Jonathan Turner of bettinglive.com gives his expert opinion on the weekend’s Premier League action…
It was a frustrating week all round for our tips last Saturday as we hit the crossbar when Spurs failed to ram home their advantage against Chelsea and then Swansea and Arsenal combined for three goals rather than four.
But onwards and upwards and I’m putting my faith in Stoke at 9/4 (Ladbrokes and Sportingbet) to bounce back from a defeat to Norwich by winning at Fulham.
The basic league table suggests Fulham are a poor side – they’ve taken just one point from the last 15 on offer, with Martin Jol favourite to be the next Premier League boss out of a job.
And that first impression is rammed home the more you delve into the stats. Put simply Fulham simply aren’t creating enough decent chances yet at the other end of the pitch they are proving the softest of touches.
They top three sets of unwanted standings – the most shots against (over 15 per game), the most shots on target against (seven per match) and the most corners conceded (over nine every 90 minutes) so it’s no wonder they haven’t kept a clean sheet in seven games since the opening day of the season.
And there are no signs at all of that situation improving, indeed the pressure is ratcheting up and there’s an argument that says they’d be better off playing away this weekend.
For the patience of their own fans appears to be wearing thin, not helped by two devastating late goals in their last two league games at Craven Cottage.
The first of those came in added time from West Brom as three points were suddenly reduced to one while last weekend newly-promoted Cardiff bagged a late, late winner.
And Stoke look exactly the sort of side to take advantage as they’ve definitely stepped up a level this season under Mark Hughes.
He’s got them playing more possession football compared to the long-ball tactics of recent campaigns so it’s understandable there’s going to be the odd glitch, like last week’s defeat by Norwich.
But the Potters still remain formidable at set-pieces and that’s arguably Fulham’s biggest weakness so this looks the ideal match up for the visitors. We’re keeping things simple and backing Stoke for the three points at 9/4 but we also wouldn’t put anyone off the 11/1 with Ladbrokes about Ryan Shawcross finding the net at some point, with the big defender having already scored against Crystal Palace this season.
Next best on Saturday is under 10.5 corners in Hull v Aston Villa at 5/6 with bet365.
Both teams have made pretty decent starts to the campaign, with 10 and nine points respectively, but their styles of play (both very low in terms of final third passes) have produced relatively small corner make-ups. Villa have collected just under four per game, with Hull even lower at 3.5.
It’s also crucial to look at corners conceded and the good news for those going for less than 10.5 is that both teams also give up a relatively low number of flag kicks – each less than five per game.
Four of Villa’s six matches have come in at under 10.5 in total and it’s exactly the same ratio for Hull so taking odds of 5/6 when they face each other looks a decent piece of business.
We’re also keen on a 4.32/1 double in two of the higher profile games of the weekend – Spurs to win to nil in their derby clash with West Ham (6/4 with Sky Bet), plus both teams to score in Manchester City v Everton (best of 5/6 with Ladbrokes for single backers, 8/11 with Sky Bet for the purposes of this double).
Regular readers will be well aware of the high regard we hold Spurs, especially from a defensive perspective.
They’ve conceded just two goals all season which came from Chelsea and Arsenal and West Ham are nowhere near that pair in terms of attacking threat. Indeed without injured striker Andy Carroll they are pretty toothless – they’ve not managed a single away goal yet and there’s little reason to expect the drought to end at White Hart Lane.
However goals look very much on the menu in the Saturday lunchtime showdown between City and Everton.
The Toffees have a wonderful record in this fixture – no fewer than six victories in the last eight – and managed to win the latest renewal despite playing with ten men for the final half hour. They are now the only remaining unbeaten team in the top flight and face a City outfit who must be shellshocked after they were handed a footballing lesson in midweek by Bayern Munich.
Were it not for the fact that Everton must manage without on-loan Gareth Barry (who has been superb all season but can’t face his parent club) we’d be sorely tempted to back the Toffees at 9/2 to extend that fantastic head-to-head record.
But City merit plenty of respect given their outstanding home record and the best way to try and take advantage is the both teams to score market. The Citizens have looked strangely vulnerable at the back at times – both Cardiff and Aston Villa have each scored three against them already this term – with England keeper Joe Hart’s performances again in the spotlight after another underwhelming effort in midweek.
Finally we’d also like to give a quick mention to our comparative league table which shows how teams have fared in their matches so far this term compared to the exact same fixtures in the previous campaign.
At this early stage it can provide some valuable insights which aren’t immediately obvious from the basic league table.
Arsenal for example top the current standings on 15 points but they are actually three points worse off in comparison to the same six games in 2012/13, food for thought for those backing the Gunners at no better than 9/2 for the title.
The biggest improvers (at +9) are Southampton, who take on Swansea this weekend, while the team with the largest negative figure are none other than defending champions Manchester United who are already six points worse off.
Weekend banker – Stoke to beat Fulham at 9/4 (Ladbrokes and Sportingbet).
Next best single – Under 10/5 corners in Hull v Aston Villa at 5/6 (bet365).
Double – Spurs to win to nil against West Ham (6/4) and both teams to score in Manchester City v Everton (8/11), best price of 4.32/1 (SkyBet).
Get a full break down of all the Premier League games this weekend at bettinglive.com