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Market Movers: Arsenal favourites as Manchester United enter title race

It would have been hard to believe in August, but Arsenal are this season's title favourites for the first time, and Manchester United have also entered the race.

At 50/1, no one gave Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal any hope of being in a title race this season, never mind winning it. At 6/4 in pre-season, a top-four finish and a long-awaited return to Champions League football would have been seen as a big step for the Gunners.

All the talk before the campaign was whether Liverpool could find that extra step or whether City would blow sides away with the signing of Erling Haaland. 

While Haaland has certainly blown sides away on his own, the system, seemingly designed to get the best out of the Norwegian, seems to have come at the expense of City’s form.

Pep Guardiola’s side were 1/5 for the title when they hammered neighbours United 6-3 in early October, with the Red Devils 125/1 and Arsenal 8/1.

The Gunners have been consistently written off by bookmakers this season with Guardiola’s serial winners keeping the favourites tag despite some indifferent performances.

However, a thoroughly impressive showing, in their fiercest rivals’ back yard, has finally seen us give Arsenal favourite status with a mouth-watering match up against Manchester United next weekend – the only team to beat them so far this season.

Having fallen at the penultimate hurdle against Newcastle last season, the question was whether Arsenal had the resilience to bounce back and launch another attack on the top four, but even with the addition of Gabriel Jesus, few could have envisaged the campaign turning out like it did.

Funnily enough, Jesus actually topped our liabilities for the Top Goalscorer market, but it’s not his goals that have been behind Arsenal’s form, its been his all-round play. His movement and work rate have allowed the burgeoning Gabriel Martinelli, Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka to flourish.

More impressive has perhaps been how Arsenal have responded to losing their talisman. Eddie Nketiah has stepped into the breach, scoring twice in four games, with the Gunners scoring nine goals and taking 10 points in that time.

One minor cause for concern may be that Arsenal are the biggest over-achievers in the league on their xG, with a goal difference of +28 from an xGD of +17.5. This over-performance can be certainly be maintained over a season, but it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see Arsenal’s luck turn a little over the next few months.

What they do have in their favour is an eight-point lead over Manchester City as we approach the halfway mark, and with City still misfiring somewhat, Arsenal are deserved favourites over the champions at 5/6.

This may not be a two-horse title race, however. 

Manchester United’s controversial 2-1 victory over City handed us our worst result of the weekend in Europe and catapulted them into a title race of which they had seemingly little chance of entering after the first couple of games when 125/1 for the title and close to double figures for the Top 4. 

The Red Devils are still a whopping 750/1 to win all four competitions they’ve entered this season, but at 4/9 to lift at least one, the future under Ten Hag looks a lot brighter than it did after opening back-to-back defeats against Brighton and Brentford. 

46 bets have been placed on Manchester United winning the Premier League, Europa League, EFL Cup and FA Cup at 10,000/1.

You get the feeling that United fans would be delighted to see the 4/9 land, never mind the 750/1, but they’re riding the crest of a wave at the moment and clearly don’t fear anyone. 

While the first goal was certainly fortuitous, United would’ve been hard done by not to take anything from the game, keeping Haaland quiet throughout and restricting City to just one shot on target. 

The win meant it’s nine straight in all competitions for Ten Hag’s men, matching the run from 2016/17 under Jose Mourinho, and leaving them one behind the 10 from 2009, which coincided with Edwin van der Sar’s record-breaking 14 consecutive Premier League clean sheets.

United were 15/8 in pre-season to finish in the top four, drifting out to 7/1 after their opening two defeats, but have recovered superbly since, capitalising on the poor form of Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham to leave themselves 1/4 to finish in the Champions League places.

And if they do, the form of Marcus Rashford will be a huge reason why. 

Haaland had looked home and hosed up for the PFA Player of the Year until a couple of weeks ago, and this is a strange thing to say, but maybe people are getting bored of him doing little and just scoring, as his price has drifted from 1/3 to 4/6. 

The goals of course have dried up recently while the likes of Odegaard, Rashford and Casemiro continue to hit the headlines. 

Rashford, who is now 8/1 to score 20 or more Premier League goals this season having been 33/1 after his strike against Nottingham Forest two days after Christmas, has shortened from 100/1 into 16/1 with team mate Casemiro being cut from 200/1 into 25/1 since the start of January. 

Odegaard is oozing quality right now, his goal at Spurs proving just that and such performances have seen his odds tumble from 100/1 into 9/2.

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