It is not the done thing these days to feel sorry for Arsenal. Nor is it de rigeur to suggest they were unfortunate when they lose a game. Arsenal-bashing, and in particular criticism of Arsene Wenger, is partaken as often as afternoon tea in these parts. It is much easy to rant on that they are a club going nowhere and the gulf between them and the top clubs is widening.
And so on. Following the 3-1 reverse at home to Manchester United it would be easy to look at the score and reckon that this was another opportunity to sharpen the knives. But anyone who watched the game – possibly the contest of the season so far – would know that Arsenal were two things. Terrific. And unlucky.
They ran beautifully and incisively with the ball, creating countless chances. This despite going 2-0 down almost immediately - lesser spirited sides would have folded. And they were unfortunate because in David De Gea, the Manchester United goalkeeper, they ran into a stopper in sublime form.
With Arsenal in such good rhythm with the ball at their feet it is hard not to feel that Bate Borisov are in for a rough night at the Emirates on Thursday in the Europa League.
Bate have only won two of their last 15 ties on the road in Europe and the Gunners showed they had far more quality when winning 4-2 in Belarus. We’re expecting a cosy win for Arsenal, betting 2-0 and 3-0 at green-listed bookmakers: +700 (888Sport) and +1000 (William Hill) respectively.
Staying in the Europa League, Everton’s trip to Apollon Limassol, also on Thursday, caught our eye. Or rather our ears pricked up listening to Sam Allardyce, the Everton coach, following the 2-0 home win over Huddersfield Town at Goodison Park last time out.
Allardyce said his team were fatigued having beaten West Ham United on Wednesday. So the prospect of another midweek fixture – not to mention a fairly long trek to Limassol – makes the hosts the bet.
This is a departure for this column as we’re keen on Everton under Allardyce, a terrific coach. But he’s also a pragmatist. And with Everton no longer able to continue in the competition, he will surely rest key players and bring in untested youngsters.
Apollon are no pushovers anyway. They got a 2-2 draw at Goodison and have scored 13 goals in their last three home fixtures in the Cypriot league.
Unibet and Bwin offer +155 about a victory for the hosts and we’re happy to take that price. Correct score fancies include 1-0 and 2-0 Apollon at +1050 +1600 (both Unibet).