It must be something in the Christmas air that is making me take leave of my senses, but it looks like for the second week running, I am about to write an article detailing the reasons why backing Arsenal is a good idea.
I promise I haven’t been on too much Bailey’s over the festive period (well, I have, but this is honestly nothing to do with what I’m about to write) and that I haven’t done a complete U-turn on what I think about Arsenal (more of which shortly), but I don’t see why they won’t beat Newcastle United at the Emirates on Saturday evening.
After tipping up Arsenal to beat Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium last weekend in my Playing Away column, I am as surprised as anyone to be so vehemently putting the Gunners up again – even at 9/20 with bwin – but I am about to do just that.
The reason I am so surprised is because I am always on the lookout for any opportunity to oppose Arsenal, because I never think there is any value in backing them.
Either too short or too unlikely to win, the Gunners have seldom looked like a good bet this year and I am just not convinced by them at all, despite them being just three points off the fourth Champions League spot with a game in hand.
For me, there is not enough about Arsenal to like. It is well documented that real, genuine quality has been allowed to leave for various reasons (we won’t go into all that now, we’d be here all night) and that those players have been replaced with inferior models who are too inconsistent and lacking in moral fibre, which has told in some of the chronic displays they have served up this year.
I even thought that Arsenal were very flat when winning at Wigan and looked far from a side that is going to finish in the top four, which they could well do thanks to everybody else looking just as flaky as Arsene Wenger’s men.
But all that said, at least they aren’t in the same state as Newcastle. There have been plenty of times this season that I was tempted in by the Magpies at prices similar to the 11/2 you can get on them to win at the Emirates (the draw is 17/5), but I just can’t make a case for them, even if I am always wanting to make a case against Arsenal.
There will no doubt be some who will take the 4-3 defeat at Old Trafford against Manchester United as a sign that Newcastle are getting back to some semblance of form, but a return to the performances of last season seems a distant dream and you can’t be getting involved with them at all.
Scoring three goals at Old Trafford is not the task that it used to be and all that match did was prolong Newcastle’s terrible run.
Alan Pardew’s side have won just two of the last 13 games in all competitions – both at home to sides in the relegation zone in QPR and Wigan – and I don’t want to know, even at 11/2.
Eight of those 13 games have been lost (including six of the last eight) and even if injuries are taking their toll, the players taking to the pitch are simply not doing it and I think Arsenal, who will benefit from their day off on Boxing Day while Newcastle were slugging it out with the Red Devils, can beat the out-of-sorts Toon.
There has been an average of 3.5 goals per match at the Emirates this season, while Newcastle’s away games have averaged 3.22 goals per match, so the 21/20 on a home win and over 2.5 goals is a better way of getting value on an Arsenal victory.