Whilst only one point separates Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea in the race for the final Champions League spot as we enter the season’s final third, British bookmakers are clear that they see the Gunners as rank outsiders to secure fourth spot.
At 3/1, Unai Emery’s side have lost two of their last five in the league, which included a 3-1 defeat at Man City as the Spaniard struggles to find a solution to Arsenal’s enduring Achilles’ Heel: their inconsistency in securing points away from home, notably against top six sides. All but one of Arsenal’s six defeats this season have been on the road, and their recent 2-1 win at Huddersfield was only their second away victory of the season.
Despite a 6-0 drubbing at Man City over the weekend which allowed Arsenal to overtake them in the league table on goal difference, Chelsea’s quote remains unchanged at 5/4. Bookies appear unfazed by Mauricio Sarri’s inability to find consistency this season – and rumours of his imminent sacking and possible replacement by Zinedine Zidane may be helping to consolidate those odds as opposed to hurting them.
Reds’ Honeymoon Period Over
If Emery feels that bookmakers have written him off too early, a quick browse of the fixture list may indicate that his thinking might just be justified.
Manchester United are due to face Liverpool, Man City and Arsenal themselves in the coming weeks – just as United themselves finally begin to show some chinks in their armor as the so-called Solksjaer Effect appears to be coming to an end.
With a 2-0 defeat last night to PSG in the Champions League – described as a ‘reality check’ by the Norwegian – Utd’s confidence has taken a hit, and the timing could not have been worse as they gear up to face Liverpool at home in their next premiership outing on February 24th, before heading into likely season-defining back-to-back games with Arsenal and Man City in mid-March.
At 10/11 with William Hill, the Reds remain odds-on – and arguably over-priced – to qualify for next year’s Champions League.