Mark Stinchcombe: "The market has got it wrong and here’s why I’m looking to back Chelsea and oppose Man Utd for the title”

17 min

With the transfer window closed it’s finally time to put an end to the uncertainty surrounding each team’s squad, at least until January. We now know, for example, that Man City will be competing with just two strikers and Liverpool are not strengthening their defence. Information like this makes analysing the outright market much easier so let’s take a second look before we get to this week’s games.

Man City – 2.52

After starting the season as 2.8 favourites, Man City have shortened despite underachieving somewhat. They comfortably beat Brighton but required a 97th-minute goal to beat Bournemouth and then again failed to win at home with only a draw v Everton.

Their record against top sides isn’t great and it almost feels as though the only reason their price is so short is their world class attacking midfield and the presence of Pep Guardiola. They finished 8 points behind Spurs and 15 behind champions Chelsea, so it’s not a small margin they have to make up.

I’m a little surprised at their transfer window activity. They played 56 games last season, yet the Spaniard has decided that Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus will be enough up front, despite both having previous injury issues. It’s a stark contrast to the last time City won the league in 2014 when Aguero, Dzeko, Negredo and Jovetic were all available.

Sergio Aguero will carry the burden up front for Man City along Gabriel Jesus.

The central midfield looks poor/non-existent, with a choice of 34 year-old Yaya Toure, injury-prone Ilkay Gundogan and a very average looking Fernandinho (32) and Fabian Delph. And city’s central defence also still looks shaky with John Stones, Otamendi and yet another injury prone player in Vincent Kompany. Pep has switched between a back three and a back four so far suggesting he doesn’t know what his best team and tactics are.

Last season they struggled after Champions League matches, and with Chelsea away following Shakhtar Donetsk, Arsenal at home following Napoli away and Man Utd away after a trip to the Ukraine, laying City in three games time ahead of their Stamford Bridge trip looks a viable plan.

Man Utd – 3.52

Anybody that has listened to the early season podcasts and read my blogs, knows I’m looking for an opportunity to oppose Man Utd. They finished a huge 24 points behind Chelsea last season and the striker signed to fire them higher, Romelu Lukaku only managed eight of his 25 goals against top-half teams. Ibrahimovic has re-signed but it’s unlikely he’s going to be fully fit until January.

They underachieved last season, when a combination of luck, bad finishing and good goalkeeping denied them wins, but too much seems to have been made of that and the price has gone too far short. Match odds are generally a better indication of a team’s true ability rather than outright prices because millions of pounds more money is bet on them and it’s very illustrative this season.

The return of Zlatan for the Red Devils will have to wait until January.

Man Utd were 1.33 to beat Leicester at Old Trafford in their last match while Chelsea are 1.81 away to Leicester at the weekend. If we swap the home supremacy around, Chelsea are more like a 1.43 shot, so not far from Utd’s 1.33, yet they are 6.3 in the outright compared to 3.52.

Utd have had an easy start to the season and that’s only going to continue with Stoke (A), Everton (H), Southampton (A) then Crystal Palace (H) up next. However, they then face a tough run of fixtures with Liverpool (A), Benfica (A), Huddersfield (A), Spurs (H), Benfica (H) and Chelsea (A). Laying Utd before the trip to Anfield looks another viable plan, where they could be even shorter than expected if the football world continues to salivate over them.

Chelsea – 6.3

I’ve spoken previously about a crisis at Chelsea, but that seems to have calmed somewhat with less noise about Antonio Conte’s position and Danny Drinkwater and Davide Zappacosta coming in to bolster the squad. Even the Diego Costa saga doesn’t seem to be much of an issue, with Alvaro Morata slotting straight into the gap left by the Spaniard.

Cesc Fabregas celebrates with Alvaro Morata.

On the pitch, Conte has once against showed another tactical masterclass by deploying a depleted squad in a 3-5-1-1 formation and taking all three points at Tottenham. Chelsea it should be noted have now racked up back-to-back wins against two teams from last season’s top seven and 6.3 looks like it could be value, especially with that win at Wembley against the odds.

Chelsea welcome Arsenal, Man City and Man Utd to Stamford Bridge in the next two months so investing in them now with a note to reviewing things before Liverpool away on the 25th November looks a shrewd play. I’m recommending a bet at 6.3 with a view to trade later in the season.

Liverpool – 12.0

Liverpool are a tricky one. They can blow Arsenal away 4-0 one week but then concede sloppy goals and draw 3-3 with Watford the next. I have reservations about the defence and goalkeeper and after Christmas Klopp’s ‘gegenpress’ will take its toll on the players, especially with the addition of top flight European football this season.

I think the best route to profit on Liverpool at the moment is to keep them onside in the big games where they had the best record against top-half teams last season. They are seemingly able to perform better in these games when more space is afforded to them.

Tottenham – 17.5

I wrote an extensive blog last week on Tottenham’s Wembley struggles, and I think until we have more data to work with from their home games, it’s too difficult to make an accurate analysis of their odds and come up with a trading plan. Madrid (A), Liverpool (H), Man Utd (A), Madrid (H) all back-to-back in the middle of October may provide all the answers required.

Arsenal – 30

So Arsenal are 30.0 after three games. That seems a bit of an overreaction to the 4-0 defeat at Anfield in a match where the home side received little or no credit. Yes, Wenger and Arsenal were naive with their tactics but Liverpool took advantage by putting in an excellent performance.

The Gunners will hope to maximise Alexis Sanchez’s presence before he (likely) bids farewell in January.

Let’s not forget they’ve signed Alexandre Lacazette to help Olivier Giroud, and still have Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, at least until January. If Wenger can remove his stubbornness in the big games away from home then it shouldn’t be all doom and gloom. Chelsea away on the 17th September will give us a good idea on whether Arsene has learnt his lesson and if Arsenal are to be taken seriously. But for now, they are a team best watched.

Last Weekend’s Bets In Review

Last weekend’s bets went well again with 3.5 points staked and 5.65 points returned. It was no surprise to see Montenegro cover the 2.25 goal line on their own against Kazakhstan and although it was a surprise to see Denmark grab all four in the rout of Poland, once again the 2.25 line was made a mockery of.

With two goals after 42 minutes in Ukraine v Turkey, it was disappointing to only come away with a push on the over 2.0 goals bet. However, these bets highlight the disrespect the market gives to goals in international qualifiers, and I will continue to get involved while they do so.

This Week’s Bets

Onto this weekend and first up is Man City v Liverpool at lunchtime on Saturday. I recommended backing Liverpool +0.5 on the podcast when these two met in March and it finished 1-1. City were 2.01 that day but based on the simulation of all shots they played as a 2.20 chance. Last time I made City 2.19 and I’m in agreement again, making Liverpool +0.5 value at 2.08 when my model suggests 1.84.

Guardiola has only won 11 of 20 home games, keeping just five clean sheets, and his record v the top-half is a 20% win rate beating only West Brom and Arsenal. Liverpool had the best record against top-half sides last season and were unbeaten against the top 7 away from home, winning three and drawing three. Indeed Jurgen Klopp is unbeaten in all five meetings with City, winning three of them.

Leicester v Chelsea sees the 2016 Champions take on the 2017 Champions in what should be an entertaining game. Since last season, Leicester’s 14 matches against the top six have seen 51 goals, 3.64 per-game, with 10 producing over 2.5 goals. Of those 51, they’ve scored 15 but conceded 36 (-21 difference) which is understandable as they look like they’ve regressed to their mean.

They lost ball winner N’Golo Kante to Chelsea last season and now the other half of the Championship winning midfield pair, Danny Drinkwater, has joined him. Defensively Leicester struggle without Drinkwater, having kept just two clean sheets in the 14 games he’s missed since the start of 2016/17 (Middlesbrough and Brighton). And it’s no surprise bearing in mind the shift he puts in defensively with the fifth most tackles per-game in the league.

Under Craig Shakespeare, Leicester have scored in 14 of 16 matches with only Man Utd and Arsenal away drawing blanks, firing in 31 goals (1.94pg). Chelsea themselves welcome back Eden Hazard but will be without Gary Cahill and it’s now just five shutouts in 21, with them looking a little vulnerable with Rudiger and Christensen coming in. Chelsea won both games 3-0 last season and over 2.5 goals looks a bet with my model suggesting 1.72.

Finally, I spoke recently on my blog about how I was impressed with Watford following up their positive result against Liverpool with an impressive display against Bournemouth. It’s difficult to read too much into the 0-0 draw with Brighton after Miguel Britos’ moment of madness in the 24th minute but I’m happy to oppose Southampton at 1.699. The Saints have failed to score in 8 of their last 11, won just three of their last 13 at home, failing to score in seven of nine of them.

I mentioned recently about Mauricio Pellegrino’s defensive outlook, and at Huddersfield, Southampton managed just six shots while two of the three goals they’ve scored this season have been penalties so it’s hard to fancy them -0.75 here and Watford are clearly the play.

Recommended bets

  •  Chelsea 6.3 Outright with a view to trade
  •  Liverpool +0.5 2.08, 1 point
  •  Over 2.5 goals Leicester v Chelsea 1.909, 1 point
  •  Watford +0.75 2.11, 1 point

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