Adrian Clarke is back with a special midweek edition of his Premier League Matchbook Insights column – and has two confident plays for a pulsating few days of action.
IT SHOULD BE A THRILLING TITLE SHOOTOUT AT THE ETIHAD
The game of the season is upon us! And it should be a cracker.
Arsenal probably need to beat Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium to give themselves a realistic shot at landing this season’s title (something they’ve not managed in eight years), so I do not expect them to sit back and hope for the best at a packed-out Etihad Stadium.
This is their moment to stand tall and seize the opportunity. They haven’t come this far to serve up a passive, space-blocking game plan that just won’t suit them.
Mikel Arteta’s men must be sensible, of course. Nothing too gung-ho.
From front to back they will need to defend with unbelievable levels of resilience and concentration.
In essence, try to be error-free or ‘perfect’ as Mikel Arteta described in his press conference.
Facing a City side that’s notched 37 goals in 11 home matches in 2023, means Arsenal require 9’s out of 10 across the board to contain them.
There’s a big difference between defending well and being defensive, though.
The Gunners’ strengths lie in attack, we all know that, so Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Jesus and Martin Odegaard have to carry a goal threat, and I believe they will.
They will press, counter and dribble at pace, and as a quartet, I expect them to make chances.
I do not need to elaborate on Manchester City’s goal power.
Ten of their 15 home Premier League games have featured over 3.5 goals in 2022-23, with matches on their own patch averaging 4.33 across the campaign.
Goal pig Erling Haaland will target Rob Holding and look to inflict further damage on an Arsenal side that has conceded at least twice in six of their last 11 top-flight games.
Let’s face it, City are almost nailed on to score. It’s more a case of how many can the Gunners restrict them to.
Arsenal’s rotten record against this opponent (11 without a win) is a concern but they must park those negative memories and focus on what they do best.
Overall, they’ve scored 32 away goals this season (the highest figure), failing to score just once away from Emirates Stadium.
So as unlikely as it seems, given City’s incredible form, Arsenal are more than capable of scoring two or more goals in this fixture
Both Teams To Score is of interest, but I prefer Over 3.5 Goals at 2.64.
We all know that Guardiola’s side could cover the goal line on their own when in top form, but I do think (and hope) that this will be a very competitive and exciting match where both sides trouble one another at the back.
Manchester City and Liverpool set the tone for these crunch ‘title deciders’ with a string of thrilling goal-fests, and that’s how I see this one playing out too.
Don’t miss it.
EXPECTING GOALS AT THE CITY GROUND
A point doesn’t do a lot for either side on Wednesday evening, so I expect Nottingham Forest v Brighton & Hove Albion to be a lively, entertaining affair.
Steve Cooper’s Forest are desperate for a morale-lifting, points-boosting win.
A run of 11 matches without a victory has seen them drop into the bottom three, and they will be eager not to linger there for long.
They may have lost 3-2 at Anfield last weekend, but there were positives to take. Forest have been the bluntest of instruments on the road this term, but they netted twice and created plenty on Merseyside.
I believe they will take confidence from that and apply it to this next examination.
Brennan Johnson should return to starting XI, and with Morgan Gibbs-White and Taiwo Awoniyi both fit and available too, that’s a decent level of firepower at their disposal.
Defeat on penalties to Manchester United was a crushing blow for the Seagulls in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final, but while minds and bodies may feel bruised, Brighton should be highly motivated to go again.
With games in hand, Roberto de Zerbi’s men have the capability to claim 5th spot this season in my opinion, which would earn them a place in next year’s UEFA Europa League.
They will see this fixture as absolutely winnable; so will approach it with positive intent as they always do under their adventurous Italian head coach.
That’s the game state covered, but all the stats also point towards both teams scoring in this encounter.
Brighton are the Premier League’s second-highest scorers (29) on the road behind leaders Arsenal (32) and have failed to score in just one of 15 away games so far! That is a phenomenal return.
Under De Zerbi they want to attack, and this can leave them vulnerable at the other end.
It is why they have amassed only two clean sheets from those 15 matches away from the AMEX Stadium.
As a consequence of those numbers, it will come as no surprise to discover the Seagulls are the BTTS away day Kings of 2022-23. A whopping 80% of matches on their travels see both sides scoring. The next closest team is on 62%.
What are Forest like at home?
Well, they almost always score, registering goals in 14 of their 16 contests at the City Ground.
Cooper’s boys are capable of a clean sheet win, racking up a number of 1-0s, but they have conceded at least once in 11 of 16. I anticipate that becoming 12 in 17.
Brighton are worthy favourites, but at 1.58 I am a little put off by the price. It feels a tad short.
I much prefer sitting on the fence over who prevails and supporting goals instead. Right now, Matchbook are offering 1.82 on Both Teams to Score, and that’s good enough for me.
- Manchester City v Arsenal – Over 3.5 Goals (2.64)
- Nottingham Forest v Brighton & Hove Albion – Both Teams to Score YES (1.82)
Subscribe to the Matchbook Betting Podcast here
Subscribe to the Matchbook YouTube channel here