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PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 November, 2012, 4:35am

United should take full points off the Gunners

Tottenham rate banker material at home to Wigan and Chelsea look too strong for Swansea

BIO

Nick has been SCMP’s tipster since soccer betting was launched in Hong Kong in 2003, having previously served as racing editor. He takes a statistical approach to soccer betting, focusing mainly on the English Premier League but also on the other major European leagues and the English lower divisions. Now based in England, he brings a wealth of experience as a punter and writer having also worked for the Sunday Times, Racing Post and Betfair during a 25-year career in sports betting journalism.
 

Manchester United v Arsenal is not the crucial fixture it once was, but it's still the glamour match of the weekend in the English Premier League.

Arsenal are already six points behind United and their promising start - clean sheets in their first three league games, plus a win at Liverpool and a draw at Manchester City - has ebbed away in recent weeks. They lost without scoring against Norwich and Schalke before scraping a 1-0 home win over 10-man QPR last weekend and considerable improvement is needed tonight.

United are suspect in defence but their attack is firing on all cylinders and they have won their last five in the Premier League and Champions League, with 15 goals scored. In fact, United have scored at least two goals in 10 of their 12 games in those two competitions this season.

That does not bode well for Arsenal, who have lost seven out of 10 in 2012 when their opponents have scored more than once. Arsenal's clean sheets this season have all been against teams in the bottom half of the table and it seems unlikely they will shut out United, who rarely fail to score at Old Trafford.

United have an excellent recent record against Arsenal and look one of the best bets of the weekend.

Tottenham rate banker material at home to Wigan and Chelsea look too strong for Swansea, but the other short-odds big names - Manchester City and Liverpool - do not make much appeal.

West Brom look a solid bet at home to Southampton in the Monday night game. Steve Clarke's good start to his first managerial job has been something of a surprise, but perhaps everyone should have taken more note of the fact that he was taking over a stable club that had ended last season on a good run of form.

That has continued under Clarke and, putting all their form together, West Brom have played like a top-eight side since early spring. They have been particularly strong at home to opponents from outside the top eight (six wins and a draw from their last seven games in that category).

Sunderland are another attractive home bet against struggling Aston Villa. The win odds for Martin O'Neill's side undoubtedly are influenced by their low win rate and league position, but their chance of victory over Villa is a little underestimated.

Their draw rate is a concern (11 in their last 16 league games) but Villa's visit is a good opportunity to start winning. Villa are the joint-lowest scorers on the road, with four defeats out of five, and are low on confidence.

Fulham v Everton is difficult to call. On one side is Fulham's strong home record under Martin Jol against teams from outside the big six (11 wins out of 16) but on the other is Everton's away record in the same category (only one defeat - but nine draws - out of 13 in 2012). Everton won 3-1 at Craven Cottage last season, taking their run to four straight victories against Fulham, but a draw would be no surprise this time.

The win is difficult to call in Norwich v Stoke, with the two teams having only two victories between them from 18 games this season. Stoke have never been a good away side because their style of play does not allow them to gain and hold field position when their opponent is on the front foot, but they have a reasonable record against the lower-table sides (two wins and a draw from away games against the bottom six last season).

Norwich looked as if they would sink without trace after an opening-day 5-0 defeat at Fulham, but they have toughened up and only Chelsea, Liverpool and Newcastle have beaten them since. Both teams have a strong trend towards under 2.5 goals and that looks the best bet.

QPR v Reading is a similar match-up between two teams with low win rates and it's also difficult to work out. Reading are not as far behind QPR as the odds suggest, if at all, and could be worth chancing.

West Brom are the only team from outside the big six to have beaten Reading, who have scored twice or more in four of their last five games - a run that started with a 3-2 win at QPR in the Capital One Cup. Reading's goal threat suggests they can get something from their league visit.

 

TOP FIVE BETS

1 Manchester United home win A decent bet to outscore Arsenal
2 West Brom home win The best bet in the Premier League
3 Huddersfield home win Excellent chance against serial losers
4 Hull home win Seven wins out of 10 against teams below them
5 Moenchengladbach home win Little goal threat from visitors Freiburg

 

SHORTLIST
Manchester United, Chelsea, West Brom, Huddersfield, Hull, Sheffield Wednesday, Monchengladbach.

 

FIXTURES

TODAY
11pm unless stated: Manchester United v Arsenal (8.45pm), Fulham v Everton, Norwich v Stoke, Sunderland v Aston Villa, Swansea v Chelsea, Tottenham v Wigan, West Ham v Manchester City (1.30am Sun)

TOMORROW
QPR v Reading (9.30pm), Liverpool v Newcastle (midnight)

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