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Form Prior To The Break
Arsenal may rue the timing of the break after some improving performances under Mikel Arteta. However, it could easily turn out that some extra time to get his ideas across to his players could still benefit his charges.
They’ve lost just one of 13 matches across all tournaments in 2020, including five wins from their last six, though the most recent eight of these games didn’t see them take on any heavyweights, with 12th placed Everton by far the best team they faced and City are a different kettle of fish.
The hosts have also won five of their last six, including victories over Leicester and Real Madrid. However, they haven’t been at their spectacular best going forwards, failing to score more than twice in all eight matches since a 4-0 win over Championship side Fulham in late January.
A lack of clean sheets saw them win just one of these games by more than a single strike, with even that coming versus a desperate Hammers outfit in the midst of an eight-game winless streak.
That leaves the Gunners looking tasty on the handicap. Indeed, in 15 matches under Arteta they’re a decent W8-D6-L1 over 90 minutes, with the sole loss inflicted by Chelsea (2-1, via 83rd and 87th-minute late salvos).
Given Arsenal have beaten Man Utd and garnered a draw in another clash with Chelsea over this period, they’ve demonstrated enough to suggest they can turn in a respectable performance.
Arsenal +1.5 Asian Handicap
Arteta will also be familiar with Guardiola’s methods having worked under his fellow countryman, and with far longer than usual between games, should have had plenty of time to work on his game plan for his former mentor.
It’s not as though City are as strong as they were previously either, as they’re a full 11 points worse off than at this stage last season, with their struggles primarily coming against stronger sides.
Whereas City are a reasonably healthy W12-D2-L1 against the teams below the Gunners in the table, against the top nine they’re just W6-D1-L6, as only two of those victories saw them win by more than the single goal.
Arsenal have endured some torrid times on the road in recent campaigns, though they last tasted defeat away from home at Leicester back in early November, drawing six of seven games since then.
Aside from Chelsea however, the strongest teams they locked horns with were mid-table outfits Everton, Palace and Burnley. We wouldn’t be confident enough to back the visitors to take any points, but they should muster enough resilience to cover the +1.5 Asian handicap.
The one reservation we have is that under the new rules allowing for five substitutes to be used, City will clearly benefit from the stronger bench and so it may be worth cashing out early.
However, the Gunners will hope that home surroundings don’t provide as beneficiary as before, with home sides in the Bundesliga winning less games, albeit with a small sample to go on.