Weblog: The football punter

Slapstick defending
does not guarantee goals

Arsenal's clashes with Manchester United have lost a bit of their fizz in recent years but Saturday's game is a crucial fixture in the battle to finish 12 points behind Southampton.

It may not be as competitive as it was in the days of Keane and Vieira but it's still entertaining to watch two of England's most famous clubs, both masterminded by iconic European managers, defending like complete idiots.

United have already used about 20 defenders this season and goalkeeper David de Gea – the only reliable part of their defensive unit – is a doubt for the Arsenal game with a dislocated finger.

But the Gunners are still missing Laurent Koscielny, who seems to be the one load-bearing wall holding up the Arsenal house, and they conceded some soft goals to Anderlecht and Swansea before the international break.

Weirdly, despite all the potential for slapstick in the two teams' defences, I'm expecting a low-scoring game at the Emirates.

Arsenal and United's defenders have copped plenty of flak from their own fans this season but I've not been impressed by many of their midfielders either.

United have scored only twice in their last three games while the Gunners' lack of creativity was summed up by their win at Sunderland in which both of Alexis Sanchez's goals were set up by Black Cats players.

So it's a 1-1 draw for me today and the law of the returning striker means I'll have to have a couple of first goalscorer bets on Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck.

There's just as little science behind my other Premier League bet of the day – QPR to cause an upset at Newcastle.

Both teams have been playing well recently, the difference being that Newcastle have got the points their performances deserved while QPR have had to settle for glorious failures (or glorious draws).

But the moment Newcastle are expected to win a game of football, experienced punters spring into action to oppose the Magpies and I reckon QPR are value to end their run of away defeats in style.

You can't argue with that logic.

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Match in Focus

17:30 TODAY SS1

Arsenal v Man Utd

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • Man Utd are unbeaten in their last six matches against Arsenal
Expert verdict
It says something about the quality of the Premier League that two teams with such obvious failings remain odds-on for a top-four finish, but victory for either side would put them in pole position to qualify for next year’s Champions League. Arsenal are tempting given their home advantage and superior all-round quality, but it’s hard to trust a side who look so mentally fragile.