It's been a baptism of fire for new Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta, and Kevin Hatchard doesn't believe things will get easier against in-form Manchester United.
"Arsenal have lost their last four competitive home games, and we shouldn't be swayed by one good half against Chelsea."
Arsenal v Manchester United
Wednesday January 1, 20:00
Live on BT Sport
Arteta has inherited the ultimate fixer-upper
New manager, same old issues for Arsenal. At the conclusion of the Gunners' 2-1 home defeat against Chelsea, Mikel Arteta bore the same pained expression that Arsene Wenger, Unai Emery and Freddie Ljungberg have all borne in recent seasons. Arteta's Arsenal played well in the first half, but failed to respond to Chelsea's tactical change and increase in intensity. A goalkeeping howler from Bernd Leno gifted the Blues a late leveller, and then after over-committing in attack, Arsenal were shredded on the counter for Tammy Abraham's winner.
After picking up a solitary point from his first two games in charge, Arteta has admitted there is a lot of work to do. Arsenal are only six points above the dropzone (their worst top-flight tally at this stage of a season since the three-points-for-a-win era began) and they are 11 points adrift of the Champions League spots. They have won just one of their last 12 matches in the league, and they have lost their last three top-division games at the Emirates.
Addressing the team's defensive fragility is surely the first order of business for Arteta. Arsenal have conceded at least two goals in seven of their last eight home games, and in the Premier League their goals-against tally of 30 in 20 games is the worst in the top 12. They haven't kept a clean sheet at home since the first week of October.
A slew of injuries have hardly helped the cause. Defender Calum Chambers is the latest name to be added to the list, and with Sokratis struggling, the hapless Shkodran Mustafi may once again have to be deployed in central defence.
Fluctuating United back in the Champions League hunt
If you were being cynical, you would say that Manchester United's current policy of integrating young talent into their first team is a convenient way of buying more time for heavily-scrutinised manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. If the team wins, it's evidence that Solskjaer is on the right track. If it loses, then that is attributed to a lack of experience, and there's talk of a long rebuilding process.
Whether it's a genuine rebuild, a convenient sham, or something in between, United have lifted themselves back into the race for Champions League qualification. Their excellent derby win at Manchester City showed what the team can achieve, and back-to-back PL victories against Newcastle United and Burnley have pulled the Red Devils to within five points of the top four. United are now 3.711/4 in the Top 4 market.
One thing that has stood out about United's season is that they have done well against the top sides. They are the only top-flight side to take points off Liverpool this term, they have beaten Chelsea twice in league and cup, and they have overcome Spurs, Leicester City and the champions Manchester City.
Scott McTominay missed the win at Burnley with a knee problem, while there is still confusion over the extent of Paul Pogba's long-term injury. Former figure of fun Fred is likely to start, having shown huge improvement recently. At left-back, youngster Brandon Williams is pushing Luke Shaw hard for a start.
Both sides imperfect, but United the safer bet
Arsenal have lost their last four competitive home games, and we shouldn't get too carried away by that first half against Chelsea. Arteta will want Arsenal to try to hog possession and control the game, but as we saw against Chelsea, there'll be opportunities for Manchester United to counter-attack, and it's in transition when Solskjaer's team comes alive.
There's always a chance that United will throw in a horror show like they did at Watford, but they tend to play well against the more technically-gifted teams, and I'll back them here Draw No Bet at 1.9110/11.
Leaky Gunners to contribute to thriller
Despite Arteta's best efforts, Arsenal conceded twice yet again at home to Chelsea, and seven of their last eight home games have featured at least three goals. United have scored at least twice in 10 of their last 13 competitive games, and I can see why Over 2.5 Goals is trading at 1.664/6.
Rashford to continue elite scoring streak
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer undeniably knows about the art of being a striker, and he seems to have already enhanced the work of Marcus Rashford. The England striker has scored in 14 of his last 19 appearances for club and country, and his speed could be a vital weapon against Arsenal. I'll back him to score at 2.3611/8.
Kevin Hatchard Premier League 19/20 P/L
Points Staked: 32
Points Returned: 22.89
P/L: -9.11 points
Back Manchester United Draw No Bet at 1.9110/11
Back Marcus Rashford to score at 2.3611/8