The Top Flight: Match Day 13

(home team in caps)

Leicester City +160 over WEST HAM +170, Draw +230

David Moyes struck out in his attempt to make an immediate impact upon his arrival to London Park last week when West Ham fell 2–0 to Watford. More worrying than the loss for West Ham fans is the manner in which they lost. West Ham looked disorganized and disinterested as they conceded the first goal only 11 minutes into the game. They then struggled to make a mark in the match while an increasingly flustered Moyes looked on. In short, they looked like the same team that has been floundering for 4 months under Slaven Bilic. I’m not sure what the answer is¹, but as of writing, West Ham look like a sure fire pick for relegation.

In stark contrast to the flailing Hammers, Leicester look a side on the rise. Claude Puel made an instant impact after replacing Craig Shakespeare, and his side looks better week after week. Leicester lost week to Man City, but they looked good in doing it. I’d expect this Leicester side to stroll through London Park and pick up 3 points along the way.

TOTTENHAM -450 over West Brom +1050, Draw +450

West Bromwhich Albion sacked Tony Pulis last week in a strange move for the struggling club. Pulis, famous for his defend first, defend second, defend again managing style, has never been relegated from the Premier League. He was fired for what the West Brom board called a disappointing string of results stretching back to the tail end of last season. To hear them tell it, the West Brom board were less distressed by the results themselves than they were with the style of football played in those results. The West Brom board seem to be missing the point here. The point is to stay in the league, and that Tony Pulis would have accomplished. But their eyes got big and now they want to play expansive free flowing football. Ask Frank de Boer and Crystal Palace how that went. Without Tony Pulis to organize the defense, this should be an easy game for Tottenham even given their struggles at their temporary Wembley residence.

Bournemouth +170 over SWANSEA CITY +170, Draw +215

All season I’ve been trying to figure out what’s wrong with Bournemouth. They finished 9th last season, and then preceded to start this season with one win and six losses through their first 8 games. That’s a bad start even for a team that regularly has slow starts to seasons. Last Saturday, Callum Wilson showed us why Bournemouth have been struggling:

Bournemouth struggled because they didn’t have Callum Wilson. Before Wilson tore his ACL last February, Bournemouth looked a different team. Last season, they scored 3 goals or more five times with Wilson in the squad, but only once without him. They couldn’t manage the feat at all this season. That is until Callum returned to spur them onwards.

Callum Wilson has Bournemouth flying which is more than can be said for Swansea. The best word to describe the Swans at the moment is hapless. Or maybe pedestrian. They just can’t do anything right. They’ve lost 5 games on the spin and 7 of 8. In the next 3 weeks, Swansea have to play both Man City and Chelsea. Things are going to get worse before they get better.

Watford +235 over Draw +235, NEWCASTLE +120

Watford finally returned their winning ways last week beating West Ham 2–0. I like this Watford team. They’re fun to watch and adventurous on the ball. New striker Richarlson is probably the best value signing made by any team last off season even if he does miss an alarmingly number of chances. Unfortunately for Watford, being fun to watch doesn’t necessarily translate into results and Watford have developed a nasty habit of dropping points from winning positions.

Dropping points from winning positions is a problem Newcastle would love to have. In the last 7 games, they’ve led for total of 34 minutes. The problem is they don’t have any strikers. They signed Joselu from Stoke in the offseason and he’s been about as good for Newcastle as he was for Stoke. That is to say, not every good. Without anyway to score goals, it’s difficult to see how Newcastle can walk away from this game with one point, let alone three.

MANCHESTER UNITED -650 over Brighton +1300, Draw +610

Last week, I went on a rant about how Jose Mourinho is a scourge modern football. I don’t recant anything I said, but I did forget that he was missing one crucial piece of his team: Paul Pogba. Playing against Newcastle last week, Manchester United looked a different side with Pogba’s return. His impact was immediate as he scored one goal and assisted another. Mourinho stated before this week’s match against Brighton that he will allow Pogba only sixty minutes before he substitutes him, but rest assured, that will be more than enough.

Stoke City +260 over CRYSTAL PALACE +100, Draw +230

What is there to say about this game? This game is like watching an NFL game between Texans and Cardinals. Really that’s an insult to those teams. It’s more like watching the Colts versus Browns. Because that’s who Crystal Palace is they’re the Browns of the EPL: Inept, below average, and unwatchable.

This game will be played. No one will care outside of Stoke City and Crystal Palace, and after it’s over we can all move on to more important things. Stoke should win. Anything less would be an embarrassment.

LIVERPOOL +110 over Chelsea +230, Draw +250

Liverpool got sucker punched mid-week in the Champion’s League as they surrendered a 3–0 halftime lead to draw the game 3–3. Liverpool’s inability to defend is almost as good as their potency going forward. They’re the most entertaining team to watch this season by far because everything happens. They’ve blown out Arsenal by 4. They’ve been blown away by Manchester City by 5. They’ve drawn Watford 3–3. They’ve drawn Sevilla 3–3. So good luck betting on this game.

For what it’s worth, I’m taking Liverpool. Chelsea haven’t won at Anfield since 2014, and I think that Jurgen Klopp will demand a response from his players following the debacle midweek. Whether his players give a response is anyone’s guess, but that’s why this team is so fun to watch. Well, unless you’re a Liverpool fan.

Draw +235 over Everton +320, SOUTHAMPTON -115

This tweet tells you all you need know about Everton lately:

In case you missed it, that’s the official Everton twitter account quoting caretaker manager David Unsworth’s thoughts on his own players. I can’t tell who this reflects worse on: Unsworth or the players. The only thing I do know is that the guy running the Everton twitter is savage.

As for the game at hand, Southampton and Everton are separated by only 1 point in the table. They are about the same quality of team with the difference being their defense. Southampton have conceded 12 goals this season while Everton have conceded 24. Normally at this point, I’d throw in a caveat about how 7 of those goals came against Manchester City, so that those can be ignored, but Everton only allowed 1 goal versus Man City. That’s somehow worse since it means they conceded 23 goals in their other 11 matches.

I really don’t know who to pick here; there’s a lot of reasons not to pick either side. David Unsworth has managed Everton to just one win in six outings since his reign began and they just got stomped 5–1 in the Europa League which prompted David Unsworth’s thoughts in the above tweet. Meanwhile, Southampton have failed to score in more than half of their home games so far this season (4/7). The only teams they’ve beaten this season are teams that are currently sitting in the relegation zone. So really there are no good choices here; it’s ineptitude versus mediocrity. I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to figure out who’s who.

Burnley +500 over Arsenal -190, Draw +320

This is the most intriguing game of the weekend being played outside of Liverpool. Arsenal are coming off of their best game in over a year. For 90 minutes, they outplayed Tottenham Hotspur. They stymied the Spurs attack. They were first to every ball. Should the foul that gave them the free kick for their opening goal have been called? Probably not. Was Shkrodan Mustafi offside on said free kick? Yes. But when you play with the energy that Arsenal showed in the North London derby, you deserve a few breaks. And breaks they got, and now Arsenal have broken their winless streak over Tottenham beating them for the first time since 2014.

Speaking of winless streaks, Burnley will be looking to break their own against Arsenal who they have never beaten in the Premier League. If they were finally going to beat them, this would be the year. Burnley are playing about as well as they ever have under manager Sean Dyche. They’re tied for 3rd fewest goals allowed, and have already managed 6 wins through 12 games (they won 11 games all of last season). Also in Burnley’s favor, this game as all the makings of a trap game for Arsenal. If anything, beating this Burnley side at Turf Moor will require more out of Arsenal than beating Tottenham.

This will not be an easy win for Burnley. They will have a hard time scoring on Arsenal, and Arsenal will likely dominate possession for most of the match. Still, I’ve been riding the Burnley train for about six weeks now, and they’ve not let me down yet. Buy a ticket. Take the ride.

Manchester City -550 over HUDDERSFIELD TOWN +1300, Draw +625

Huddersfield already beat one Manchester club at home this season. Can they go 2 for 2? Hard no.

Last week: 7–3; Season: 54–56

¹I doubt Moyes does either.