IT’S semi-final weekend in the FA Cup. Holders Arsenal get us underway as they meet Reading. Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) looks at the odds.
Reading v Arsenal | Saturday 17:20 | BBC1
Arsenal are overwhelming favourites in this opening FA Cup semi-final as they face bottom half Championship side Reading. Would you back the holders at 2/7 to win the game? I wouldn’t. This is at a neutral venue yeah?
Indeed it is, Wembley is where this game takes place and for me Arsenal are priced up like it’s being played at the Emirates. Overwhelming favourites is not a tag they relish, or handle well, and my angle here is to find some way to get with Reading.
The Royals have endured a disappointing campaign there’s no doubt about that. In the bottom seven, this FA Cup run has masked the negative feel somewhat and perhaps even contributed to their poor league form?
The wily Steve Clark replaced Nigel Adkins in December and a run of just one defeat between late-December and mid-February saw the 2014/15 objective shift from Championship survival to let’s-have-a-crack-at-the-FA-Cup.
I’m of the view that this competition has been capturing the minds of players, staff and fans much more so than the league for a couple of months and they’ll get their chance to shine on Saturday.
For Arsenal it’s the opposite. There’s silly talk in some quarters of a title challenge, there was the disappointment of the Champions League exit to Monaco and in some ways they’ve fallen into the semi-finals of this competition without anyone noticing. Bar that impressive Manchester United win of course.
I really feel Reading will be more charged than their opponents for this game. But that may help Arsenal. They may be liberated from the pressure and nerves that they clearly felt in last year’s semi-final against Championship side Wigan. They’ve got the FA Cup t-shirt now and they can relax. The flip side is they take it too easy and find themselves swamped by the Berkshire club early on.
Yes, lots of possibilities but at the odds you just have to embrace the pro-Reading bets. First up I’ll back them +1 on the Asian Handicap at 47/20 with Bet365. If they lose by one goal I get my money back. 4/1 on them to score first with Bet365 appeals and I’ll chuck fivers at Reading/Draw (28/1 Betfred) and Reading/Arsenal (25/1 BetVictor) on the HT-FT market.
Why? Well as I’ve mentioned above, this competition, this game, this opportunity has been at the very heart of Reading Football Club for weeks now. Arsenal have just been chilling. Steve Clarke’s side could come out the traps well and stun sleepy Arsenal, similar to Hull in last year’s FA Cup Final.
What else am I going to do? Back Arsenal at 2/7?!
Reading v Arsenal – Reading +1 Asian Handicap (47/20 Bet365)
Reading v Arsenal – Reading to take the lead (4/1 Bet 365)
Reading v Arsenal – Reading/Draw Double Result (28/1 Betfred)
Reading v Arsenal – Reading/Arsenal Double Result (25/1 Betfred)
Eight wins in a row? Up against a Championship side? Surely, this is easy for Arsenal?
If you’re new to Betfair you can back them at 3/1!