Anthony Martial is the Red Devils’ joint-top big game scorer since the start of last season, he’s only netted twice in his last 10 appearances.
Solskjaer’s man in form is Marcus Rashford. He scored in United’s last three away games, including getting the winner at Tottenham, and has seven goals in his previous 10 matches. Rash is 15/2 to score first or 21/10 at any point, so if he’s in the XI then definitely bear him in mind.
Both teams to score?
Five of the last six meetings between these clubs has seen both sides score, with four of them featuring at least three goals too. I’d expect those trends to carry on in this match, as it’s hard to see either manager going for a tight, cagey game plan here.
A ‘yes’ bet on both teams to score is available at 1/2, while over 2.5 goals is 6/10. I’d think long and hard about putting a little dough on both of those.
Will this score be correct?
If all the above bets come off – and I think we can agree they probably will – then we’re looking at a 2-1 home win. That sounds a reasonable outcome to me, so a few pennies on that at 8/1 wouldn’t go amiss. But if my last two previews are anything to go by, I’d stick your house on a 0-0 bore draw.
*Prices correct at time of publishing