Everton v Arsenal
Saturday March 19, 11:45pm
In the strangest of all the Premier League seasons another oddity as we approach the climax is that the team currently in 12th position in the league have scored more goals per game than any other. That’s right, while the plaudits have gone to the attacking brilliance of Jamie Vardy and Ryiad Mahrez at Leicester and the dynamic duo partnership between Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane at Spurs, bottom-half Everton have netted more regularly than either.
Everton seem to be scoring more and more regularly. No side has netter more than their 39 in their last 20 league match so where has it all gone wrong for the Toffees? Over the same sample size, the only teams to have conceded more than Everton’s 31 goals are Norwich (33), Sunderland (35), Newcastle (35) and Villa (40!) As a result both teams have scored in 13 of Everton’s last 20 league fixtures.
Even for perennial chokers Arsenal, their car crash this season has been terrible. Since beating Newcastle 1-0 on January 2nd the Gunners have won just two of nine league games and one of the victories (2-1 hosting the table-topping Foxes) came with the last kick of the game.
Arsenal started their campaign with six wins in nine on the road but have since won just one of their last six as four of the matches featured at least four goals. While their early road form was impressive it’s interesting to note that the six wins all came against teams currently in the bottom-half and while Everton are currently in that subset they are a much better team than those around them and with a couple of games in hand we would still expect them to finish around eighth.
Arsenal played well in Barcelona on Wednesday evening but still succumbed 3-1, losing 5-1 on aggregate to the European champions. That result followed their whimpering exit from the FA Cup at Watford last weekend and their poor league form has meant they’ve drifted to 8.8 from a low of 2.00 to win their first Premier League title in 12 years. Worse still, their place in the draw for next year’s Champions League is far from guaranteed. They are 1.15 to finish in the top-four but that looks a lay rather than a back right now.
While it’s been a terrible few weeks for Arsenal the market seems to have reacted at least enough to their poor form and we’re not keen on Everton being shorter than their opponents given they’ve still won only four of their last 15 in the league. Furthermore, they are yet to beat any team in the current top-six this season.
Over the past five seasons, Arsenal have won 52% of their 46 trips to middle-third teams. 32 (70%) of the matches have seen both teams net and 32 (70%) have seen Over 2.5 Goals.
With both clubs ever-present in the Premier League since 1992/93 we’ve got a huge amount of head-to-head results to look back on. Arsenal, as one would expect, have dominated the H2H winning 28 and losing just six of their 47 encounters. The hosts’ results don’t improve much when they play at Goodison: W1-D3-L3 over the past seven seasons. Five of the seven have seen both sides score and that looks likely again here.
At 1.61 it’s unlikely to make you rich but it’s a stand out selection. Arsenal to win with both teams scoring is available at a very tempting 4.5 but given their whimpering exits from the FA Cup and the Champions League in the last seven days we’re going to avoid it.
Manchester City v Manchester United
Monday March 21, 3:00am
Though qualification was all but assured after winning the first leg 3-1, Man City fans will be disappointed their side failed to score at home to Dynamo Kiev in the match immediately following their goalless draw at Norwich. The Citizens are now as big at 19.5 to win their second title under Manuel Pellegrini despite trading at a low of 1.38 in September.
The likable Chilean can’t take all the blame, but it’s perhaps a sign that the decision to change management and bring in Pep Guardiola this summer was the right one. With the talents on offer in this squad plus the addition of the now crocked Kevin De Bruyne before the campaign, City should have eased to a third Premier League trophy.
While the aforementioned City fans will probably be slightly underwhelmed with their season so far they are in a much better position than their arch-rivals. Dead man walking Louie Van Gaal has plummeted Man Utd to seemingly ever further depths than even the doomed David Moyes managed. It’s amazing to think that given the abuse he has suffered the Red Devils could be one point off fourth spot with a win here.
That victory, though, looks very unlikely. Under LVG, Man Utd have managed 1.75 points per game (under Moyes – 1.68, under Ferguson – 2.16) but on the road that drops to a pitiful 1.32 PPG (Moyes – 1.83, Ferguson – 1.90). In his hardest away matches (travelling to last season’s top-6 and the current top-6), Utd have gone W2-D2-L3 including a 1-0 loss in this fixture last year.
A more general feature of Man Utd’s away games under LVG has been the propensity for low-scoring boring matches. Three of Utd’s last four on the road have had Under 2.5 Goals and all four have been level at HT. Looking back further, 21 of Utd’s away games have been level at the break since the Dutchman took over and 13 were goalless at the interval.
It’s a bit risky taking unders here given 12 of City’s last 13 home matches have had Over 2.5 Goals but the hosts certainly aren’t as free-scoring currently as they’ve been in the past. City have failed to score in the opening 45 minutes of each of their last five league games and over half (15/29) of their league fixtures this season have been level at HT.
This fixture has been all-square at the break in three of the last six seasons and with both teams more goal shy than usual it’s worth taking a fourth in seven at odds-against.