Our betting guru Jones Knows thinks Aston Villa should be backed to beat Arsenal for the fourth time in a row on Friday Night Football.
Arsenal vs Aston Villa, Friday 8pm, live on Sky Sports
Aston Villa have won the last three Premier League meetings with Arsenal, all accompanied by a clean sheet. Dean Smith seems to have the measure of Mikel Arteta. Yet, Arsenal are dominating the match result markets with 10/11 available for a home win. That is easily swerved with Arteta’s team still showing inconsistency at key points in matches that makes them vulnerable to a well-drilled, clinical opposition which Aston Villa can be on their day. I’m happy to follow the away win.
I’m expecting Villa to be asking questions of Arsenal at regular intervals, so for the second week running I’m looking to grab some winning value in their ability to win corners. Since switching to a back three and encouraging their wing-backs in Matt Targett and Matty Cash to play more aggressively, Villa’s corner count is seeing a sharp increase. In their last five fixtures against tough opponents like Tottenham, Manchester United, Everton and Chelsea, they have averaged 6.8 corners per 90 minutes.
Meanwhile, Arsenal, this season, are playing with less width with their ‘width per sequence’ statistics being the second narrowest in the Premier League. This is restricting their ability to win corners, averaging just five corners per 90 minutes this season. And they have conceded an average of 6.7 corners per match.
These numbers certainly put forward the argument that Villa should be favourites to win more corners but they are not. I’m happy to invest in the evens for Dean Smith’s side to win the corners race with a +1.0 corner start, meaning they need to have as many corners as Arsenal or more, to make the bet a winner.
SCORE PREDICTION: 1-2
BETTING ANGLE: Aston Villa +1.0 on the corner handicap (Evens with Sky Bet)
Chelsea vs Norwich, Saturday 12.30pm
Chelsea possess the joint-best defence in the Premier League with Man City, conceding just three goals. That defensive process remains strong but certainly it’s not at the levels of last season when assessing their expected goals against data. They are offering up good chances and shooting opportunities to the opposition. A figure of 1.54 expected goals conceded per 90 minutes in their last nine fixtures showcases that.
In fact, Chelsea have the biggest difference between goals conceded (3) and expected goals against (10.2) in the Premier League after the opening eight games – at 7.2. Also, they have faced 98 shots in those matches. It’s the seventh-fewest of any team but not a number you’d expect from title challengers. Manchester City have faced just 49 for example. I’m certainly interested in backing both teams to score in Chelsea matches over the coming weeks but the 6/4 with Sky Bet is short enough considering Norwich are the lowest scorers in English football with just two goals here.
Daniel Farke’s team do create chances though and get shots away, as shown by their average of 10.6 shots per 90 minutes in all competitions this season. An average which jumps up to 11.7 if you take out their clash with Manchester City.
With Chelsea allowing an average of 10.8 shots on their goal in the Premier League this season, it points towards trusting Norwich to back over their shots line. Sky Bet have it at eight more with 5/6 available – that’ll do just fine, meaning we need Farke’s side to have eight more shots in order to collect.
SCORE PREDICTION: 2-1
BETTING ANGLE: Norwich to have eight or more total shots (5/6 with Sky Bet)
Crystal Palace vs Newcastle, Saturday 3pm
Graeme Jones is the man in the Newcastle hot-seat for now and his odds of 25/1 with Sky Bet for him to become their next permanent boss are worth taking. I think he can start with an away win here.
I get the impression that those making the decisions at Newcastle wanted to keep Steve Bruce until January with the hope of keeping their heads above the relegation zone. But perhaps a mixture of a distinctly average performance and crowd unrest towards Bruce in the defeat at Tottenham has forced their hand to make a change.
A top-class replacement will be hard to find at this stage of the season. Paulo Fonseca is all the rage with the bookmakers but an agreement is reportedly way off. In that case, the power in this search for a replacement lies with the man in caretaker charge.
Jones has a fantastic opportunity to nail down this job until January – when it will be easier to recruit someone with a transfer window and big budget to get stuck into. All Jones needs to do is improve Newcastle over the next two matches and let’s be honest can they really get much worse?
A couple of positive results here and against Chelsea will change the mood at St James’ Park. That could see Jones stay in the role until January. Sky Bet’s terms imply that a caretaker manager is deemed the permanent manager if taking charge of 10 games – that means Jones just has to make it to the Manchester City game on December 19. If Newcastle win this weekend, something they are certainly capable of, then that 25/1 will be long gone as this market will be heavily affected by this match result.
SCORE PREDICTION: 1-2
Everton vs Watford, Saturday 3pm
How Everton react to being unable to pick Abdoulaye Doucoure, who is out with a foot injury, will be a big factor in this result. With another key figure Dominic Calvert-Lewin also definitely ruled out, Everton’s quality in the final third is worrying in a game where patience and precise finishing will be required to brush aside Watford.
Watford have conceded five goals from set-pieces this season, and four from corners – behind only Crystal Palace. So, Everton’s best route to goal may come from when the big boys come up from the back. Ben Godfrey has yet to score for Everton since moving from Norwich for £20million – but he is getting closer. In his last two appearances at Goodison Park, Godfrey has had five shots on goal following set piece situations, generating an expected goals figure of 0.83. Only Andros Townsend has posted a greater expected goal threat in that time of any Everton player. His first goal for the club might be near and he’s worth following at 40/1 to score first.
SCORE PREDICTION: 1-1
BETTING ANGLE: Ben Godfrey to score first (40/1 with Sky Bet)
Leeds vs Wolves, Saturday 3pm
Leeds have a real problem when Kalvin Phillips isn’t available – and with him still recovering from a calf and hip problem, an away win for Wolves should be backed. The England midfielder has missed 12 Premier League games since Leeds returned to the top table and the club have lost nine of those, including the very timid defeat at Southampton last week where they mustered just three shots on their opponents’ goal. Phillips’ passing and ability to provide a platform for Leeds to attack and defend is sorely missed. Without him, their defence becomes woefully exposed.
It’s not surprising to see this Leeds team have faced the most shots (136) and shots on target (48) this season – it’s how Marcelo Bielsa goes about his business. However, the drop-off in attacking numbers in terms of their process should get Leeds fans a little worried about the season ahead. Their ‘expected goals’ figure has dropped from 1.88 per game last season to just 1.33 this season. The influence of the brilliant Raphinha, who is fit this weekend, will be crucial for them if the numbers continue mirroring the same level of performances. That said, Wolves look a better functioning unit on current form and can take all three points at Elland Road.
SCORE PREDICTION: 1-3
BETTING ANGLE: Wolves to win and over 2.5 goals (7/2 with Sky Bet)
Southampton vs Burnley, Saturday 3pm
Southampton are easily swerved at odds-on here. They might have got their first win of the season in their deserving 1-0 victory over Leeds but I’m still very doubtful of their ability to finish the chances they create. A shot conversion rate of five per cent this season – only two teams have posted lower – isn’t something I can see improving as the season develops. Burnley are one of those teams with a lower conversion rate but the numbers show they are creating a better quality of chance for their forwards.
According to Opta, Burnley have missed 10 ‘big chances’ this season as their search for a first win goes on despite having led for 173 minutes in matches, only seven clubs have led for more. In fact, they’ve led for 33 minutes more than Manchester United. Sean Dyche will be targeting this game as where Burnley’s season can finally start. At 3/1 with Sky Bet, they are the value call.
SCORE PREDICTION: 0-1
BETTING ANGLE: Burnley to win (3/1 with Sky Bet)
Brighton vs Manchester City, Saturday 5.30pm, live on Sky Sports
In four games against Manchester City and Liverpool last season, Brighton – when totalling the aggregate score – came out on top 6-5. Graham Potter’s style seems to flourish when tasked with facing elite opposition – a huge testament to his managerial and tactical skill. But not many are given his boys, who have started the season in impressive fashion, much of a chance against this Manchester City machine. It’s 7/1 for a home victory with Sky Bet.
That does look a bit insulting on paper towards Brighton but to win football matches you need to score goals.
Insightful stuff there.
And, it’s difficult to fathom how Brighton will find a way through a City defence that has maintained its high standards of last season. Potter’s men have fallen back to their old ways of snatching at chances, failing to score in their last two fixtures. Pep Guardiola’s side have the joint best defence in the Premier League with Chelsea, conceding three goals and keeping six clean sheets in their last seven games. They have faced just 12 shots on target in the league this season – nine fewer than any other side, which has equated to a expected goals against figure of just 4.7 in total. Chelsea’s is 10.85 in comparison.
But when assessing how this match will pan out, it would be foolish not to factor in how sturdy Brighton are. The Seagulls have conceded only two goals from open play all season, only Chelsea can boast a better record (0). A tight, tactical encounter is on the cards with City’s extra quality in key moments likely to shine through. A 1-0 win for Pep will do just fine.
SCORE PREDICTION: 0-1
BETTING ANGLE: Manchester City to win by one goal (9/4 with Sky Bet)
Brentford vs Leicester, Sunday 2pm
What I love about the way Brentford play is their ability to put teams under significant pressure when they have territorial advantage in a game. That is seen by their numbers in terms of chance creation. Thomas Frank’s team have created the fewest overall chances (58) and fewest chances from open play (50) this season of any team but have the seventh-best expected goals scored data (11.89), highlighting that their brilliant start to the season is absolutely no fluke. That ability to create danger in the opposition box makes Leicester very hard to fancy at 13/8 with Sky Bet.
Brendan Rodgers’ team have conceded two goals in each of their last four games and are without a clean sheet in their last 14 games across all competitions. The four goals they have conceded from crosses this season is also a league high and that’s an area where Brentford are notoriously strong. A Brentford win with over 3.5 goals in the match is a price that shouldn’t be ignored at 13/2 with Sky Bet.
SCORE PREDICTION: 3-1
BETTING ANGLE: Brentford to win and over 3.5 goals (13/2 with Sky Bet)
West Ham vs Tottenham, Sunday 2pm, live on Sky Sports
Goals, goals, goals. If that’s your thing, then this game should be right up your street. West Ham’s home games this calendar year average just over three goals a game and there were nine scored in total over the two meetings between these two last season.
Since switching to a midfield three of Oliver Skipp, Pierre Emile Hojbjerg and Tanguy Ndombele at the start of the second half in the defeat to Arsenal, Tottenham look a far more accomplished outfit. They won that second half 1-0 at The Emirates and have since beaten both Aston Villa and Newcastle as the introduction of Skipp to protect their back four has made it far harder for opponents to put Eric Dier and Cristian Romero under significant pressure. Now Nuno has that sorted, the quality he has at his disposal in forward areas will make it easier to win tight matches. They’ll be a huge threat here.
Whether they can win this midfield battle though is debatable. Declan Rice is in ‘machine-like’ form for the Hammers, showing more maturity with his passing this season and breaking up play excellently in his usual fashion. When you break it down, I’d be surprised if there will be many points between these two in the table come the end of the season, so a draw looks the sensible play.
If you fancy the draw, taking the 100/30 with Sky Bet for the game to finish 1-1, 2-2 or 3-3 looks a smarter way of increasing the 12/5 odds for a stalemate, ruling out the 0-0. The case for goals is strong and none of the last 18 meetings between these two have ended goalless.
SCORE PREDICTION: 2-2
BETTING ANGLE: 1-1, 2-2 or 3-3 Draw (100/30 with Sky Bet)
Manchester United vs Liverpool, Sunday 4.30pm, live on Sky Sports
When sitting down to analyse games such as this that attract the hype machine in terms of build-up, a low scoring encounter always bounces around my mind. Not this time.
It’s hard to fathom a situation where one of these teams isn’t chasing the game at some stage as both, on current form, stand a much better chance of winning football matches by outscoring the opposition rather than relying on their defence.
It’s that attacking prowess and Liverpool’s aggressive high offside line, which will be offering hope to Manchester United backers. However, if Cristiano Ronaldo starts for United, then it will diminish their chances of hurting Jurgen Klopp’s men.
A dramatic drop-off in pressing and counter-attacks has coincided with Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford. You can absolutely find spaces behind this Liverpool defence, but a 36-year-old Ronaldo isn’t the man to exploit them – as outlined here by Nick Wright.
If Ronaldo starts, then my confidence grows further behind a Liverpool victory at 5/4 with Sky Bet. And if Liverpool are to win, there must be a chance of Klopp’s boys dishing out an absolute hammering considering the ruthlessness of their attacking performances of late.
Liverpool are the top Premier League scorers this season (22 goals) and have won four of their eight games by three or more goals. This season they have also improved their shots on target, expected goals per game, and chances created (both open play and set pieces).
If United play with the same sloppiness and lack of organisation as they showed in their last five games, where they have conceded nine goals with an expected goals against figure of 10.8, then Liverpool’s world-class attack could run riot. This isn’t Andros Townsend running at your defence now, it’s Mohamed Salah.
That’s the way I’ll be playing a Liverpool victory with them to win by three or more goals at 17/2 with Sky Bet the standout.
This just might be the tipping point for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his future at the club.
And in the long run, a lesson being dished out by their fiercest rivals, might be exactly what Manchester United need in triggering the process to find an elite manager.
SCORE PREDICTION: 1-5
BETTING ANGLE: Liverpool to win by three or more goals (17/2 with Sky Bet)