Neither side are competing at the sort of level they were during previous classic encounters, but in time this could prove to be a catalyst for the victors returning to former glories…
Man Utd v Arsenal
Monday 9th March, 19:45
Live on BBC One
Is Louis van Gaal immune to criticism? Or is the opinion that United are ‘playing bad, but getting results’ a little harsh? Objective 1 was always going to be to shore up the defence, and there can be few arguments to suggest that that has not been achieved.
If Objective 2 is to get this team back to ‘playing the Manchester United way’ – whatever ‘way’ that may be – then that’s a much longer term project. And if, in the mean time, they can win games playing poorly then all the better.
We’ve been subjected to various comparisons between David Moyes and Van Gaal over the course of this season. At times Moyes has had a better record than the current United incumbent, but I’m not sure how that now stands. Quite frankly it doesn’t matter and is a pointless comparison. The Dutchman’s career achievements to date are enough to afford him the luxury of time.
The Red Devils come into this game on the back of a run of just one defeat and seven wins in their last 10 league and cup fixtures, while they’ve conceded more than one goal in a game only once since October.
Team News: Robin van Persie remains unavailable due to the ankle injury he sustained against Swansea, but Luke Shaw will be available after missing the last two games with a hamstring problem. Jonny Evans misses the game due to suspension.
Following the disappointment of their Champions League defeat to Monaco, the defence of their FA Cup looks to be the only realistic opportunity Arsenal have of winning silverware this season. The question remains, and continues to divide opinion, whether winning last season’s competition – and thus temporarily silencing the bulk of the Arsene Wenger critics – was actually a good or bad thing for the long-term aspirations of the club.
Would Wenger have been forced out if they hadn’t beaten Hull at Wembley 10 months ago? Would they now be in a better or worse position if he had left?
As it is, the same old problems persist. The Gunners look great when things are going for them, but when up against it they do unforgivable things. In almost all of the 10 victories in their last 12 games they’ve controlled proceedings from start to finish. But when put under pressure in games against Spurs and Monaco they’ve crumbled.
So despite a run of 10 wins and just two defeats since New Year’s Day, Arsenal are still a side with many questions to answer.
At least Oliver Giroud is back amongst the goals with five in his last five games, while Alexis Sanchez ended a run of seven appearances without a goal when he scored the Gunners’ second at QPR in midweek.
Team News: Gabriel Paulista has been ruled out for two to three weeks with a hamstring injury, while Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, Mathieu Debuchy and Mathieu Flamini all remain on the sidelines. Nacho Monreal could return to the set-up, however.
I’m finding this a difficult one to call; if the hosts can get on top early and apply some pressure, then I can see them winning comfortably. But, if Arsenal can take control of the early exchanges, then I can also see them progressing to the semi-finals with a rare Old Trafford victory. And I also wouldn’t be surprised if we need a replay to separate the two.
On that basis, the value is probably in backing the draw at the biggest price of the three – 3.55n/a. And if you’re looking to pick a winner then I’d have to side with the visitors at 3.02/1 rather than United at odds of 2.526/4.
All things considered, it’s not a market that I’d want to get too heavily invested in.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
We can, however, get stuck into the Over/Under 2.5 Goals market. Take out the anomaly of Manchester United’s 8-2 win here a few seasons back, and seven of the last nine meetings have had fewer than 2.5 goals, with the other two games only seeing three goals.
And so to have Under 2.5 Goals priced at an odds-against 2.0811/10 should immediately make your ears prick.
Add into the equation the aforementioned statistic that United have only once conceded more than a single goal in a game since October and that Arsenal have kept six clean sheets in their last 11 domestic fixtures, and that 2.0811/10 begins to look even more generous.
Both Teams To Score?
Equally as appealing, and based largely on the above pointers, is the No selection at odds of 2.35/4 in the Both Teams To Score market. It would have paid out in each of last season’s head-to-heads and was set to pay out in the meeting earlier this season before Olivier Giroud scored a 94th minute consolation goal.
2 points Back Under 2.5 Goals @ 2.0811/10
2 points Back No – Both Teams To Score @ 2.35/4
Jaymes Monte 2014/15 Season P/L
Staked: 89.5 pts
Returned: 85.78 pts
P/L: -3.72 pts