Mark Stinchcombe: “It’s time for Wenger to go, and for us to look to Italy and Spain for some betting value this week as the FA Cup returns”

12 min

I’ve had better starts to a new year. Firstly Watford threw away a comfortable 1-0 lead in the 86th minute against Swansea then the following day Arsenal did the same in the 89th minute! The late goals are seemingly against me this season, but that’s just variance.

Sometimes variance is hard to take, however, especially as this was followed up by my Phil Taylor 16.0 bet for the PDC World Championships come crashing down in the final.

It was a great bet, he cruised into the final dropping just five sets and went off odds-on favourite but ran into a man who played a phenomenal match.

Phil Taylor met a hurricane in the form of the sublime Rob Cross in the PDC final.

Taylor averaged 102.26, hit 12 180s and took out 45% of his doubles which would give him a very good chance of winning the majority best of 13 sets finals but Rob Cross chucked in an awesome 107.67, with 11 180s, finishing 60% of his doubles. It was a truly incredible performance.

From the sublime (Cross) to the ridiculous (Wenger)

There’s an argument Cross shouldn’t have even been there with Michael van Gerwen and Michael Smith missing eight match darts between them to put Cross out. But the reason we love sport is that anything can happen and sometimes you have to take a step back and appreciate a sporting fairytale.

Over at the Emirates, however, it’s time for one long-running saga to come to an end. After finishing outside the top 4 for the first time in 20 years last season, Arsenal look on course to do so again and rather than getting closer to the big teams, Arsenal are getting further away.

Mark feels that the inevitable loss of Alexis Sanchez along with Mesut Ozil this summer will be an ideal time for a rebuild at the Emirates.

This was further emphasised by their recent match odds with both Chelsea and Man Utd going off as favourites at the Emirates. With both Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil’s contract expiring in the summer, surely it is time for the board to act and announce this is Wenger’s last season as manager and begin rebuilding now.

Time to look abroad this weekend

This weekend it’s FA Cup 3rd round weekend, which is exciting times for fans (I think) but not for me as a punter.

As Premier League prize money increases more and more teams put more focus on the league and the FA Cup just becomes an annoying hindrance.

Even teams fighting for promotion/relegation will put more emphasis on the league.

This all makes it impossible to calculate motivation even before knowing team lineups. So for me as a general rule, I don’t bet on cup football. Instead, I will be concentrating on the returning European action with two bets from Serie A and La Liga.

First up in Serie A Benevento host Sampdoria at 2 pm on Saturday. If you weren’t already aware Benevento made the worst ever start to a Serie A season losing their first 14 games. In fact it’s the worst ever start in Europe’s top 5 leagues since Manchester United’s streak of 12 defeats to open the 1930 season! And while they have brought in a new manager, Roberto De Zerbi, in October fortunes haven’t really turned around with 17 out of 19 losses overall.

Benevento won back-to-back promotions from the third tier, becoming the first club to win immediate promotion in its first season in Serie B, and it looks as though things are beginning to catch up. One of their problems is goals, with only 10 scored and last season’s 21-goal top scorer Fabio Ceravolo moving to Parma in the summer.

On the other hand, I like Sampdoria and they currently sit 6th after 18 games, having beaten Juventus, Atalanta, Fiorentina, and Milan. They’ve got the experienced Fabio Quagliarella upfront, who at the age of 34 looks to be enjoying his best ever season, and he’s backed up in midfield by schemers in the highly-rated Lucas Torreira and Dennis Praet.

Overall this Samp team is decent and we can get the Genoa-based side at 1.88 with a -0.25 handicap, which seems generous to me given Benevento’s plight. I’m happy to have a point here with half our money back if it only finishes a draw.

Valencia to see off the men of Girona

The other match I like the look of this weekend is in La Liga where third-place Valencia entertains tenth-placed side Girona. After finishing 12th the last two seasons, 2017/18 has been a bit of a renaissance for Valencia with the strikeforce of Simone Zaza and Rodrigo already seven goals ahead of last season’s tally. And this is mainly down to acquiring Marcelino as manager.

Marcelino did a superb job for Villarreal, guiding them to three top-six finishes while playing attractive football and he seems to have Valencia’s squad playing to its potential. The first half of this season has gone very well and they are unbeaten against the ‘big 3’ while trouncing Sevilla 4-0. Meanwhile their record against the bottom half this season reads: P9 W8 D1 L0.

Giron finished second in the Segunda last season, but have been bought by Man City and have become a feeder team for their youth players although only wing-back Pablo Maffeo has seen regular first-team football. They’ve had a couple of great results beating Real Madrid 2-1 and holding Atletico to a 2-2 draw, but they’ve lost to Eibar, Villarreal, Sevilla and Barcelona by an aggregate score of 2-10.

It feels as though 10th place is about right for them and that’s their forecasted finish based on expected goals. Given Valencia’s aforementioned record against lesser sides, it should bode well for us backing them at -0.75 and I’m recommending a point here for my other main bet of the weekend.

A final note on Everton and City

Before we finish this week it’s worth taking a quick look back on a couple of angles I mentioned before Christmas. I recommended backing under 2.5 goals in Everton v Chelsea which finished 0-0 and under 4.0 goals in Man City v Bournemouth which resulted in a push at 4-0. It’s a decent result, but it’s worth looking at the following games to give a bit more context to the bets and the reasoning behind them.

Everton’s subsequent matches have finished 0-0, 2-1 and 0-2, so the trend for low scoring games from Allardyce’s approach may continue to present good betting opportunities as the season wears on. Likewise, City went on to record 0-1, 0-0 and 3-1 results after the 4-0 result.

My reasoning was a tough run of games and the market possibly overestimating City’s goal-scoring expectation was creating value betting opportunities and I’d like to think I was on the right lines.

I don’t mention that to pat myself on the back, but more to point out how important it is to keep trying to uncover those sustainable edges. This, more than anything, is where we should look to profit from our betting.

Recommended bets:

  • Sampdoria -0.25 1.88 – 1 point
  • Valencia -0.75 1.87 – 1 point