EPL Wagering: The Gunners Look to Get on Track and Matchweek Nine Top Plays
It was a HUGE week for some of the top teams in the Premiership, with three of the five Champions League clubs winning their matches outright, and one of the most impressive outings being a hard-fought draw for Tottenham at Santiago Bernabeu against two-time reigning holders Real Madrid. Only Chelsea could be considered any form of disappointment, though their 3-3 draw to Roma is far from an embarrassing result.
Will the huge week take some wind out of the sails of the current giants of English football? Will the busy week and double-duty have an impact on their weekend efforts? Chelsea has the most interesting game, hosting surprising Watford who currently resides ahead of them in the table and in current Champions League position. I know it is early, but this is an ENORMOUS game for Watford and an opportunity for the Hornets to consolidate the rare break over Arsenal.
Other interesting matchups include Manchester United trying to keep pace with blistering Man City with a tricky trip to Huddersfield, and the excellent Sunday doubleheader pitting Everton vs. Arsenal and Spurs hosting Liverpool.
Here’s a look at my three favorite plays for Matchweek 9 in the EPL.
#1. Chelsea vs. Watford
In one of the more surprising early-season developments, Watford currently sits two points ahead of Chelsea in the table and in fourth place – holding on to a Champions League spot over the perennial contenders and current holders. Is it legit? Can they show it Saturday morning?
Watford has taken 10 of 12 possible points on the road so far in league play, which is impressive regardless of the opponents. They opened the season with a then-surprising 3-3 draw versus Liverpool and reaffirmed that perhaps their success isn’t an accident with an impressive 2-1 win over Arsenal last weekend. They do have a harrowing 6-0 slaughtering at home to Manchester City on their resume, but in truth, it is their only blight. They have taken four points in their other two games against Champions League opponents, so a quality result isn’t impossible against Chelsea.
Chelsea hasn’t looked great lately, including this midweek’s 3-3 draw to Roma. They will be keen to erase the memory of last week’s embarrassing 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace, but their 2-1 win at the opening of Atletico’s new stadium seems a lot longer than just three weeks ago…
The line heavily favors Chelsea at home, as one would expect. They are -250 to win, with Watford fetching nearly +900 to do the same. A mere draw would earn bettors a +450 return. It is a bit of a punt play, but I like the value of riding the Hornets early-season magic and capitalizing on a busy eight-day stretch for The Blues.
Both teams have tallied 13 league goals, with Chelsea conceding just eight to Watford’s mirroring 13. But keep in mind, six of them came in a disaster to Man City – and the Hornets won’t be the only ones to get embarrassed by City this season. They are a legit threat to win the entire Champions League and have looked simply amazing this season in both the Premiership and ECL. If you throw that game out, Watford owns a +6 goal differential and has already gotten points from two of the top teams in the league.
This will be their toughest road test to date, but I think there is still value in a 1-1, or even a 2-2 draw, given the way both teams can score as well as their propensity to concede.
#2. Stoke vs. Bournemouth
To call this early season a disaster for Bournemouth would be an understatement. The Cherries were tabbed by a lot of pundits as a fashionable sleeper and a nice wager to finish in the top half of the table. I know I liked the wager, especially after a surprisingly strong 2016-2017 campaign and some key offseason additions including Jermain Defoe. However, their offensive anemia has been devastating. The Cherries have hit the back of the net just a stunning three times in eight EPL matches. Suffice it to say, through eight games, they haven’t lived up to the promise. Bournemouth currently resides in a relegation position, and despite some tough games, they have no one to blame but themselves for failing to get points against West Brom and Everton.
However, they’ve shown some decent signs of life. A 1-0 loss to Tottenham is no shame, and neither is a recent 2-1 loss at home to Manchester City, especially considering the 6-0 pounding they just handed Bournemouth and the 7-2 thumping they gave their current opponent, Stoke, last weekend.
The 7-2 loss to Manchester City isn’t embarrassing in and of itself; again Man City is globally elite, but it does underscore some problems with Stoke. They made their reputation on the defensive side of the pitch, but have conceded at an alarming pace in 2017. They’ve conceded 12 goals in their last three matches. Not great.
But their bad losses have some to elite teams. Bournemouth doesn’t fit that category. Stoke pays at +120 to win this match, and I think that is the play here at home. A draw is also enticing at +250, given both teams uneven play. If you like Bournemouth, they’ll return at +280.
But Bournemouth is a hot mess right now. I’m willing to overlook a blasting from Man City last week and expect Stoke to defend better on their home pitch against the offensively deficient Cherries.
#3. Everton vs. Arsenal
If Bournemouth and Stoke have been disasters than Everton has been a trainwreck in a tornado. It has been an unmitigated disaster for the Toffees who actually entered the season dreaming of being the one team that could potentially upset the Top Six assumed hierarchy. We knew Everton would have a tough first month; their schedule was brutal. And an early draw against mighty Man City was very encouraging. But the rise up the table in October hasn’t come to fruition. Everton has only won once since their opening day home victory over Stoke. That was also the last time in which Everton kept a Premier League clean sheet.
But it isn’t like Arsenal has been impressive either. The Gunners have underwhelmed more than any Top Six team, and enter this weekend well out of Champions League position. It is early, yes, but they are going to need some rapid improvement if they are going to get back to their nearly automatically assumed perch near the top of the English Table. This seems like a good week to make it happen based on some recent head-to-head history.
These two have had an outright winner in their last five league games, so perhaps the draw wager isn’t a great play. Arsenal has taken four of the five meetings, including a pair of wins at Goodison Park. Arsenal has taken too many draws for fans liking, but they haven’t been getting beat often. Arsenal suffered their first league loss since late August after defeat to Watford last weekend and will be keen to not repeat the disappointment.
I think the Gunners shake off some rust this weekend in a matchup they have dominated over the past decade. They are a nice value at +110 to win on the road.