While you often get players talking up moves to their more illustrious opponents ahead of fixtures, it is quite unusual for managers to do the same – but that is exactly what Gus Poyet has done as his Brighton and Hove Albion side prepare to host Arsenal at the Amex Stadium in the FA Cup on Saturday.
Media-savvy Poyet made no secret of his desire to manage at the highest level in an interview this week, specifically stating Arsenal as one of the clubs he has in his sights.
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of ambition, of course, but it has got me thinking: is Poyet actually any good?
Not in terms of his playing career, as his credentials on the pitch were unquestionable as fans of Tottenham Hotspur and, more specifically, Chelsea, where he enjoyed a fine five-year, trophy-laden spell, will testify.
I am talking specifically about Poyet the manager, because I have to say that despite his decent enough work at Brighton and his fine reputation among many people in the game, for me the jury is still well and truly out.
The Uruguayan did a very good job when taking over on the south coast in November 2009, steadying a very unstable ship before storming to the League One title the year after.
But while his Seagulls side have never been in any danger of dropping back to the third tier, they have been a very inconsistent outfit in the last 18 months, equally capable of fine, unbeaten runs and long winless sequences that thwart their ambitions.
And given that he has had money to spend – he has twice broken the club’s transfer record to sign Craig Mackail-Smith and Will Buckley – I would have expected a bit more from Brighton, even though they are just four points outside the Championship play-off places.
In fact, Poyet has spent the majority of the season lambasting his team, bemoaning their lack of firepower, even at one point suggesting that he is “bored” of talking about their shortcomings, which you would think might stop him from pitching for the Arsenal job.
Or maybe the fact that his team is wildly inconsistent and often pass the ball with no real purpose – other than allowing them to take the moral high ground when teams with less aesthetically pleasing styles take points off them – makes him a perfect fit for the Emirates hotseat.
It is easy to see why he has been critical of his side, though: Brighton have won just five of their home games this season, four of which came against the teams currently in the bottom four of the table.
They have failed to win any of the six home games against teams in the top half of the Championship and it is for this reason that they don’t look a good bet when Arsenal travel there on Saturday, even at 4/1 with bwin.
As usual, I am wary of the Gunners at odds-on (they are 67/100 here) and while the draw is priced up at 13/5, I think a play on a lack of goals is the way to go.
At odds against, the 21/20 on there being under 2.5 goals looks a solid bet to me, especially with winnings of £41 on offer for new bwin customers successfully backing it with their free £20 bet.
With Brighton’s record against better sides so poor (I am ignoring their win against Newcastle in the previous round as Alan Pardew picked a reserve side) and with five wins from 14 at the Amex, you can’t be seriously tempted.
But Arsenal always have a rank bad performance and/or result in them. I still don’t trust them at odds-on away from home, even when playing lower division opposition, but I will once again trust the trend of a dearth of goals in the Gunners’ away games.
There have been just 27 goals in Arsenal’s 12 league games on the road – an average of 2.25 goals per match – and eight of those games have seen fewer than three goals.
Matches at the Amex follow a similar pattern: there have been just 33 goals in the 14 Championship games (2.36 average) and with both teams willing to pass the ball until people cry tears of boredom, I can see this being another match that doesn’t see more than two goals.
It is odds-against at 21/20 and you should get on it.