Same old Arsenal. That was the verdict after a poor performance on a cold night in Sheffield on Monday, a game in which the Gunners were out-fought and out-thought, again struggling to create many good chances.
Nicolas Pépé had a good chance in the first half (73%), but Arsenal’s eight other shots equated to an xG total of 0.45 xGF, a low tally for a team with such attacking talent.
Arsenal two-shot maps vs Bournemouth and Sheffield United
It was the same in their game against Bournemouth before the international break (xG: ARS 1.16 – 0.82 BOU), so there is clearly something going on with Arsenal’s attacking process, yet Unai Emery refuses to change things and refuses to bring their most talented creator – Mesut Özil – back into the fold.
Defensively they have been better in their last two games. However, their defensive process has been exceptionally poor overall this season (1.64 xGA per game).
Crystal Palace were taught a lesson by Manchester City last weekend, losing 2-0, but the Eagles were fortunate not to lose by a wider margin (xG: CRY 0.83 – 3.82 MCI). Prior to that game, though, Crystal Palace had impressed greatly, producing strong displays to win against West Ham and Norwich, while they also got a point against Wolves. Even when they were beaten 4-0 at Tottenham they were unfortunate to lose so heavily (xG: TOT 1.25 – 0.72 CRY).
Palace are always a dangerous team on the road against one of the top six as they possess pace on the counter-attack and are usually solid in defence. They will fancy their chances here.
Palace won this game 3-2 last season, and deserved the win according to expected goals (xG: ARS 1.56 – 2.19 CRY). It isn’t farfetched to suggest something similar could occur this season. Arsenal are priced at 4/9 (69%) to win the game, but Infogol thinks they should be closer to 20/23 (54%), meaning there is a huge amount of value in opposing the hosts, so backing Crystal Palace or Draw is the recommendation here.
Selection – Crystal Palace or Draw @ 8/5
Norwich vs Manchester United – 4.30 pm
Norwich kept their first clean sheet of the season last weekend against Bournemouth, and produced a much-improved defensive display as a consequence of playing more conservatively. However, they failed to create chances. It was their worst attacking display of the season but best defensive display (xG: BOU 0.79 – 0.40 NOR).
It will be interesting to see if they stick with this gameplan against one of the ‘big six’. After its success last weekend – and the numerous defensive injuries they have – it could be the way forward for a Norwich team that were fun to watch but extremely vulnerable earlier in the season.
Manchester United earned a good point last weekend, holding Liverpool to a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford thanks to another strong defensive display (xG: MUN 0.91 – 1.25 LIV). United boast the best defensive process in the Premier League after nine games, allowing an average of just 0.96 xGA per game, so there is a positive for United fans.
Now for the negative. They rank as one of the worst attacking teams in the Premier League.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side create on average just 1.12 non-penalty xGF per game, and have struggled to open teams up, with quite a few of their ‘big’ chances coming from set-pieces.
Non-penalty big chances created in Premier League (GW9)
If United are to get a win here it is unlikely to be a demolition job, and, given their defensive process, I’m not expecting them to concede many chances to Norwich at Carrow Road. All of this points to another low-scoring game involving Manchester United.
Selection – Under 2.5 Goals @ Evens
Double pays 4/1
Arsenal v Crystal Palace: Crystal Palace or Draw @ 8/5
Norwich v Man United: Under 2.5 Goals @ 6/5