Unbeaten in twenty games in all competitions, you’ll find few people prepared to bet on Arsenal failing to make it 21 this weekend as strugglers Huddersfield come to town. Fresh from a heavy win in the North London derby and a hotly-contested draw at Old Trafford, the Gunners will be big favourites to inflict another defeat on a Terriers side just one point outside the relegation zone prior to kick-off.
David Wagner’s achievement in keeping Huddersfield in the Premier League last season was considered to be one of the most impressive managerial performances of the campaign. It looks like he’ll have an even tougher ask this time around, particularly if fellow strugglers Fulham and Southampton enjoy the “new manager bounce” that the former are already showing signs of. Town won’t be fancied to get anything from this game – but they might as well go for it, given that December is a time for weird results.
Arsenal vs Huddersfield Prediction: Arsenal 3-1 Huddersfield
Unai Emery has brought a consistency and a doggedness that were missing in the final seasons of predecessor Arsene Wenger’s time at Arsenal. The Gunners still have their quirks – taking the lead twice against Manchester United only to see the hosts equalise quickly on both occasions was a very Wenger way to drop two points. With very few exceptions, the key to Emery’s regeneration of Arsenal so far has been winning the games they should be winning. A home game against Huddersfield is very nearly the ideal fixture for a club looking to keep a good run going, and the hosts should prevail here.
Our recommended tip: Draw HT, Arsenal FT
Fifteen games into the season, and here is the most bizarre statistic of the campaign so far. Arsenal – who haven’t lost a game since mid-August, remember – have not led at half time in any league game this season. Sometimes they start slow, sometimes they are caught cold just before the break and lose their lead, but whatever the reason, it’s becoming a signature move. If you fancy a bet on this game, you could take advantage of this quirk, as Paddy Power have odds of 3/1 (4.00) on them being level at half time here but ultimately winning.
The most recent meeting of these sides was the final game of Arsene Wenger’s time at Arsenal, and his side saw him off with a win, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s 38th-minute goal securing a 1-0 scoreline. The meeting at the Emirates was more thrilling for Gunners fans. After a third-minute Lacazette strike, the game remained finely-balanced until the final quarter, when the home side scored four goals to run out 5-0 winners. Arsenal have since seen two of the scorers that day leave the club – Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez – but if anything, their attack is in better shape coming into this game.
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Players to watch: Henrikh Mkhitaryan & Terence Kongolo
With Mesut Ozil’s fitness still in doubt, and Aaron Ramsey set for a spell on the sidelines with an ankle injury, Arsenal’s midfield flourish will need to come from Armenian international Mkhitaryan. Signed from Manchester United as part of the move that saw Sanchez go the other way, the gifted midfielder has had a fitful spell in England ever since he joined United from Dortmund. There has always been the feeling he could shine if given the chance – the chance is very much here, so now’s the time for “Miky” to show what he can do.
Kongolo is a tough and uncompromising defender, and he’ll need to be for a game in which his side can expect to be on the back foot for most of the 90 minutes. Given the opposition’s occasional weakness from set pieces, he could even be one of Huddersfield’s more likely scorers – Kongolo is good in the air, and scored his side’s goal in the recent defeat at Bournemouth. While one goal may not sound all that impressive, bear in mind it’s one more than all of Huddersfield’s first choice strikers have between them.