After a good start to the Australian Open, I’m returning to the football this week and in particular back to the Premier League. Brighton host Chelsea in the first game of the weekend at lunchtime on Saturday and I’m keen to take the visitors on, even more so after watching them struggle past Norwich City in the FA Cup.
Chelsea will be without both Alvaro Morata and Pedro who are suspended after being sent-off late on in the Norwich game, while Fabregas and Cahill are major doubts.
Between them the visitors will be missing the men responsible for 15 of 41 goals this season and in Fabregas a man who is behind only Mesut Ozil in chances created this season.
Along with the absentees, Chelsea have played over 120 minutes on Wednesday before a 12:30 Saturday kick-off and this will be their 19th game in the last 9 weeks. In short this is a team beginning to look tired and they’ve been struggling for goals of late, managing only one or fewer in 10 of their last 16. This is before we take into account they have performing above expectations this season, scoring more goals and conceding fewer than their xG suggests.
Brighton haven’t been scoring many goals either but have been solid at the Amex Stadium losing just twice to Man City and Liverpool.
And outside of the ‘big 6’, only Burnley have a better defensive record.
So I think we’re looking at a low scoring encounter here, and it’s no surprise to see a goal line of 2.25. But I can’t see much value there and I am looking at the Asian Handicap for my bet.
Chelsea are priced at 1.66 on the 1X2 and given the goal expectation of 2.25 I think that’s giving them too high a goal expectation, so backing Brighton +0.75 at odds against looks good to me. Even if Chelsea win by one we still get half our stake back.
Where Eagles Dare
For my second bet I’m also looking to oppose one of the big London clubs as Arsenal entertain Crystal Palace at a doom-laden Emirates. A couple of weeks ago I suggested it was time the board began the process of replacing Arsene Wenger and things have got even worse since with a 4-2 defeat in the FA Cup at Nottingham Forest and a 2-1 loss at Bournemouth.
It’s now just one win in seven in the league and it’s difficult to see that improving soon.
There will likely be no Alexis Sanchez or Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud is still out injured and Mesut Ozil is rated 50-50 so they’re missing 15 of their 41 goals this season (37%) and the best chance creator in the league.
It’s likely Alex Iwobi will start and the drop in class in quality from the likes of Sanchez is apparent when you see Arsenal only win 27% of matches with Iwobi (P15 W4 D7 L4) compared to 65% without him (P20 W13 D3 L4). Arsenal won 3-2 over Christmas at Palace but two of those goals came from Sanchez in a match there was not too much between them on the expected goals (1.89 – 1.26). In fact, based on the xG, Palace should be 7th in the league rather than their current position of 12th and Arsenal rank 5th.
Looking purely at xG maybe there isn’t as much between them as odds of 1.51 on Arsenal suggest.
Using solely xG when modelling this match, Arsenal are a 1.94 shot, and while this is too simplistic with Arsenal possessing players able to convert harder chances and prevent clearer ones from being conceded, it gives us a good basis to state Arsenal are overrated here.
Crystal Palace are on a good run with just one defeat in 12 and only two defeats in 18 under Roy Hodgson coming by more than a goal with both of those in his first three games. Since then they’ve beaten Chelsea 2-1, held Man City to 0-0, and lost 1-0 and 3-2 to Spurs and Arsenal respectively. In contrast Arsenal have won just two of their last 14 games by more than one goal so I think there’s good scope here in taking Palace +1.0 at odds against and I’m having a point here.
The market is underrating Everton
Finally Everton welcome West Brom to Goodison Park and the odds here just long plain wrong.
While the league table doesn’t always tell the truth we have ninth place Everton at home to second from bottom West Brom and after we take out home advantage the odds are saying West Brom are the better team! I can’t be having that.
West Brom have won just three games this season, scoring only 18 goals. Alan Pardew has been brought in but he’s won one of his nine matches thanks to two goals from defenders from set-pieces. This is an unsustainable tactic long-term. And while Everton have struggled of late they should be reinvigorated by the signings of Cenk Tosun and Theo Walcott.
I’ve followed Tosun the last few years for Besiktas and Turkey and I think he’s very good at putting the ball in the back of the net. And I think Theo’s a decent player and at 28 he may even improve with maturity.
This feels like a matchup similar to Swansea at home just before Christmas for Everton; taking on a side who just don’t score goals.
Everton were 1.84 against Swansea so I can’t have them 2.32 here and if we take the Asian Handicap we can find an even more attractive looking bet. I’m always a fan of taking a lower variance line so I’m going to be backing them -0.25 where we get half our money back if it’s only a draw.
- Brighton +0.75 2.16 – 1 point
- Crystal Palace +1.0 2.17 – 1 point
- Everton -0.25 1.93 – 1 point