Adrian Clarke is back but this time he is looking at the Premier League markets to unearth some value…
I’m switching my attention to the Premier League this weekend.
OK, it may be a depleted programme thanks to the FA Cup semi-finals but there is still plenty to capture your attention.
Here are a pair of selections that stand out for me across the Easter weekend…
GOALS LINE FEELS TOO HIGH AHEAD OF NERVY ST MARY’S ENCOUNTER
Disappointing defeats to Crystal Palace and Brighton gave Arsenal an untimely, unwelcome, and rather painful punch in the stomach.
What looked like an awkward must-not-lose encounter away at Southampton, suddenly becomes a must-win, and this heaps pressure on Mikel Arteta’s side to keep a clean sheet.
I say this because the Gunners are light on goals right now.
They’ve scored just twice from their last 51 attempts, and aside from desperate late flurries in each of their last couple of matches, they have laboured as an attacking force.
We know Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Martinelli are talents capable of catching fire on the goalscoring front, but in the centre forward department, they are struggling.
Captain Alexandre Lacazette is chasing his first non-penalty goal since a strike against the Saints back on December 11, and if he’s left out at the expense of Eddie Nketiah it will be the youngster’s first Premier League start of a campaign that is yet to yield a top-flight goal.
They are a terrific side with good potential but when you study Arsenal’s conversion rates it is clear where their Achilles Heel lies. They are ranked 12th in that department, scoring 14.11% of their efforts.
Arteta will no doubt have studied Southampton’s embarrassing 6-0 capitulation at home to Chelsea last time out (when it could easily have been 12!) and this may provide great encouragement.
Rarely though does a side play that badly twice in succession, and Ralph Hasenhuttl will have focused intently on the Saints’ off the ball work in training.
Well accustomed to recovering from intermittent Premier League batterings I’d expect far greater levels of defensive assurance from Southampton this time around.
Who will win the game? That one is a tough call. Hasenhuttl’s men are very hit and miss (and enjoy taking the odd big-name scalp) but you can’t be sure which Southampton turns up.
In their current form, sorely missing the injured Thomas Partey and Kieran Tierney, backing the Gunners with confidence feels risky too.
I prefer a goals angle in this St Mary’s clash.
If you dismiss that freak loss at the hands of Chelsea the Saints’ other five home games against the current Top 8 have all featured two goals or less. Four of those games were drawn either 1-1 or 0-0.
Arsenal are not free-scoring, but fortunately for them when they do take the lead their record of closing out games is pretty good in 2021-22. From 1-0 up they have conceded just 15 goals in 20 matches. They won 16 of those contests too.
With so much at stake this weekend I would envisage a heavy clean sheet focus, should they snare the opening goal.
In my view the goal line has been set a little high, perhaps distorted by the latest Southampton debacle. My selection here is Under 2.5/3.0 goals at 1.78 with Matchbook.
The only way we don’t make a profit is if four goals are scored, and I don’t see that happening in a tense tussle on the south coast.
EXPECTING A FUN CONTEST ON TYNESIDE
Newcastle United versus Leicester City is another tricky one to call, but to me, it’s a clash that almost certainly promises goals.
Eddie Howe’s Magpies have improved markedly at the back since he took over the reins but clean sheets still remain a rarity. Boasting just five from 31 games this term they are still likely to leak the odd goal here or there, most weeks.
At the other end, they are surprisingly excellent. Scoring in 24 of 31 outings Newcastle United offer a threat inside the final third that belies the season of struggle they have endured.
Leicester City are in many respects cut from a similar cloth. They don’t create stacks of chances but are consistently efficient around the opposition box, scoring in 12 of 14 away matches this season.
Their only blanks on the road came at Anfield and Emirates Stadium, so you would anticipate them adding to their goal count at St James’ Park.
Despite having a number of key defenders back from injury the Foxes aren’t as yet sure-footed at the back either. Their only road trip clean sheet was at Burnley.
The context of this match is also something to consider.
They can say it’s not done yet as much as they like but Newcastle are safe, and Leicester City are playing for Premier League prize money and not a lot else.
So in a sense I feel both teams can approach this encounter with freedom, and this could make it an attractive affair to watch.
Both teams to score is where I am heading. Leicester City rank 1st this season for BTTS (66%) and the Magpies are 3rd on (61%), and with attack often the best form of defence for both teams, this has the look of an open contest.
If you want to get on board with BTTS it’s a 1.77 shot.
- Southampton vs Arsenal Under 2.5/3.0 (1.78)
- Newcastle United vs Leicester City BTTS (1.77)