Jonathan Turner of bettinglive.com remains in fine form, and gives his expert opinion on the weekend’s Premier League action…
There’s little doubt about the game of the week in the Premier League as Manchester United and Arsenal lock horns at Old Trafford and the Super Sunday offering might just live up to the hype.
The blockbuster showdowns so far this season haven’t always hit the heights, with the dour 0-0 draw between United and Chelsea earlier in the campaign one of the more forgettable encounters. But it should be a different story this weekend as there’s an array of attacking talent on both sides – and also some potential defensive weaknesses for them to exploit.
Arsenal’s stellar midfield – with Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey to the fore in recent weeks – has helped them create more goalscoring chances than any other side in the top flight while United’s strike duo of Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney have both been knocking in the goals themselves lately.
Former Gunners hero van Persie has netted in each of his last three Premier League games and Rooney has struck in eight of his last 14 for club and country.
But it’s the vulnerability of the two sides at the other end of the pitch which makes backing both teams to score at 8/13 such an appealing bet.
Only five clubs in the top flight (including all of the bottom three) have conceded more than United’s 13 goals this season and they’ve managed just two clean sheets so far under David Moyes. And in fairness to Moyes that’s a problem which was partly inherited for even under Sir Alex Ferguson they conceded in every single Premier League away game against top 10 opposition in both 2012 and 2013.
That’s an astonishing stat and while their record is a little better at Old Trafford they’ve still let in far too many goals at the Theatre of Dreams – Stoke, Southampton and West Brom combining for five between them over the last month or so.
And while Arsenal are starting to look like they can maintain a title challenge, they too have struggled to keep it tight at the back, with just three clean sheets in their ten games so far.
Attack as the best form of defence sums up their campaign so far as they’ve opened up a five points gap at the top of the standings and they could hardly head into this with more confidence following victories over both Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund in the last week. They were both achieved without conceding but given the current form of van Persie (who has scored against his former club on both occasions since moving to Old Trafford) and Rooney, they’ll do well to extend that clean sheet sequence.
Recent history is also on our side with the last four meetings between this pair seeing both teams score and, more significantly, the underlying shots-on-target data gives plenty of encouragement with both sides creating plenty but also – especially in the case of United – allowing the opposition far too many chances.
Conversely goals could be in short supply in both Norwich v West Ham and Swansea v Stoke, with the under 2.5 goals double paying a fraction under 2/1.
This has proved a profitable area for us in recent weeks and all the indications suggest these are the two games to focus on this weekend in terms of low goals make-ups.
Norwich were hammered 7-0 last week by Manchester City and have also suffered heavy defeats by Manchester United (in the Capital One Cup), Chelsea and Arsenal but West Ham don’t present anything like that sort of threat.
On their travels Sam Allardyce sets them up to keep things tight and they’ve carried out his gameplan superbly as they’ve conecded just once in five away games, the joint-best record in the top flight.
Three of those matches have finished 0-0 (at Newcastle, Southampton and Swansea) but scoring at the other end has been their big problem as striker Andy Carroll has spent the season in the treatment room and it all meant they had to settle for another 0-0 last week at home to Aston Villa.
The danger in going low on the goals on Saturday is that some of Norwich’s defending last time at Manchester City was shocking but that’s sure to have been the focus of attention during the week for under-pressure manager Chris Hughton and their last match at Carrow Road (against Cardiff) a fortnight ago ended goalless.
So given the fact that Norwich’s three main front men have managed just one goal between them this season (and only a handful of efforts on target) plus the absence of Carroll from West Ham’s line-up, it’s hard to see where the goals are going to come from.
It was 0-0 between the pair last season and 10/1 about a repeat looks generous. Be sure to take the ‘no first goalscorer’ option at 10/1 with Coral rather than the 0-0 correct score in case the only goal(s) of the game is an own goal, just as it was in Hull’s 1-0 win over Sunderland last weekend. Those small percentages in your favour will make a difference over the course of a season.
Going back to the under 2.5 goals double and the the key to Swansea’s match with Stoke is the fact the Welsh side were in Europa League action on Thursday. That game was in Russia against Kuban Krasnodar who again netted a late equaliser to draw 1-1 just as they had two weeks ago at the Liberty Stadium.
Playing on a Thursday/Sunday hasn’t adversely affected the Swans’ results but it does seem to have led to far fewer goals. The five times it’s happened so far this term has seen the Sunday games feature 1, 2, 2, 2 and 0 goals which is in stark contrast to the make-ups when they’ve had a midweek off.
Throw in the fact they are also now missing last season’s top scorer Michu and the goals expectation is dampened down further, especially as Stoke’s ten matches average out at 1.8, with the Potters scoring just seven themselves.
Finally it may pay to back the second half of Sunderland v Manchester City to produce more goals than the first at 15/13.
The Black Cats will be doing everything they can to keep things tight early on against a City side which smashed seven past Norwich last weekend and then hit five in the Champions League in midweek.
And there’s been a real pattern to City’s away games under Manuel Pellegrini, with four of the five seeing the bulk of the goalscoring action come in the second 45 minutes. It’s seven more pronounced if we look at the actual goals scored – just three in the first half and 14 after the interval.
Few sides are more dangerous on the counterattack so if Sunderland have to chase the game the potential for goals in the second period is obvious but even if they’ve managed to keep a lid on things then City’s superior class should eventually tell. Either way it points to odds against looking decent value about the second half goals trend being extended. Note that if the first and second halves both produce the same amount of goals then this tip is a loser rather than stakes refunded.
Weekend banker – both teams to score in Manchester United v Arsenal at 8/13 (Bet Victor, Ladbrokes and Sky Bet).
Next best single – highest scoring half in Sunderland v Manchester City to be the second at 15/13 (bwin).
Double – under 2.5 goals in both Norwich v West Ham at 8/11 and Swansea v Stoke at 8/11 (both with Boylesports, double pays 1.98/1).
Value bet – no first goalscorer in Norwich v West Ham at 10/1 (Coral).
Get a full break down of all the Premier League games this weekend at bettinglive.com