Mark Stinchcombe: “We have to accept this Man Utd side isn’t as good as everyone makes out. But it’s Chelsea I’m taking on this week”

11 min

It was a classic Jose Mourinho away performance at Anfield last weekend. Against a Liverpool side without a win in seven games and arguably missing their best player you would think this was a great opportunity to take three points but no, he set up for a point. And surely this has to be an admission this Man Utd side isn’t as good as everyone makes out.

Despite his post-match quote of playing with “one defender and nine strikers”, from what I could see it was a 4-2-3-1 where they spent the majority of the game camped in front of their own penalty area.

The fans may be chanting his name yet they surely can’t enjoy watching their side accepting they cannot win unless they play ultra-defensively.

As expected Jose Mourinho parked the bus at Anfield last weekend and will have been satisfied with a point.

On the bright side, Man Utd being priced up as equal faves was horrendously wrong as I spoke about last week. Liverpool dominated possession, outshooting the opposition 19 – 6 and hitting the target 5 – 1.

Liverpool convincingly won the expected goals 1.88 – 0.22 and if this game is played 100+ times, Liverpool wins it 77% of the time based on the xG. Our bet on Liverpool +0.0 at 1.97 equated to a 1.05 chance so it was great value.

In the end as correctly predicted Mourinho parked the bus and got the 0-0 he wanted. David de Gea made a “world class” save although all he did was stick a leg out, and really Joel Matip should be vilified for not converting.

The saver on the goalless draw around 13.0 was a nice winner. though, and as I said last week it’s great to get paid having watched a 0-0.

You can’t eat value…

Tottenham – Bournemouth also played out as expected with Spurs dominating but struggling to break down sides at Wembley. They had 73% possession, 18-5 shots, and 6-1 on target. It was always the case of how many Tottenham would score and just the one comfortably saw our under 3.5 goals win. Spurs xG was 1.73 so two goals would probably have been fairer, yet this was still well under.

Tottenham Hotspur’s Christian Eriksen celebrates scoring his side’s solitary goal vs Bournemouth.

Unfortunately Southampton v Newcastle played out in a much more open fashion than anticipated with the final score of 2-2 denying the under 2.5 goals. However, at least one goalkeeping error and a clueless penalty to giveaway were the main downfalls here.

Making honey with the Hornets

Onto this weekend and the best team in the world are worth keeping onside again. I’ve been raving about Watford all season, so it was no surprise to see them beat Arsenal last weekend. I mentioned backing them +1.0 a few weeks ago but wasn’t confident that was the right way to play them against the Gunners, having shipped six and three at home to Man City and Liverpool respectively.

I’m not even sure backing Watford to win was a ‘good’ bet the way the game played out with Arsenal missing two or three decent chances to kill the game off at 0-1.

But it’s just one defeat in eight for new boss Marco Silva (v Man City) and he’s guided them up to 4th in mid-October. Having already impressively won at Southampton, Bournemouth, and Swansea, they’ve already equaled their away wins from last season.

Watford’s Tom Cleverley (centre) celebrates scoring his side’s second goal vs Arsenal last weekend.

This week they face Chelsea, and backing them +1.5 at Stamford Bridge looks a good angle on Saturday lunchtime.

I have gone back and forth with Chelsea this season but having watched them capitulate against Roma it confirmed my view Antonio Conte seems to be struggling to juggle Champions League football and the Premier League.

They’ve failed to score in both games at home following European action and the schedule of Wednesday 7.45pm followed by a game on Saturday at 12.30pm has done him no favours here. Against Watford he’ll also be without two important cogs of the title-winning side from last season in N’Golo Kante and Victor Moses.

I thought Chelsea were poor against a Crystal Palace side who hadn’t scored a goal all season, and it was no surprise to see they lost the xG 1.71 – 0.79.

David Luiz and co struggled against the pace of Zaha and Townsend and Watford have that in abundance up front in Richarlison, Andre Gray and Andre Carrillo. I’m still not convinced about Watford defensively so I’m not backing Watford outright but a handicap of +1.5 looks generous.

Oh when the Saints…

I’ve opposed Southampton a few times this season and having talked about sustainable bets, I’m happy to do so when they’re chalked up at odds-on. They’ve only scored seven goals this season, with three of those penalties, and they have netted just five in their last 10 at home. And facing an organised West Brom side they don’t look likely candidates to go on a scoring spree this weekend.

Tony Pulis’ side are never going to rank high on the performance data because of their playing style, which is probably why Southampton are odds-on, but they are very good at keeping things tight.

By backing West Brom +0.75, even if the Saints win by one we get half our stake back while it would require them to win by two goals for the bet to completely lose, something they haven’t managed for more than 17 games.

This is a match of two defensive coaches up against each other, emphasised by a goal line of just 2.25, but the Saints just seem to be eating up too much of that goal expectancy.

They’ve failed to reach it in 9 of their last 10 Premier League home games so I’m very happy taking West Brom +0.75 here.

Finally, I’ve mentioned a few times I’ve wanted to take Bournemouth on and having done so successfully last week, it makes sense to do so once again with Stoke priced up as odds against. It’s now 15 defeats in their last 25 away games for the south-coast side, conceding 50 goals and with their attack not firing, it could be a long day in the Potteries.

Stoke have started the season well at home, beating Arsenal and holding Man Utd, as well as beating Southampton in their last game. They’ve won nine and drawn two against the bottom six sides in their last 11 home games, and taking them -0.25 at a competitive price still allows a safety net. Some teams, unlike Man Utd, are always better than the market thinks.

Recommended bets:

  • Watford +1.5 1.95 – 1 point
  • West Brom +0.75 1.85 – 1 point
  • Stoke -0.25 1.89 – 1 point

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