Sheffield United v Arsenal
Monday October 21, 20:00
Live on Sky Sports Main Event
Encouraging for United but goals a concern
So far, so good for Sheffield United who, while not having it all their own way, have certainly held their own in the Premier League this season. Saturday's results have shunted them down to 15th but nine points from their opening eight top-flight fixtures is an encouraging return.
Scoring goals will be the key to the Blades' survival chances as only Watford, Newcastle and Everton have scored fewer than their seven through these first eight games and worryingly, recent results suggests they're slowing up as they have drawn a blank in their last three outings. The defence is capable enough at the level, letting in the same amount as they've scored, but it's tough to stay up when you don't have a reliable goalscorer and United's seven goals have been scored by seven different men.
Manager Chris Wilder may have to do without forwards Oli McBurnie and David McGoldrick for this clash which further dulls their attacking edge.
Arsenal in winning form
Eight games and 15 points gained, and only last season's dominant duo Manchester City and Liverpool above them coming into the weekend – not bad going for Unai Emery‘s Arsenal through the first three months of Premier League action.
Outwardly it's surprising to see Arsenal riding so high in the league as, strip out Pierre Emerick Aubameyang‘s goals and you are – according to common consensus – left with a wobbly keeper, dodgy backline, and a workmanlike but possibly not the most inventive midfield where Matteo Guendouzi and Granit Xhaka have played the most minutes.
Maybe we need to ignore that narrative, however, as the ledger through the first 11 game played in all competitions reads: P11, W7, D3, L1, and that defeat was to all conquering Liverpool. Only Manchester United, Spurs and Watford have held them to a draw in the league.
Of any likely starters, Alexandre Lacazette is the only doubt.
Backers keen on visitors
Arsenal are clear favourites for the three points, and the near even money – [1.97] is available on the Betfair Exchange – could look very generous when the final whistle sounds on Monday night. Sheffield United are [4.1] for a second home win of the campaign and the draw is [3.9].
The Londoners' away form is unspectacular, however, with only Newcastle beaten in four road trips so far. Liverpool were comfortable winners after the trip to St James' Park, and following that the Gunners were 2-0 up at Watford but lucky to cling on, the game finishing 2-2. The recent Monday nighter at Old Trafford was one of the worst clashes between these two giants of English football, ending a goal apiece.
If only we had some positive home form to point to, to justify a bet on the visitors. One win and three defeats is thoroughly unconvincing, although the Blades have not been outplayed at home and all the losses were by a solitary goal.
Whatever the final result United look sure to make this competitive.
Markets fancy goals
Given the home side struggle in front of goal but are defensively strong it's a little surprising to see overs such a clear favourite at [1.76] and both teams to score as short as [1.67]. Arsenal's numbers on the road aren't exceptional – five scored and six conceded – I'd say this has every chance of being pretty low-scoring.
But if one man is going to make the difference then it will surely be Aubameyang who has seven goals to his name. No one comes close to that record in the fixture, and the Gabonese striker is an even money chance to score in the early Exchange betting. That may not be a bad price given he has scored in all bar one of Arsenal's road trips.
Gunners are the bet
Putting all the above together I'm happy to take a chance on an Arsenal win and I'm drawn to that coupled with under 3.5 goals in the Sportsbook market at 9/5. That bet give us the wiggle room of a rare goal for the home side while also covering a rare clean sheet for the visitors.
Saturday victories for City, Chelsea and Leicester have applied the pressure on Arsenal and the carrot of keeping up with that lot and also pulling even further from Spurs with a win makes me happy to back the visitors to back up their good form with a second away league win of the season.
This post first appeared here