Odds: Man Utd 39/20, The Draw 11/5, Arsenal 6/4
One of the strongest arguments for Arsenal being more serious title contenders this season than in past campaigns is their improved record against the division’s best sides.
Last season the Gunners took 14 points from teams who were in the division’s top third (1.17 per game), seven less than Manchester United (1.75 an outing), who possessed the best such returns.
This term the roles have been reversed. United have the sixth-best record against top-third foes, while no side have gleaned more than Arsene Wenger’s men.
Old Trafford’s finest are in a sorry state at present, despite their midweek rout of Midtjylland and look low-hanging fruit for the north London side, who tore them apart at the Emirates earlier this season.
Yet, the trip north is not devoid of pressure for the visitors.
Leicester are 1/2 to turn over Norwich at the King Power Stadium on Saturday, while Tottenham are shorter odds to tap Swansea for maximum reward.
Should both prevail, Arsenal will play with the added psychological ballast of knowing they must do likewise to keep pace.
If either or both lose, the Gunners will take to the field in the knowledge that it is a golden opportunity to assume command of the table with 11 games remaining.
Win, Lose or Draw?
If it wasn’t for the FA Cup, Louis van Gaal might already have long since departed the Reds dugout, so bereft of wins have United’s recent Premier League exploits been.
Their last 13 divisional dust ups have yielded just three victories, with five draws and as many losses clogging the baker’s dozen.
In theory they should be there for the taking for a side with title-winning pretensions such as Arsenal, but the Gunners have well and truly mislaid their bang of late.
Their midweek shutout loss to Barcelona, in which some glorious early chances were spurned, was the fifth match in the last eight in which they have failed to register.
Amid all their rudderlessness, United still possess a sufficiently stubborn home defence to reward any continued profligacy with frustration.
Only one of Old Trafford’s last 21 visitors have managed to put more than two goals past them (Norwich City, fact fans).
The combination of Man Utd’s enduring stubbornness on home soil and Arsenal’s recent travails in the scoring department suggest the south side of 2.5 match goals is appropriately priced at 31/50.
Six of the Gunners’ last eight outings have seen one or other side draw a blank, while the same proportion have awarded backers of the aforementioned gamble.
An identical percentage of the Red Devils’ last eight Premier League home games have also seen one or both sides fail to find net .
Who will do the damage?
In what may well be a match of few goals it is tempting to go off piste in search of scorer betting angles and given his travails since arriving at United for around £30m last summer Memphis Depay can legitimately be classified as such.
The disappointing Dutchman ended up man of the match against a rusty Midtjylland in the Europa League and has much to prove against a side who profited from one of his worst day’s work in a Red shirt when he was hauled off after 45 minutes at the Emirates in early October.
United have received more yellow cards than the Gunners in four of their last five meetings.
They’ve also been issued with 18 more than their visitors in the league this term, with Arsenal the recipients of a division-low 28.