Will Lacazette’s injury hamper Arsenal’s chances against Manchester United?

Christmas party season is on its way, the weather’s freezing cold, and Arsenal v Manchester United is on the telly. It’s a no-brainer to stay in and watch this weekend’s big game with a takeaway on Saturday night, isn’t it?

But which way will it go? Here’s football odds expert Adrian Clarke with his views on the heavyweight clash, plus two other tasty matches in prospect…

Arsenal v Manchester United | Saturday 2 December 17:30

Has a tweak of Alexandre Lacazette’s groin swung this bitter top four match-up in Manchester United’s favour? It’s something to consider.

For Arsene Wenger, it is an undoubted blow to lose his razor-sharp frontman, as much for his ability to press defenders, as it is the absence of his goal threat.

The obvious replacement is Olivier Giroud – who returned to form by scoring twice against Huddersfield – but from a tactical perspective his presence as the leader of the line alters almost everything.

With the bigger man up top the Gunners won’t be able to close down with anywhere near the ferocity they showed so spectacularly in the North London derby. So unless the tireless Danny Welbeck is chosen instead, this shift in approach will hand the visitors more quality possession.

For the spectacle of the match that’s a pity, for this Arsenal side is at its explosive best whenever they take the fight to opponents on their own patch.

The forward play is great to watch.

Had Lacazette started I’d have predicted a total of over 3.5 goals at 23/10.

The general consensus whenever Jose Mourinho turns up at Emirates Stadium is that he’ll shut up shop and kill the game though – and United’s record away to the big boys does indicate a consistently defensive mindset.

Focusing harder on stopping than scoring the Red Devils failed to hit the net at Chelsea and Liverpool, while last season they bagged just one goal at White Hart Lane from their visits to Top 6 stadiums.

That’s why I am surprised to see Manchester United priced up at 12/5 not to score in this fixture.

I’d definitely be tempted by that, not least because Arsenal have kept nine clean sheets in their 12 straight Premier League wins on home turf.

Emirates Stadium is very much a fortress at the moment.

I like the 6/4 on offer for Arsenal to take all three points. It represents excellent value considering their recent record.

Could Jose shock everybody by electing for a more attacking strategy? That’s a possibility, for we know how sensitive he’s been to criticism of his safety-first ideals. And he will no doubt seek to exploit weaknesses in the Arsenal defence.

Should they play on the front foot and attack with gay abandon, Marcus Rashford is the player I suspect Wenger will fear most. The youngster was rested in midweek and will look to race into spaces left by forward-thinking right-back Hector Bellerin.

Rashford is 27/10 to score anytime.

My own take is that this will be one of the more exciting installments of the Wenger-Mourinho rivalry, with both teams scoring.

My selection would be a 1-1 draw (21/4) with Alexis Sanchez getting the Gunners goal. As a scorecast, you’ll get offered generous odds of 20/1 on that scenario.

It should be a cracking game between two evenly matched teams.

Grosvenor Price Boosts

Olivier Giroud to score first goal – 11/2

Watford v Tottenham Hotspur | Saturday 2 December 15:00

Spurs aren’t exactly in the midst of a crisis, but boy could they do with a victory at Vicarage Road.

Defeats to United, Arsenal and Leicester City have sent them hurtling towards the indignity of seventh place, and suddenly there are red faces on the white side of North London.

All that talk of a power shift is back on hold.

In Mauricio Pochettino’s shoes, I’d drop out-of-form Dele Alli for Son Heung-Min, and pair the South Korean with Harry Kane in a two-pronged attack.

Watford’s back three is pretty porous if you can get at them, so I think a twin strike force is the way to go, and Son to score anytime at 8/5 is a bet which appeals.

We should see plenty of thrills and spills.

The Hornets have already hosted four Top 6 clubs this season, and 21 goals were shared across those matches! Marco Silva’s men score plenty but are leaky at the other end too.

I’d envisage over 3.5 goals, which is priced up at 7/4.

For me this is a game Spurs must and will win. My pick is 1-3 to the visitors (21/2).

Everton v Huddersfield Town | Saturday 2 December 15:00

Big Sam’s arrival at Goodison Park prompted a fabulous response from the Toffees, who played like a team possessed when trampling all over a hideous West Ham side 4-0 on Wednesday night.

In his first official match in charge I’d expect more of the same, for what I saw of Huddersfield in the flesh on the same evening wasn’t especially impressive.

The Terriers haven’t scored away from home since the first match of the season, so this is a golden chance for Everton to get back-to-back home wins.

My selection is Wayne Rooney to score again in a home win. That’s a 9/4 chance.

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