Arsenal v Manchester United: Side with Saka in TV clash

Arsenal's Bukayo Saka looks a tasty price to breach Manchester United's leaky defence when the sides meet in the Premier League on Saturday, says Andy Schooler...

I was more than reluctant to back Arsenal at 2.02 to win at Southampton last weekend and that proved to be a good decision.

Yet a week later they will head into this game - at a pretty similar price - with their top-four hopes rejuvenated by their 4-2 midweek win at Chelsea.

In fairness, it took a great goalkeeping performance to deny them at least a point at St Mary's but while their luck wasn't in in that game, it was at Stamford Bridge where a much-changed Chelsea side gave them a helping hand, gifting them the opening goal and a platform from which to build.

They certainly grabbed their opportunity and will head into this contest in much more positive frame of mind.

United outclassed

In contrast, Manchester United arrive off the back of a 4-0 drubbing at Liverpool and while they weren't the first team to be totally outclassed by Jurgen Klopp's men, there's very little positivity around the club at present.

The hierarchy will hope that the appointment of Erik ten Hag as their new manager in midweek will help lift the mood, but he doesn't arrive until the summer and it's hard to see the current squad immediately being given a bounce by the news.

Indeed, it reports are to be taken at face value, it seems some of the squad are rather underwhelmed by the pending arrival of the Ajax boss.

A shuffling of the current deck offers greater scope for immediate improvement with Cristiano Ronaldo back in training after his family tragedy, while Scott McTominay, Raphael Varane and Fred are all in contention again.


As for Arsenal, this game comes hot on the heels of Wednesday night's win but you'd expect Mikel Arteta to make as few changes as possible given the impressive nature of their midweek display.

Albert Sambi Lokonga was left out at the Bridge but replacement Mohamed Elneny was a real eyecatcher, while Eddie Nketiah will surely keep Alexandre Lacazette on the bench after equalling the Frenchman's seasonal, open-play goal tally in just 57 minutes.

Full-back is the biggest area of concern for the Gunners right now with Nuno Tavares looking a shaky stand-in for the injured Kieran Tierney, although Takehiro Tomiyasu may be able to return on the right side of the defence after injury.

Hosts look worthy favourites

Whatever XI Arteta opts for, Arsenal look the more likely winners and I'm more keen on their price to win the game - 2.18 - this week than I was last.

Only Manchester City and Liverpool have collected more home points this season with the sides around United in the table - Spurs, West Ham and Wolves - all beaten at the Emirates.

It's worth noting that United - 3.65 for victory - have won away to those three sides too, although all three victories came before the end of October.

They head into this contest on the back of three straight away defeats and, significantly, having conceded 48 goals so far - the most they've let in after 33 games of any Premier League season. You have to go back to 1978/79 to find a leakier United defence.

Saka providing goal threat

However, rather than back the hosts to win the match, I prefer to delve into the anytime goalscorer market where I can't help but think their joint top scorers, Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, are overpriced at 10/3 and 3/1 respectively.

United shipped four at both Liverpool and Man City in recent road trips and while Arsenal aren't at that level, they have the tools to cause more problems for that shaky back line, one which also conceded twice at home to Norwich last weekend.

Recent games have shown a real reluctance of some players to track runners, while a lack of press has given opponents plenty of time to create. That brings Saka and Smith Rowe into play.

Both men will look to make incisive runs, while both are also prepared to cut in from their wide positions to get shots away.

Each has already scored 11 times this season but preference here is for Saka.

He's bagged eight in his last 15 league appearances and has really added goals to his game this term.

His goal in midweek came from the penalty spot which is another bonus for his backers here, especially if you expect, as I do, Lacazette to remain on the bench.

Bet Builder options

In terms of other markets, both of these sides sit in the top five of the shots-taken table and the reverse fixture saw 31 of them. United also give up more shots than more than half the league.

It's therefore worth mentioning Granit Xhaka's recent increase in shot output - 14 in his last nine games.

He's hit 2+ shots in four of those matches and so 13/8 about him doing it again here looks to have real potential for those putting Bet Builders together.

Xhaka also has a good record for cards against United. If you include his games for Basel, he's been carded in five of his 11 appearances against them.

Craig Pawson is the man in charge of this one and he's one of the Premier League's best card producers.

As for total goals, over 2.5 is a slight favourite at 1.88 and I'd be heading that side of the line if pushed.

However, it's only occurred in one of the last six meetings of these two (at Old Trafford back in October when United won 3-2).

Opta fact

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo has scored six goals in his last seven appearances against Arsenal in all competitions, including a brace in the reverse fixture in December, and a brace on his last visit to the Emirates Stadium in May 2009 (Champions League semi-final).

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