ARSENAL travel to Old Trafford to face Manchester United on Thursday. Matthew Kirby (@M_Kirby95) takes a closer look at what's expected to be an intriguing encounter.
Manchester United vs Arsenal | Thursday 2nd December 2021, 20:15 | Amazon
Ralf Rangnick has finally been appointed but whether his work permit has arrived in time for him to be on the touchline for the visit of Arsenal is still to be made clear.
Michael Carrick set the Red Devils up to be hard to break down against Chelsea on Sunday, and it worked with them picking up a point. And while they may well be more adventurous with a return to home soil, the visitors have been stubborn to break down in some games this season.
After their slow start, Arsenal have got up and running. It’s just one defeat in their last 10 league games (W7, D2), which was the 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Liverpool. However, they’ve managed to keep six clean sheets across those games, conceding just eight goals.
With the Gunners surprisingly in the hunt for a top-four spot, they could set up to be quite conservative here. While the United players will be eager to impress their new boss.
Bet365 have under 2.75 goals at just shy of EVS at 1.97 on the Asian Lines tab – it’s 2.5,3.0 on the market. And on paper, it looks an attractive way into this fixture. This bet fully pays out if there are two or fewer goals, yet if there are three, we’ll get the half stake that goes on the 3.0 line refunded as a push.
I’ve mentioned the Arsenal clean sheets in recent weeks, so that highlights their defensive solidity, something they’ve not been known for in a long time.
But their away record would give the hosts some hope here. Only Norwich average a lower xGF on the road this season, while the Gunners have lost three away games, including at two of the proverbial ‘big six’.
We all know that Man Utd have struggled in their last seven and as flagged up an Infogol piece, their processes have been sub-standard. They’re averaging 1.15xGF and 2.34xGA over that time while collecting the fewest expected points (xP) of any side in the top-flight. Yes, even fewer than Newcastle and Norwich.
So, there’s a strong case to go against goals. And those that follow head-to-head data will note that the last five meetings have all seen under 2.75 goals, with the Gunners shutting out this United attack in four of those, including in each of the last three.
With two teams who’ll do their best to cancel each other out, I’m happy to back few goals at Old Trafford.
The second bet I’ll take is a drum that I’ve banged in recent Arsenal pieces. Emile Smith Rowe is back to being odds-against to have 1+ shot on target at 5/4 with Sky Bet.
I went with a specific shot on target in the game against Newcastle, which didn’t land, but the effort that forced the Magpies’ keeper into a save was from a header – not something you’d expect!
This price is just hard to ignore considering his flying form and the confidence Mikel Arteta has instilled into him.
His four shots against Newcastle take him to 20 in the league for the season. While his headed effort on target means it’s 11 shots that have tested the opposition keeper or found the net.
Overall, Smith Rowe has had shots on target in 11 of 13 appearances with just the games Liverpool and Man City seeing him fail to register even a shot. However, this is a different test given how shaky this Man Utd defence has looked at times, so a player like Smith Rowe can take advantage of that, especially up against Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
Those are the two bets for me. I did look towards the Arsenal full-backs for tackles, which is something opposition players have racked up against United in recent weeks. I requested Nuno Tavares and Takehiro Tomiyasu 5+ tackles (5/4), 8+ (12/1) and 10+ (66/1) with Sky Bet, so that’s something to look at.
Watford’s full-backs the other weekend completed nine between them – Kiko Femenía (5/6) and Adam Masina (4/4), while Man City’s made 6 with João Cancelo recording 4/4. Emerson Royal also made 4/4 for Spurs, so I’d expect those to go close, although I’ve backed them personally rather than tipping them below.
The last thing to note was the appointment of Martin Atkinson, which puts me off cards – he’s just looked completely disinterested in several games this season. So, is anyone having the Atkinson classic? Under 0.5 goals and under 0.5 cards for those who aren’t aware.