Sky Sports Super Sunday includes the clash between Arsenal and Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium. With the Gunners already getting their excuses in, will the Champions have an easy time keeping pace with rivals City, or will there be a sting in the tail in North London?
Over 2.5 Goals (5/6 @ Betfair)
Arsene Wenger has been quick to let everyone know how depleted his Arsenal ranks are, with a host of injuries as well as players away at the African Cup of Nations to contend with. The Gunners will be without key personnel such as Vermaelen and Arteta, but also have the longer term problems at full back to try and overcome – both Sagna and Santos are missing, as are their replacements, Gibbs and Jenkinson. With square pegs in round holes on either side of the back four, it is not an ideal time to be facing Nani or Valencia.
The 8-2 hammering at Old Trafford was a watershed moment for Arsenal, and Arsene Wenger would appear to be ‘managing expectation’ going into this one. The most recent disappointment for the home side was the news that the returning hero, Thierry Henry, so often a thorn in the side of United, will also miss this clash through injury.
At 13/8, United are reasonably small considering they have injury problems of their own. Paul Scholes came out of retirement partly to paper over the cracks in a midfield deprived of Darren Fletcher and Ashley Young. Sir Alex Ferguson seems to have lost faith in Anderson and has allowed Darren Gibson to join Everton. The long term injury to Vidic has also disrupted a back four which has had to cope without Ferdinand, Evans and Chris Smalling at different times (Smalling should be fit for this one).
Taking the statistics at face value, a low scoring game might seem to be on the cards. Arsenal have conceded just 6 goals at home in 10 fixtures, and United have only let in the same number away. Dig a little deeper however and a different trend emerges. United have kept 4 clean sheets in the last 9 – but they came against Bolton, Wigan, Fulham and QPR – more or less a roll-call of toothless Premier League attacks. Arsenal may be weakened, but they still pose a bigger threat than most.
Given the defensive problems for both clubs, a punt on the 5/6 with Betfair on Over 2.5 seems in order. The Gunners have been exposed so many times on the road, that the home defensive record can be overlooked. Nani will be licking his lips at the prospect of getting at ‘fill in’ full backs – and one person who might be better placed than most to benefit from crosses is Danny Welbeck – 5/2 to Score Anytime (StanJames) or 15/2 to Score first, again with StanJames.