Can Wenger Still Finish In The Top Four?

Last updated: May 5, 2017 by Leon Marshal

Game details

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Kick-off: Sunday, 4.00pm
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Coverage: Sky Sports 1 (HD, Ultra HD)
Home Form: LWWLL
Away Form: DDWWW
Last Meeting: Man United 1 – 1  Arsenal
Competition: English Premier League

At the height of Ferguson and Wenger’s careers, Arsenal vs Manchester United used to be one of the most fiercely contested matches of the season. Now that Ferguson has gone and Wenger has lost most of his luster, what used to be a battle for the top spot has now subsided into the battle for fourth. While not as thrilling as the time Roy Keane and Patrick Viera used to beat the living daylights out of each other, Arsenal and Manchester United still have a lot to prove going into this game.

For Arsene Wenger, his career could be in the line. Facing a brilliant Chelsea side in the F.A. Cup final, finishing fourth may be the only success the Gunners have all season. Yet they have a small mountain to climb, still straggling five points behind Manchester United and six points behind City with only five games to go. Beating Manchester United, and making use of their game in hand, could tighten the pressure on City and slip them into a qualifying position. Arsenal need to win this.

Mourinho faces a different challenge, as Manchester United know that finishing in the top four isn’t the only way to secure Champions League football. Winning the Europa League would also provide a sensible backdoor into the competition, although they will probably have to take place in a playoff to qualify. Rashford’s excellent free kick – and vital away goal – against Celta Vigo, has nearly secured them a place in the final.

With another midweek tie against the Spaniards next Thursday, it appears that he will play a weaker side against Arsenal, especially considering they played a ridiculous ten games in April. Mourinho will also want to win the Europe League for the sake of it; to prove he can win in Europe with any team he manages (apart from Chelsea). Yet Manchester United have only registered three premier league losses all season, so no team facing the red devils, regardless of who is playing, truly faces an easy challenge. My gut feeling suggests that Mourinho will do what he does best; field a boring team and play for the draw, with the unimpressive Arsenal unable to find an inroad. In other words, expect Rashford off, and Michael Carrick on.

Team News

Ashley Young may not play for the rest of the season after hobbling off against Celta Vigo with a hamstring injury.

Jose Mourinho punching bag Luke Shaw will also not play again this season.

Granit Xhaka will not return in time for the fixture after picking up a calf injury against Tottenham.

Shkodran Mustafi has recovered from his thigh complaint and has rejoined training with the team.

Expected Line-Ups:

Arsenal(3-4-2-1): Cech; Bellerín, Koscielny, Monreal; Gibbs, Ramsey, Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Özil. Sánchez; Giroud
Subs: Ospina, Welbeck, Holding, Iwobi, Gabriel, Elneny, Paulista
Injured: Perez, Xhaka, Cazorla
Doubtful: Mustafi
Not available:
Manchester United : De Gea; Darmian, Smalling, Jones; Martial, Fellaini, Willock, Carrick, Mata; Scott McTominay
Subs: Pogba, Valencia, Romero, Rashford, Mkhitaryan, Bailly, Herrera
Injured: Young, Shaw, Fosu-Mensah, Ibrahimovic, Rojo, Wilson
Not available:

So Far This Season

. . .
Arsenal This Season Manchester United This Season
6th League Position 5th
17(7) Wins (away) 18 (10)
1-5 vs. West Ham Biggest Win 4-1 vs. Leicester City
8 (6) Draws (away) 14 (4)
3-0 vs. Crystal Palace Biggest Defeat 4-0 vs. Chelsea
Sánchez (19) Top Goal Scorer Ibrahimovic (17)
Y57, R2 Discipline Y73, R2
4 Failures to Score 6
7 Clean Sheets 14
64% Both Teams to Score Games 53%
70% Over 2.5 Goals 35%
30% Under 2.5 Goals 65%
  • Wayne Rooney has scored the most goals (9) in this premier league fixture. William Hill are giving him tasty odds of 21/10 to score anytime.
  • It appears Mourinho will play a much different squad then we are used to, stating: “The players that have accumulated lots of minutes are not going to play next weekend.”
  • Alexis Sánchez has been wonderful for Arsenal this season. Ladbrokes give him odds of 28/1 on scoring a hat-trick.
  • Andre Marriner will referee the game. He blew the whistle during their last encounter, a 1-1 draw with three yellow cards apiece.

Head to Head

Last 5 meetings between the two sides
Date Competition Game Result First Goal-scorer
19/11/2016 English Premier League Man United 1 – 1 Arsenal Mata 69′
28/02/2016 English Premier League Man United 3 – 2 Arsenal Rashford 29′
04/10/2015 English Premier League Arsenal 3 – 0 Man United Sánchez 2′
17/05/2015 English Premier League Man United 1 – 1 Arsenal Herrera 30”
27/09/2014 FA Cup Arsenal 2 – 1 Man United Monreal 25′

Conclusion & Betting Tips

Arsenal are the bookies’ favorite for this game, with odds of 19/20 for the win at bet365. This is probably due to the news that Mourinho won’t play a full strength side. Yet, given United’s track record, punters looking for real value might do well to bet on Manchester United to win or draw, with highly reasonable odds of 17/20 offered. Yet given Alexis Sánchez’ ability to score a goal from anywhere, Betway are offering brilliant odds of 25/1 for him to score first and Arsenal to win 1-0.

Perhaps the most lucrative value can be found by betting against an interesting game. Simply put, when Manchester United play, they simply don’t score many goals, with just over one third of games reaching over 2.5 goals in total. With Paddy Power offering Evens for under 2.5 goals, this market represents some really decent value. My prediction is a 1-1 draw due to Manchester United achieving that result an appalling 9 times already this season. With Paddy Power offering some delicious 6/1 odds for such a result, now is the time to put a bet on and strike gold!