Arsenal and United will serve up goal
feast fit for top table at the Emirates
Arsenal versus Manchester
United is the fixture bookmakers love. From the betting-shop punter with a
small stake to the high-rolling regular client, everyone has a view on the top
two teams in the country - which means bookies are guaranteed a sizeable
"Last week's game at Anfield was just an hors d'oeuvre - this
is the main course," said the Ladbrokes spokesman Robin Hutchison. "If it's a
competitive match the industry could turn over up to £10m, easily the
biggest of the season to date."
It is undoubtedly the defining game in the
first quarter of this Premier League season. One senior odds compiler admitted
to me that should United win tomorrow, they will go a shade odds-on for the
title while if Arsenal claim all three points the Gunners would overtake them
at the head of the Premier League market. As things stand Sir Alex Ferguson's
team are 5-4 (Blue Square and VC Bet) favourites to win the league with
Arsène Wenger's side 9-4 (general).
For the match at the
Emirates Stadium Arsenal are best at 6-4 (Bet365) to win, United trade at 2-1
(Bet365 and Boyle Sports) with the draw 9-4 (Boyle). And, with opinion split
among pundits and punters alike as to which side is playing the better football
at the moment, the layers can expect to take hefty wagers on all three
But while predictions on the likely winners are divided, the
notion that goals will flow is universally held, making the 6-5 (Bet365 and
Sporting Odds) available about more than two in the game the best bet. It seems
inconceivable that these two attacking teams will not serve up a spectacle
worthy of the hype. Arsenal are the only team to have scored in every match
they have played in this season while United, after a slow start, have banged
in four goals in each of their last four games.
could back more than three goals at 11-4 with Paddy Power, who also offers five
or more at 7-1.
Sporting Index has issued a total-goals quote of 2.4-2.6,
which looks worth a buy.
Late goals have been a regular feature in
matches featuring the Gunners this season. Wenger's team have scored their
final goal in fixtures this term, on average, in the 75th minute. In 11 of
Arsenal's 17 matches they have scored in the 80th minute or later. One of the
reasons mooted for this is the high tempo of Arsenal's play (it may be why
Mathieu Flamini is preferred to Gilberto in central midfield at the moment).
Their opponents are chasing shadows - and quick ones at that - for much of the
90 minutes and tire late on. The pace of tomorrow's game may be slow to begin
with, but it is bound to intensify, with more chances created in the later
stages of it. As for United, their slow goal-getting start to the season skews
their late scoring averages but it should be noted that 15 of their last 24
goals have come in the second half.
So how can
punters cash in on these statistics? Paddy Power offers evens that the final
goal of the game will be scored after the 73rd minute, Sporting Odds goes 9-5
on the last goal coming after the 80th minute but a more profitable, if
riskier, punt is to buy the time of the final goal at 64 with Sporting Index (a
goal scored in the 84th minute will win you 20 times your stake). All three
options would have yielded a profit for punters from both games between these
teams last season.
First-player-to-score punters might be taken by the
form of the 7-1 shot (Coral and Ladbrokes) Wayne Rooney, who has scored eight
goals in his past seven games for club and country, or 11-1 (Bet365) chance
Cesc Fábregas, who tops the all-competitions goalscoring charts with 10.
However, I am prepared to give Alex Hleb, 16-1 generally, another chance in the
staking plan. The Belarussian is almost certain to play as a second striker
behind Emmanuel Adebayor (it would be surprising if the home team were not
unchanged from Anfield) and after another man of the match display on
Merseyside it is worth backing him each-way (most firms offer half of the odds
on the first three goalscorers) in this market tomorrow.
TIP: Buy the time of the last goal in the game at 64
minutes: 64 (Sporting Index)