Since the turn of the year, the season has effectively come to an end for both Arsenal and Manchester City. While one of the two sides is guaranteed a place in the FA Cup final (they play each other in the semi-final in a month’s time), this campaign will still be seen as a failure.
Arsenal (3.110*) wouldn’t have had high hopes of progressing past their Champions League Round of 16 tie with Bayern Munich, but many would have expected the Gunners to put up more of a fight during the 10-2 aggregate defeat they suffered. The Citizens would have been much more confident after drawing Monaco in the Round of 16 but a 3-1 second leg defeat saw them eliminated at the same stage as their Premier League rivals.
Indecision proving costly
Arsenal’s troubles on the pitch have coincided with worries off it as well. In addition to the now regular Arsene Wenger contract extension indecisiveness, two of Arsenal’s star players - Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil - appear to be reluctant to commit their future to the club.
It may be difficult to quantify the effect this stalling over contracts has had on the team’s performance but with only four league wins from nine games this calendar year, Arsenal needs a win against Manchester City to keep their top four hopes alive - the Gunners are currently priced at 4.000* to secure a Champions League spot.
City have left it too late
Some might argue that a win for Manchester City on Sunday would keep them in the title race but bridging a 12 point gap to leaders Chelsea with just 10 games to go would be considered a minor miracle. The Citizens seem to have rediscovered their early season form so betting on them finishing in the top four at 1.148* is a more sensible bet.
After Pep Guardiola took charge in the summer, Manchester City looked like they were the team to beat in the race for the Premier League title - they won their first 10 games in all competitions. However, a mid-season blip saw them lose ground on the consistent Chelsea and now, even after four wins and two draws in their last six league games, a second place finish is probably the best they can hope for.
Struggles against the elite
While Arsenal and Manchester City can consider themselves amongst the Premier League elite, it is against their main rivals that they have dropped some valuable points. Arsenal’s form against the top six reads P:7 W:1 D:2 L:4 and Manchester City hasn’t fared much better (P:7 W:2 D:2 L:3).
A draw (3.720*) might tempt bettors, especially with the two sides so evenly matched on their head-to-head record (in the last ten games, they both have three wins apiece and there has been four draws) but in truth, a draw doesn’t do either of them any good.
What player can be match winners?
Given that both sides have struggled at the back all season, over 2.5 and 3 goals at 1.862* might seem like the obvious bet to make. However, Manchester City is in much better form than Arsenal and although the Gunners have home field advantage, a win for the Citizens 2.330* looks to be the most valuable bet.
Arsenal’s consistent failure to track runners from midfield mean David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne will have plenty of opportunities to break forward and pick out spaces in the final third - they make on average 5.1 “key passes” per game between them. Sergio Aguero’s 4.2 shots per game (and 13 league goals in 22 appearances) mean Petr Cech will be in for a busy 90 minutes.
Arsenal has to hope that Alexis Sanchez (3.5 shots per game and 18 league goals in 27 appearances) and Mesut Ozil are at their brilliant best, despite the contract talk distractions. Although both sides will keep hold of the ball well (Arsenal has 83.5% pass success and Manchester City a league-high 85%), it is most likely the away side that will do more damage in possession.
Analysing the odds
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