MANCHESTER CITY welcome Arsenal for Saturday evening's standout showdown. Matthew Kirby (@M_Kirby95) delivers his betting analysis.
Manchester City vs Arsenal | Saturday 17th October 2020, 17:30 | Sky Sports
It’s the master versus the apprentice at the Etihad when Mikel Arteta takes his Arsenal side to Man City.
The Gunners have made a solid start to the season and continue to make strides under Arteta – those were noticeable when these two met in last season’s FA Cup semi-final.
The visitors could have Kieran Tierney available, after his isolation from the Scottish national team, while deadline day signing Thomas Partey could make his debut.
Man City have been unconvincing so far. They start this round of fixtures in 14th and haven’t won either of their last two – they’ve not gone three games without a league win since April 2017.
Kevin de Bruyne limped out of Belgium’s Nations League game against England and will miss this one, but Pep Guardiola will be happy to see Raheem Sterling pass a fitness test.
He’ll also have liked what he saw from Rúben Dias on his debut, but he’ll have a job improving this vulnerable backline.
Vulnerable at the back
Man City games have been very open and watchable affairs this season. Something that’ll concern their faithful is how easy some sides have been able to cut out chances.
They’ve faced 29 shots on goal in their opening three games, just shy of 10 per game. While many will hope the presence of Rúben Dias alongside Aymeric Laporte will bring that down, it might take time as the Portuguese national gets his feet under the table.
The protection in front of them offered by Fernandinho and Rodri should become stronger in the next few weeks, but straight after a three-game international break, there could be some tired limbs in this Man City outfit.
Their Expected Goals Against (xGA) data isn’t very City like either, sitting at 6.16xGA. And when breaking down their three games, you’ll see some startling numbers for a side that wants to win back the title.
They limited Leicester to seven shots in their only home game, but the Foxes saw all of them hit the target, with five finding the net. In away games, they’ve allowed double figures in both – 10 at Wolves and 12 at Leeds (seven hit the target).
Something still isn’t quite right with the balance of the City team, and when you’ve got full-backs like Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker, who like to attack, then there is likely to be a lot of space for Arsenal to exploit on the break – something they tried to use to such effect at Liverpool.
There is still work to be done with this Arsenal side, but it seems clear to the eye that there is some steady improvement.
They look a well-drilled side at times, sitting well in their shape. Arteta’s game plan worked against Man City in the FA Cup last season, and it could have worked in their only defeat of the season at Liverpool.
After scoring the opener, Alexandre Lacazette raced through on the Liverpool goal looking likely to make the game 2-2 but shot tamely at Alisson. How different that could have been if he coolly slotted home!
That night saw a more pragmatic approach from the capital club, who had just 34% of the ball. And we’re likely to see a similar tactic employed here. Allow City plenty of the ball and then hit them quickly when they’re out of position, with the pace of Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Arsenal’s record against Man City in recent seasons has been nothing short of abysmal, but to sum up the improvement under Arteta, you’ll see they’ve won eight of their last 12 Premier League games. On top of that, since the defeat at Brighton in June, no side has picked up more league points than them (25).
The betting angles
City will see plenty of the ball, but when out of possession they do like to press. That could well work, but Arsenal have been very good in possession, and since Arteta took over, the Gunners have scored more goals following a sequence of 10 or more passes than any other side (11).
The way they work the ball and pull opposing players out of position before cutting them open to allow pockets of space for that front three is one area City will have to be very careful, especially the two who start at full-back.
Mendy has already been booked in two of his three league games and he looks to be an ideal candidate at 10/3 with Bet365.
Going in contrast to that is if Arsenal take a pragmatic approach, frustration could set in. Kyle Walker is one who can have a pop. He’s had four this season – one in each game, but EVS with Ladbrokes for 1+ shot is a bit tight. But the 13/10 for him to have a shot from outside the box holds more appeal.
Given how shaky City have looked so far, conceding 6.16xGA, and the fact they’re without a recognised striker, then the 5/1 price on the Gunners looks absurd.
So, I’m willing to play the visitors in the Asian Handicap market. +1 is odds-against. If they win or draw, we win the bet, it’s void if they lose by one, while it’s only a loser if Man City win by two or more goals.
I very nearly did chance my arm at Arsenal over 7.5 shots at EVS on Bet365. That’s because the other bookies have set the bar at 10, so this line is much lower and realistic.
However, the data isn’t too good from an Arsenal perspective. Man City have conceded plenty of shots, as mentioned above, but the Gunners rank 18th in the league for shots (30), only Man United and West Brom have attempted fewer.
It could well prove to be an intriguing tactical battle with how the two will set up, but one I’m happy to side with Arsenal causing problems on the counter-attack.
Manchester City v Arsenal – Arsenal +1 Asian Handicap (107/100 Genting Bet)
Manchester City v Arsenal – Benjamin Mendy to be carded (10/3 Bet365)