The Gunners’ match with Chelsea was the halfway point in the big six mini-league for 2019/20, and part two gets underway here.
Where Arsenal versus Manchester United was once the diamond fixture in the Premier League crown, these days it’s more like a scuffle in a pub car park. Mildly interesting, but soon forgotten.
People say the league table never lies, but it certainly does for United this season. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have only taken 20 points from their 15 matches against the smaller 14 teams in the division. Put them in a mini league with those sides and the Red Devils are only mid-table.
But put them up against the top sides and they spring into life. United have three wins and two draws from their five matches against the other big boys this season, and they’ve also won at Stamford Bridge in the Carabao Cup.
Three of their last six visits to the Emirates have seen United head home with a win too.
In the last couple of years, this fixture has seen some undeserved results. Last season, United missed five clear-cut chances on their way to a 2-0 defeat, while in 2017/18, David de Gea made 13 saves to guide his side to a 3-1 win.
I think it’s safe to say the Spaniard doesn’t look capable of repeating that performance again any time soon. But he probably won’t need to, as it’s been over two months since Arsenal had more shots on target than their opponents in a home league game.
The underlying statistics are heavily in favour of United though, as is the recent league form of the two teams. In a close market, that’ll do for me.
Best Bet: Manchester United to win – 6/4
Will there be goals?
There should be a few goals in this match, if for no other reason than neither team can defend that well and both have liabilities between the sticks. Bernd Leno’s gaffe for Jorginho’s equaliser on Sunday saw him move one clear of David de Gea in Opta’s table of ‘errors leading to goals’ in the Premier League since the start of last season.
Arsenal have kept just one clean sheet at the Emirates in the league this season and United only kept their first on the road at Burnley on Saturday. It’s rare for one of these teams to fail to score when they clash too – the 2-0 Arsenal win last season was the only example in the last six meetings where one team drew a blank.
And it seems to be a trend in the big matches. Compared to the last three seasons, there has been a much higher proportion of games among the big six which are paying out on both teams to score and over 2.5 goals.
There aren’t that many more goals being scored in the big games, they’re just being shared around more leading to fewer one sided matches. This will be no exception.
If you like omens and throwing money away, you might be interested to learn two of the last three meetings at the Emirates have seen Granit Xhaka score the opening goal in a 2-0 win. It’s available at around 100/1 if you’ve indulged too much this Christmas.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hadn’t scored a league goal at the Emirates for two months prior to the Chelsea game. But he did, and he has also found the net in the Gunners’ last three matches with United.
Alexandre Lacazette is level with Auba on home league goals – both this season, and in big league games over the last few years – but has only scored once in his last 359 league minutes, so Aubameyang it is.
Best Bet: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to score – 10/11
The last time United won in the league at the Emirates, Jesse Lingard scored a brace. As he’s got through 2019 without scoring or assisting a league goal, I’d probably steer clear of him here.
A better bet would be Anthony Martial. He has scored five goals in his last seven appearances and is the joint-top scorer of away goals in the big six mini-league since August 2018.
Best Bet: Anthony Martial to score – 7/5
* All odds correct at time of posting.