Arsenal are a tough team to predict at the moment. On one hand they recently beat Chelsea 2-0 with minimum fuss, but they followed that up with a 3-1 defeat to Manchester United.
One thing has remained consistent for a number of years though: they are terrible when playing away against another member of the big six in the Premier League.
Their last win in such a fixture was at the Etihad, which might inspire confidence ahead of this game on Sunday (4.30pm). The problem is, that was just over four years ago. In big away league games since, the Gunners have just seven draws to go with 13 defeats.
In fairness to Unai Emery, it’s not that Arsenal haven’t had their moments in such matches since he took charge. They led at Anfield and Old Trafford (twice) and had five clear-cut chances at Stamford Bridge. And that’s certainly an improvement on the end of Arsene Wenger’s reign – in their last seven big away league matches under Le Boss they had five clear-cut chances in total and never scored first.
They’ve not managed to get the job done and win though, and I don’t expect them to do so here. Paddy’s no fool and he agrees: Manchester City are 1/4 to win this one, with the draw 5/1 and Arsenal 15/2.
The Gunners’ main problem – and this isn’t just down to their injury issues at the back – is that Pep Guardiola’s side usually score first in big games at home, and they usually win them too. Which seems a strange thing to say, when they’ve opened the scoring against Crystal Palace, Leicester and Newcastle recently and lost.
However, City have scored first in their last seven ‘big six’ league matches at home, winning six of them.
The champions are just 1/4 to score first here, so I’d look to combine that bet with a City win. It’s still only around 1/2 but it looks a very safe punt.
Will the Gunners fire away from home?
What’s decidedly less clear is whether Arsenal will get on the score sheet. Despite their terrible run on the road in the big six mini league, the Gunners have found the net in five of their last six away matches against other top sides.
You have to go back to 2011/12 to find the last meeting at the Etihad where Arsenal failed to net. They’ve also scored in all but one of their away matches in all competitions this season.
Granted, that was in their last match away from the Emirates when they lost to West Ham, but otherwise they’ve packed their shooting boots when not playing in the red half of North London.
You might be able to rely on Arsenal to score, but they’re also likely to concede. Emery’s boys are the only team in the top flight yet to keep a clean sheet on the road, and Bernd Leno has kept just two shut outs in his 18 league appearances for the club.
In fact, the Gunners have just one away clean sheet in the league in the last 13 months.
That was against low-scoring Huddersfield in a dead rubber on the final day of last season.
Both teams to score
I’ll be betting ‘yes’ in the both teams to score market. Care to join me? It’s available at 4/7, or 5/4 if you combine it with a home win.
And if we think both teams will score, then it’s reasonable to assume there’ll be a few goals in total. Since the start of 2017/18, six of City’s home league games against the other top sides have seen at least three goals, with five of them featuring at least four.
Arsenal’s last four big away matches have seen at least three goals, with an average of 4.5. This should be an entertaining game, so let’s make a profitable one too. Over 2.5 goals is priced at 3/10, but I think I might take the 17/20 for over 3.5.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang did us a favor at 5/6 as an anytime goalscorer v Man Utd in the FA Cup and the former Dortmund man is the Gunners’ best bet to score here too. He’s having a strange season in front of goal, so perhaps his goal last week will kick start him on another good run.
Only Kane and Salah have scored more league goals away from home this season than Aubameyang.
He’s 7/1 to score first, though 6/4 at any time looks a more sensible bet.
The favourite in the scorer market is Sergio Aguero, which is no surprise.
In the last three years he has faced Arsenal seven times, scoring in five of the matches (including both of the two at the Etihad). Eight of his 11 league goals in 2018/19 have been on home soil, and I expect him to add to that here. The Argentine is a measly 2/5 to get on the score sheet, or 11/4 to bag the opener.
Whichever player scores, and whichever Arsenal team shows up, this should be a comfortable home win.
Will Liverpool then be able to handle the pressure on Monday night at West Ham?