Mark Stinchcombe: “After failing to cover the handicap in any of their last 10 games I’m beginning to question City”

11 min

After a very good November, I came crashing back down to earth with a full house of losers last weekend. Watford and Tottenham finished under 2.5 goals where I went over, and when I went under there was a goal fest at the Emirates. To add insult to injury Man City only stuttered their way past West Ham after I bet on them with a -2.5 handicap.

I’ve had better weekends, but let’s take a look and see if these were bad bets or just bad results.

It was 1-1 between Watford and Spurs after just 25 minutes, so to go the rest of the game without at least one more goal feels like a bit of bad beat. Davinson Sanchez getting sent-off for odds-on favourites Tottenham after 52 minutes seemingly didn’t help matters as it reduced Spurs’ offensive output, but it isn’t something you can account for before the game. This one I’m tempted to put down as a bad result.

Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane reacts to a challenge from Watford’s Christian Kabasele during last weekend’s match between the sides.

Arsenal v Man Utd didn’t play out at all how I thought but goals change games, and Valencia and Lingard capitalising on slack Arsenal defending after just 11 minutes completely changed the outlook of the game. The early goal forced Arsenal to pretty much go all out attack for the next 79 minutes and in a way, I’m thankful things didn’t go even worse, as I thought Arsenal were value. Thankfully with doubts surrounding Lacazette I left them alone.

Question marks over City’s sparks

In the final game Man City huffed and puffed against West Ham in a game where they won the xG 2.36 – 0.5 and on another day could have seen them win 3-0. Guardiola’s approach is relentless, and they have scored three or more goals nine times already this season. With Moyes’ Everton lining up with no recognised striker, three defensive midfielders, and five defenders, it looked even less likely they could threaten. But alas they did right on the stroke of half-time giving them something to defend.

Minus some key players Pep Guardiola struggled against Shakhtar midweek.

But having now failed to cover the 2.5 handicap in any of their last 10 games, I’m questioning my approach and Man City long-term.

Before losing 2-1 to Shakhtar (with a rotated team), City’s last four matches had only seen them win by a single goal, with the winning goal coming in the 83rd, 96th, 84th and 88th minute. I’m wondering if they’ve peaked too early and are struggling to find the motivation to continue to blow teams away.

With the cup competitions coming thick and fast, increasing the rotation, it is harder for the players to get back into the same rhythm. We saw it under Guardiola in his three seasons at Bayern Munich where after they cruised to winning the league their results and performance levels dropped off and they failed to make it past the semi’s of the Champions League three times despite being outright favourites.

Man City are second faves for the Champions League (6.1) but could draw Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Juventus amongst others. And it might be worth keeping an eye on both City’s performances and how the draw shapes up.

Rushing into the World Cup outrights

With the World Cup draw made last week, this week I’m recommending an early investment in the outright market ahead of next summer. I’ve already written a preview here outlining a lot of my thoughts and having studied the draw, there’s a team I want to be with: Germany.

Their record over the last 12 years at major tournaments is fantastic and it’s no surprise it coincided with Joachim Low’s involvement, first as the assistant manager in 2004 then as manager in 2006.

Euro 2016: Semi (2-0 v France)
WC 2014: Winners
Euro 2012: Semi (2-1 v Italy)
WC 2010: Semi (1-0 Spain)
Euro 2008: Final (1-0 v Spain)
Euro 2006: Semi (0-0 v Italy)

Their first choice XI and squad looks incredible.

Based on a 4-2-3-1, they have two world-class keepers in Manuel Neuer and Marc-Andre ter Stegen with the majority of the Bayern Munich back four in Hummels, Boateng, and Kimmich, and Jonas Hector providing a threat from the left. Joshua Kimmich has made the right-back slot his own with some great performances for club and country and is a full-back who can unlock defensive teams.

Germany conquered all before them in Brazil and are warm favourites to repeat the feat in Russia.

In midfield, they have the double-pivot of Toni Kross controlling games and Sami Khedira’s engine up and down the pitch. With the wealth of central midfield talent they have in Ilkay Gundogan, Emre Can, Julian Wiegl, we could also see Low play a 4-3-3 to further control games. The three that sit behind the lone striker is frightening and could be from a number of players: Mesut Ozil, Leroy Sane, Marco Reus, Julian Draxler, Leon Goretzka, Thomas Muller and Mario Gotze.

Muller and Gotze can both play up front too, but Timo Werner at just 21 but looks absolutely frightening.

He bagged 21 goals in his first season for RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga last season and already has six for the national team from eight appearances. Mario Gomez is a great understudy and alternative.

Drawing lots of benefits for Germany

Germany have been drawn in group Group F alongside Mexico, Sweden, and South Korea. And it looks a very winnable group with Germany’s second string beating Mexico 4-1 en-route to winning the Confederations Cup in Russia last summer, Sweden lacking Ibrahimovic and South Korea failing to win outside of their homeland in Asia qualification.

If Germany win that group they are likely to play the runners-up from Brazil’s group (one of Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia) and face a quarter-final match against the winner of group H (Poland, Senegal, Colombia and Japan) or probably England.

The Germans have reached at least the semi-finals in the last six major tournaments. In France last summer, they were 3.0 outright at the semi-final stage. In 2014 in Brazil, they were 3.75 at the same stage. Here they are 6.0 and if they make the semis again you can happily trade out for an easy profit.

It’s still a long way until Russia 2018 kicks off but this looks a value bet to me and it’s worth a bet even at this early stage. As for this week you can listen to my thoughts and bets on this weekends Premier League matches on the Matchbook Betting Podcast. Let’s just hope the results are a little kinder.

Recommended bets:

  • Germany to win World Cup 2018 6.0 2pts