Premier League Odds, Picks & Predictions: Manchester City vs. Arsenal Preview (Wednesday, June 17)
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- Manchester City is a huge favorite over Arsenal in updated odds for the first day of the Premier League action, with the total at 3.5.
- Man City is unbeaten in four season openers under Pep Guardiola, and while there's no championship at stake, this is kind of like a season restart.
- Arsenal's leaky defense has improved since manager Mikel Arteta took over, but they've failed to turn that into victories (Arsenal have 13 draws this season).
Arsenal at Man City Odds and Picks
|Man City odds||-315
|Time||Wednesday, 3:15 p.m. ET|
The Premier League returns on Wednesday afternoon with a matchup featuring two of the league’s “big six”, but Arsenal have been far from one of the six best teams in the PL this year.
The Gunners will travel to Manchester on Wednesday to play behind closed doors, kicking off a 10-game sprint to the finish currently scheduled for the end of July.
When I previewed this game back in March, my main reason for liking Manchester City to lay the -1.5 goals and cover that spread was their ability to bounce back off a defeat. The Citizens had just lost 2-0 to Manchester United and have shown impressive form in the ensuing match off a loss under Guardiola.
For this handicap, though, I’m looking at how City have done to start seasons, since the layoff before Wednesday’s match is similar in length to an offseason at this point.
City have won each of their four season openers under Pep Guardiola, including a 2-0 win over Arsenal in 2018-19 and a 5-0 thrashing of West Ham to begin the 2019-20 campaign.
On the other side, Arsenal have had a miserable season domestically. Despite three-straight wins headed into the break, the Gunners sit ninth on points and 12th on expected goal difference per 90 minutes.
Their leaky defense has improved since Mikel Arteta, the former No. 2 to Guardiola, took over for sacked manager Unai Emery, but Arsenal have struggled to turn draws into wins. The Gunners have 13 draws, tied with Wolves for most in the English top flight.
Expected goals (also known as xG) is an advanced statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as luck or outstanding goalkeeping.
The break also enables Manchester City to get healthy, specifically defender Aymeric Laporte and winger Leroy Sané. Sané was expected to miss the remainder of the year, and Laporte had been on and off the pitch as he tried to get fit.
The Citizens have been significantly better defensively when Laporte is in the starting XI than not. In seven games with Laporte, they have conceded three goals (0.43 per game), compared to 24 goals allowed in the 21 without him (1.14 per game).
Perhaps where I am most concerned with Arsenal in this matchup is tactically, though. Arsenal’s inability to break any type of effective press through the midfield has been a consistent issue for them all season, and effective pressing through the midfield is where Manchester City is at its best.
It’s part of the reason why City have won six consecutive matches against Arsenal in the last three years, outsourcing them 17-2 in those games.
Any City midfield group of Kevin De Bruyne, Rodri, Fernandinho or David Silva is miles better than Arsenal’s group of Xhaka, Matteo Guendouzi, Mesut Ozil or Dani Ceballos.
Arsenal ranks 15th in successful dribble rate (when a player attempts to beat an opponent while maintaining possession) as a team and just 11th in attacking third touches, while City are far and away the top team in attacking third touches and rank second in successful dribble percentage.
As the games pile up and teams are forced to rotate players and go deeper into benches, there is perhaps no team better equipped to handle that than the depth of Manchester City.
Guardiola will have five subs to exert his influence, and I believe this game could get away from Arsenal as the Citizens keep pouring on fresh attackers in the second half.