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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

It's all or nothing for Arsenal manager Unai Emery

Sloppy defending at root of Aston Villa woes

Unai Emery had a modest transfer budget but appears to have spent it wisely
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1 Gunners reluctant to share the spoils
Arsenal’s game against Watford last weekend was goalless until the 81st minute but draw backers shouldn’t have been getting excited.

Two late goals for the Gunners extended their run of Premier League games without a stalemate to 23 and it’s 7-2 that they have to settle for a point against Fulham at Craven Cottage on Sunday.

Arsene Wenger’s final league campaign featured only six draws – five of which, bizarrely, came in the space of seven games between December 10 and January 3.

And it’s been all or nothing for Unai Emery this term as defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea were followed by a run of five straight wins in the top flight.

It’s a far cry from the George Graham era.

A quarter of a century ago, in October 1993, Graham’s Gunners played out four consecutive goalless draws in the Premier League – part of a run of seven stalemates in eight matches in all competitions.

Despite Arsenal’s aversion to draws, the 1-1 scoreline is still vying for favouritism in the correct-score betting for Sunday’s trip to Fulham.

2 Sloppy defending at root of Villa woes
The carrot and the stick are well-known motivational tools in football but a cabbage was the weapon of choice for one disgruntled Aston Villa supporter during Tuesday’s 3-3 draw at home to Preston in the Sky Bet Championship.

The vegetable was hurled at Villa boss Steve Bruce, whose week got even worse when he was sacked on Wednesday afternoon.

As Tuesday’s 3-3 thriller suggests, one of Villa’s major problems this season has been their leaky – or should that be leeky? – defence.

Bruce departed 11 games into Villa’s Sky Bet Championship campaign and both teams have scored in ten of those games.

It’s 4-5 that there are goals at both ends when Villa travel to Millwall while the managerless visitors are 21-10 to keep a clean sheet at The Den.

But Villa’s defensive options for the trip to Millwall are likely to be limited as James Chester was sent off against Preston, sparking a collapse from 2-0 up, and Mile Jedinak, who has been filling in at centre-back, missed that game with a hamstring injury.

3 Can punters expect a classic O Classico?
Portugal’s big two, Benfica and Porto, meet on Sunday in the latest instalment of O Classico.

It’s a cracking fixture for fans of the two clubs and a chance to strike an early blow in the title race with champions Porto evens favourites for the league and Benfica 6-4.

However, this fixture hasn’t provided many goalfests for the neutrals in recent seasons with seven of the last eight meetings rewarding backers of under 2.5 goals.

Last season’s games ended 0-0 and 1-0 to Porto (thanks to a 90th-minute stunner from Hector Herrera) – under 2.5 goals is a 3-4 chance this time with no goalscorer 8-1.


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Arsene Wenger’s final league campaign featured only six draws – five of which came in the space of seven games between December 10 and January 3
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