Posted by Barrie on Wednesday, 10 February 2010

What Do Tonight's Odds Tell Us?

At the beginning of the week, Arsenal could be found at evens and above from nearly all of your top online bookmakers. Now, less than 3 hours before kickoff and some bookmakers aren't even giving you evens.

Since Monday there hasn't been any negative Liverpool team news, and now fitness boosts for Arsenal. So the shortening of Arsenal's odds has come from a large number of punters backing Arsenal. Despite their bad form, I am one of those jumping on the bandwagon for tonight's game.

Morale may be low at Arsenal, and they may have been held here 1-1 by Liverpool in the past two seasons, but they're a better side than Liverpool this season. Arsenal's two defeats in their past two games have come against the top two teams in the league. Hopefully they will have learnt something about being left exposed on the counter attack ahead of tonight's game too.

Andrey Arshavin hasn't been his influential self in their last two games, but he has a fantastic record against Liverpool (mainly based on the 4 goals he struck at Anfield last season). He is one to watch in this game, as will Cesc Fabregas, whom also went quiet in Arsenal's last two games. And that is part of the reason for their defeats. If/when these two get back to their usual ways tonight, Liverpool are going to have more than their fair share of work. Cesc Fabregas will likely match up in the centre of midfield against Steven Gerrard, Javier Mascherano and Lucas. I don't doubt his ability to take it passed either one of those nor pass his way through the Liverpool team. Expect Fabregas to shine if Gerrard pushes too far forward. Arshavin meanwhile has looked lost at sea playing as a lone striker. Arsene Wenger should think twice about doing the same tonight. Instead I can see him dropping back or to the right hand side of midfield and Nicklas Bendtner taking the lone role up front. A position he is more suited for.

Between Arshavin, Fabregas, Bendtner, Samir Nasri and whoever else plays for Arsenal, they should be able to break down this Liverpool defence, regardless of their 6 clean sheets in 7 games. Arsenal have beat Liverpool 2-1 twice this season.

Apart from Steven Gerrard's long range efforts, Liverpool's best opportunities should fall from set pieces. Manuel Almunia is one of the most unconvincing keepers at dealing with them in the Premier League. And the small group of players with a lack of physicality doesn't help either. Add that to the lack of a player at the far post on Sunday, allowed Didier Drogba to score from close range following John Terry's flick on.

Liverpool don't have much quality going forward. Steven Gerrard has only 1 goal in his last 11 Premier League games. David N'Gog isn't doing much better (1 in 10), and lacking confidence and self belief seemingly. As well as talent. Dirk Kuyt is a man in form (4 in his last 4), but the Arsenal centre back partnership of William Gallas and Thomas Vermaelen, protected by Alex Song should keep him off the scoresheet tonight.

Arsenal are evens to win with Skybet tonight. If you're feeling more confident, they're 5/2 to win to nil.

If Arsenal can win, they will be considered title contenders again should Chelsea and Manchester United fail to win their tough away fixtures this evening. Manchester United travel to Aston Villa, a side they use to dominate. That mastery is beginning to attenuate. They were held here 0-0 last season and were beat 1-0 at Old Trafford earlier this season. It took a stoppage time winner from Federico Macheda to snatch all 3 points from Aston Villa last season. Manchester United's odds have taken a small drop since Monday where they could be found at evens. With Wayne Rooney's form, can they keep in touching distance of Chelsea by beating Villa tonight? They are 5/6 to do so.

Chelsea themselves are at a morale-beaten Everton. Beaten by their most-hated rivals Liverpool on Saturday, with an extra man for most of the game. Everton can't be feeling too confident ahead of this match against the high-flying Premier League leaders. Chelsea's odds have shortened to 8/11 ahead of kickoff. But can they beat the same Everton side who held them at Stamford Bridge back in December?

Another bet I am going with this evening, is Tottenham to win at Wolves. They have something to prove following their home defeat by the midlands side back in December and I can see Harry Redknapp getting the best out of his team in this match. And the best from them would prevent Wolves from picking anything up from this match. Tottenham too are another side who have been well-backed over the past couple of days ahead of this match.

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