After suffering an Anfield humiliation at the weekend, Unai Emery will be desperate to steady the Arsenal ship. Their thumping 5-1 defeat was about as desperate as it gets and, as well as confirming Liverpool’s title credentials, displayed just how far the Gunners’ stock has fallen in comparison.
The Gunners’ fine unbeaten run, after losing their two opening games of the season, has now properly unravelled and despite possessing some undoubted attacking talent, they have plenty of defensive problems that need addressing.
Liverpool were good, make no mistake, but the way in which Arsenal’s defence rocked and eventually crumbled under pressure will have set the alarm bells ringing. For a club with Champions League and future title aspirations, they fell so far short it was embarrassing, and the Gooners will be demanding a reaction against Fulham.
The Cottagers, meanwhile, are on something of a mini-run and despite a disastrous start to the season, have now gone unbeaten in three games. Since the arrival of Claudio Ranieri to the Fulham hotseat, defensively things have tightened up and, whereas they looked doomed prior to Slavisa Jokanovic’s dismissal, they are now just one point adrift of 17th place and well in the mix for survival.
TOP TIP! – Arsenal to win 2-1 @ +800 / Ramsey as first goalscorer @ +700
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They also go into the game at the Emirates off the back of a crucial win over relegation rivals Huddersfield, with Aleksandar Mitrovic’s stoppage time winner sending Craven Cottage into delirium.
All of which adds up to a tricky New Year’s Day for Arsenal, with the two sides’ differing fortunes at the weekend making for a nervous and twitchy Emirates. Fulham, backed no doubt by a packed and noisy away following, will be buoyant after Mitrovic’s late heroics and will fancy their chances of taking something away.
Whether Fulham’s improved back four have enough to shut out the Gunners’ potent attack is the big question, and we tend to think they probably haven’t, but equally we can see Mitrovic’s bruising presence making life tricky for Emery’s centre-backs.
We were tempted by the 2-2 – which at +2000 is great value – but think Arsenal’s extra quality in the final third may be the deciding factor, so we go 2-1 Arsenal +800 with BetVictor. Consider also Aaron Ramsey as first goalscorer +700 with Bet365, given his eye for goal and habit of arriving late in the box.
TOP TIP! – Bournemouth & Watford to draw 2-2 @ +1200 / Wilson first goalscorer @ +500
Bournemouth’s 4-1 defeat at Old Trafford came straight off the back of a 5-0 thumping at Wembley from Tottenham, so it’s been a bruising Christmas for Eddie Howe and his men.
While the Cherries still sit comfortably in in 12th place, Howe will know that four defeats in their last five games is anything but encouraging, and in the brutal environment of the Premier League it is all too easy for a poor run of form to quickly turn into a relegation struggle. A win against Watford would be the best remedy and ease any lingering fears.
Watford though are flying, and few predicted the Hornets would be in eighth at this stage of the season with just a -1 goal difference. For them it has been an outstanding campaign and they will head to the Vitality Stadium without even a hint of fear.
Their manager, Javi Gracia, was forced though to defend his decision to make six changes to his starting XI at the weekend – a home game with Newcastle that they only managed to draw courtesy of a late equaliser – but this will ensure plenty of fresh legs and minds at the Vitality.
Bournemouth, for their part, will be glad to be back on home turf where they have an excellent record, and in truth we expect this one to be very tight indeed. We’re tempted by the bookies’ favoured scoreline of 1-1 +600 , but we’re going big and predicting a 2-2 +1200 with 188bet with Callum Wilson as first goalscorer +500 with Bet365.
TOP TIP! – Man Utd to win 2-1 @ +800 / Newcastle to lead at half-time @ +420
The Ole Gunnar Solskjær effect on Old Trafford has been phenomenal and already the Jose Mourinho era seems like a distant dream, if not a nightmare. The baby-faced assassin has delivered everything and more the United faithful had hoped, and, above all, players and fans have smiles on their faces again.
Players who felt disenfranchised, notably Paul Pogba, are finally living up to their billing and giving the new manager what feels like an almost new set of players to pick from. And while their chances of troubling those at the top of the Premier League appear long gone for this season, they do still have the small matter of a Champions League quarter-final with PSG to look forward to. The mood has changed and where there was despair and gloom, now there is belief and verve.
All of which means nothing to the Toon who have a rather different fight on their hands, but they will be buoyed by a good point at Vicarage Road at the weekend. One win in five is far from ideal however and Rafa Benitez knows a relegation fight is pending in 2019, starting with this tricky one against the Reds.
We can find few logical arguments for a home win however, and not many for the draw to be honest, so we can see Manchester United’s superior quality shining through and giving them a hard fought 2-1 win +800 with Bet365. Also worth a look is the Toon leading at half-time (before losing the game) at +420 with 888sport.
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