Arsenal face Manchester City in a mammoth title clash on Wednesday night, and we have priced the Gunners up at 9/1 to beat City home and away in the league this season.
Mikel Arteta will feel the chance to really ramp the pressure up on his former employers has passed his side by somewhat, with City dropping six points in four games, only for the unlikely title challengers to lose to Everton and following that up with a draw at home to Brentford.
bet365’s Steve Freeth said: “Is it pressure? Kicking off first? Or sheer bad luck? I’m sure Gunners fans will go for the latter, but Arsenal have struggled to cope with favourite status and they head into this huge game as second best in the outright market in a double header where they haven’t taken a point in the last five seasons.
“However they have a chance to put down a huge marker in the title race by taking three points and will be trading around 1/2 for the title should they get the job done in midweek – even a draw would see them reclaim the mantle as favourites.
“If they lose, then Arsenal’s recent form, as well as the form of key players and squad depth, may well come under scrutiny.
“Either way, it should be a belter as the 9/1 shots attempt to do the double over the Cityzens for the first time since the 2007/08 campaign.”
Gunners fans will certainly be decrying their bad luck, having embarked on a trip to Goodison Park to face a side who’d lost eight of their last nine games in all competitions, drawing the other, only to find Sean Dyche in the dugout, before Ivan Toney’s controversial equaliser denied them all three points at the weekend, and the PGMOL’s apology will have provided little comfort.
But that’s in the past now, and Arteta will need to drill that into his players; what’s gone is gone, and they have a massive game to focus on to try and make amends.
A loss on Wednesday night will see City overtake them – with a game in hand, no less – and you sense it’ll take all Arsenal have to stop Pep Guardiola’s men running away with things from there.
But Arsenal shouldn’t fear City on Wednesday or for the rest of the campaign. The reigning champions simply haven’t hit top gear this season, and there’s little to suggest they will any time soon. Barring perhaps the 2020/21 season, this may be the weakest City side since Guardiola’s first season in charge.
Guardiola has rarely settled on the same back four, but who the Spaniard fields at the back these days is anyone’s guess. Joao Cancelo started 16 league games before being turfed off to Bayern, while out of a possible 22, Manuel Akanji, John Stones, Nathan Ake, Kyle Walker and Ruben Dias have started 14, 13, 13, 11, and 10 games respectively.
Admittedly, injuries haven’t helped, but Ake has flitted between left and centre-back, Aymeric Laporte steps in sporadically and everyone bar Akanji has had spells out of the side.
It looks like good management when you’re winning and keeping clean sheets; it looks like uncertainty when you’re struggling to keep sides out. For the first time since Guardiola’s first campaign, City are conceding exactly a goal a game.
The debate over whether the Etihad side are better or worse with Erling Haaland will rumble on, but surely Arteta will be hoping to see his name omitted from the teamsheet on Wednesday evening.
Arsenal also made a couple of shrewd additions in January to bolster what looked a fairly threadbare squad. Jorginho will prove a useful option as the fixtures pile up in the next couple of months, providing composure and guile in midfield, while Leandro Trossard’s impact has already been felt from his three cameos off the bench.
Having missed out on long-term target Mykhailo Mudryk, the Gunners turned their attentions to the then-Brighton man, who was looking to force an exit from the club. A cynic might suggest Arsenal simply ended up with second choice having missed out on who they really wanted, but Trossard has already proved an excellent option, scoring not four minutes after his introduction to break the deadlock against Brighton.