There are several Premier League clashes that try and lay claim to being the match of the season, but the way things stand at present Arsenal versus Manchester United might just be the game that defines 2012.
As things stand in the league Manchester United are in second place just three points behind Manchester City who host Tottenham in Sunday's lunchtime kick-off while Arsenal seem to be stuck just outside the top four in fifth place, tied on points with Newcastle United, who travelled to Fulham on Sunday.
Rearrange the table?
United will be either; unable to take top spot off City, or will have slipped into third place behind Tottenham by the time they kick-off, as Spurs are just two points behind Manchester United and City are three ahead. Arsenal by comparison won't be climbing any higher than fifth, even with a win. What’s more they could wake up on Sunday morning as low as seventh in the league if Liverpool and Newcastle get the requisite points (a draw with Fulham would work for Newcastle, while Liverpool would need to beat (the mighty) Bolton).
Arsenal and Manchester United have faced off in title deciding clashes, FA Cup semi-finals, one FA Cup final, Community Shields; not to mention a Champions League semi-final. But recent history favours just one side.
Manchester United have won seven and drawn one of the last nine meetings and who can forget the last clash, which ended 8-2 to United? These two sides have met 214 times overall and 46 times under their current managers, with Sir Alex edging it with 21 wins to Wenger’s 16.
What news from the sportsbooks
This time around William Hill have a home win at 19/10, an away win at 13/8, while a draw (that would favour Manchester City, Tottenham, Liverpool and Newcastle) is also at 19/10 in the soccer odds.
Both teams have suffered odd blips of form recently with United losing to both Blackburn and Newcastle, while Arsenal are having a complete yo-yo of a season and never seem to hit the same sort of form for more than a couple of games (4-0 victors against Wigan one day, losing 0-2 to Liverpool another).
Arsenal’s inconsistency might be to their benefit
The Gunners have lost their last two games (against Fulham and Swansea) so should be due a win. You can pick up a vengeance satisfying 8-2 victory to the home side at 500/1 or go one better with 8-1 at 750/1. I'd be wary of throwing money at those scores as the last meeting; back in August was the highest scoring match between the two sides for over 100 years.
The shortest correct score odds are on 1-1 which is available at 6/1, while United winning 1-0 is at 8/1 and; Arsenal winning 1-0 and 2-1 are both at 9/1.
After that fateful day last August, Arsenal have improved and United have (arguably) weakened. Mind you an improved Arsenal score and a decreased United score might still come out around 4-3 to United available at 100/1, so a home win is no sure thing.
This next soccer betting tip might jar with my prediction below but I think it's certainly worth having a side bet on Arsenal to be leading at the break, but United (comeback kings that they are) taking the game at 90 minutes, that's at 25/1.
Home is where the points are
The last four times these sides have met the home side has ended the day victorious. And at the risk of trying to bend statistics to fit a gut feeling I’m backing a home win in this one and a decent goal tally. Arsenal have scored six goals in their last five games while United have conceded eight, and Untied have only failed to score once all season (the 3-0 defeat at St James’). Therefore this game does suggest goals, although three of the last five wins between these clubs ended with a side winning to nil (FYI).
Prediction: Both sides score and Arsenal shake up the title race further by taking all three points in a thrilling 3-2 victory available at 28/1.