Mark Stinchcombe: Frustrations of last weekend can become Positives for the International window

14 min

So after a successful weekend previously, it all came crashing back down to earth last weekend. I backed over 2.5 goals in Bournemouth v Leicester, it finished 0-0. I backed over 2.25 in West Ham – Swansea and I was a 90th-minute goal away from another 0-0. Then Chelsea couldn’t even manage to avoid defeat for some respite as they also put a dent in my title trade too. Shocking! At least the best team in the world Watford managed to avoid defeat for a half win but even that came close to a loss with a Richarlson goal in the 95th minute.

So as always with any bet after the event, both win and lose, it’s important to analyse it to see where they went right/wrong (wrong in this case, badly wrong) but more importantly, whether the decision making process was correct.

Because after all that’s the most important part, as after you’ve clicked ‘Place bet’, you have no control over the 22 players on the football pitch.

Missed Opportunities

At Dean Court on Saturday the home side were unlucky not to win, having an early penalty appeal denied after Jermain Defoe hit the bar before Marc Pugh missed a good chance from eight yards. Shinji Okazaki missed a great chance for the away side who offered little going forward presumably partly down to leaving out one of their main goal threats in Riyad Mahrez. Like Chelsea at home to Arsenal, again it was disappointing a key player didn’t start.

Bournemouth and Leicester played out a stalemate last weekend.

So with that, it essentially became a game of just one side attacking which isn’t ideal when you need three-plus goals. If I had known Mahrez wasn’t going to start I probably would have swerved. I find a key component to being 100% sure of a bet is a checklist of reasons that all have to pass and if there are any doubts you have to walk away. I’ve mentioned it before but discipline is so important in this game.

I was so disappointed with Swansea’s approach on Saturday. You’re in the bottom five and you travel to a fellow struggler whose manager is under big pressure and you manage a grand total of six shots with just one on target producing an overall xG of just 0.20?

Your main summer signing to replace Llorente gets injured and at half-time you substitute him for a holding midfielder because your bench of seven contains no strikers? Ridiculous.

Their stumbling approach did not help an under-fire West Ham and in the end, it was a nervous contest rather than the open one I had envisaged. I still think the bet was good, generally football match goal lines are at 2.5, so whenever you can back over 2.25 between sides who stereotypically aren’t defensive, then I think long-term it should be profitable.

Conte’s Caution

A treble of disappointments was completed when Antonio Conte went into his shell and adopted a negative 3-5-1-1 formation and personnel rather than their usual 3-4-2-1 lineup with two attacking midfielders behind the striker. This was dealt a further blow when Alvaro Morata got injured and he was replaced by a midfielder in Willian rather than a striker in Batshuayi.

I’ve been waiting for what feels like ages for a side with Chelsea’s attacking capabilities to test Manchester City defensively but in the end it played into their hands, as the more defensive an opposition goes, the more Man City can impose themselves in the other sides half. With this City were able to control the game and while they didn’t dominate Chelsea, they were always comfortable.

So again it was more frustration from Chelsea, after having performed under par against Arsenal, and I wonder if Conte is struggling to juggle Europe at this early stage.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola (left) and Chelsea manager Antonio Conte (right) shake hands during the Premier League match at Stamford Bridge, London.

It’s not as if they’ve gone backward from last season, they were excellent away to one of the toughest sides in Europe in Atletico Madrid and fully deserved their 2-1 win. It’s just perhaps Conte/players aren’t used to midweek European action whereas after a season Pep and his players have adjusted to it.

At least Watford prevented further losses, and it was great to see the character they showed to battle back from 2-0 down to get a deserved point. They’d previously lost 51 of 52 games after going two goals behind, so it was great to see my faith in them was rewarded.

I’ve mentioned before about finding sustainable bets, and that’s three out of three I’ve profited on them. They welcome Arsenal to Vicarage Road after the international break and could be a good thing +1.0.

Goals expected in Podgorica

So onto the international break as qualification for the 2018 World Cup reaches its climax, and it’s to two sides I profited on during the last international round that meet here, and it’s the same bet I’m going for again.

In Group E, Montenegro host Denmark with both sides sitting 2nd and 3rd locked on 16 points with just one more game to go after this. Poland are top, three points clear, and with them facing Armenia as a 1.28 chance, both sides here will be expecting to battle for 2nd place and the all-important playoff spot. With Montenegro facing Poland away and Denmark hosting Romania in the final fixtures, it looks more important for the Balkan outsiders to win here and claim 2nd.

The goal threat of Christian Eriksen is sure to have Montenegro on their heels this weekend.

The hallmark of these sides’ qualifying campaign has been their proficiency in front of goal with both bagging 18 goals.

I’ve previously mentioned the home sides improvement but Denmark are starting to look a very decent side, backed up by both their performance data and results. Back-to-back 4-1 and 4-0 wins over Armenia and Poland respectively have been very impressive and going forward they look very good. The chief instigator is Christian Eriksen, and he has a raft of attacking talent to call upon in the likes of Kasper Dolberg, Yussef Poulsen, Pione Sisto, Andreas Cornelius amongst others. Montenegro’s matches of recent years have averaged 2.90 and Denmark’s 2.83, which makes the decision easy to back over 2.25 goals.

Overrated Greece

On Saturday night, Cyprus host Greece in Group H again with both sides still in with a chance of making the playoff spot. Greece, 1.54, are an awful side and have had some shocking results over recent years. They’ve drawn 0-0 with Estonia when 1.43, lost 1-0 at home to Belarus, lost 1-0 in Luxembourg at 1.69, 1-0 defeat at home to Finland, 2-1 loss in the Faroe Islands when 1.51 and that was after a demoralising defeat at home to the same opponents at odds of just 1.18.

Cyprus aren’t a force, however, they have a new manager in charge since July and impressively came back from 2-0 down to beat Bosnia 3-2 at similar odds in his first game. They have a habit of upsetting the odds and in the last campaign beat Israel at 6.5 and Bosnia again at 18.0!

The appointment of new manager Ran Ben Shimon (pictured left) has rejuvenated the Cypriots of late.

If you take out Gibraltar, Greece have scored just 14 goals in their last 17 qualifiers, with 14 of them seeing them manage only a goal at most. Cyprus have done ok against better sides at home and only lost 1-0 to both Belgium at Wales. The goal line is expectedly low at 2.0 and the odds suggest there’s 40% chance of fewer than two goals, making both Cyprus +1.0 and Cyprus to win attractive options. 

I’m a fan of their striker upfront Peiros Sotiriou, who’s already notched important goals in the Europa League against Athletic Bilbao and Olympiacos in impressive victories, and he could be the difference again.

Finally, I wanted to back over 2.5 goals in Belarus v Netherlands but such has been the weight of money for the overs the goal line has moved a full quarter to 2.75 and as such I’m inclined to leave it having unfortunately missed the boat.

Recommended bets:

  • Over 2.25 goals Montenegro v Denmark 1.82 – 1.5 points
  • Cyprus +1.0 1.92 – 0.8 points
  • Cyprus 8.5 – 0.2 points

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