Jonathan Turner of bettinglive.com gives his expert opinion on the weekend’s Premier League action…
Andros Townsend has been making plenty of headlines for England over the last week, with superb displays against first Montenegro (on debut) and then Poland as the Three Lions booked their place at next summer’s World Cup finals in Brazil.
And the Spurs youngster can stay in the spotlight and hopefully land us a nice 5/1 return when his side travel to Aston Villa for Sunday’s televised game in the Premier League.
The market which interests us is the player to have the most shots in the match, a new one for this season which is offered by Bet Victor and settled via the stats site www.whoscored.com.
Anyone whose first real viewing of Townsend came in those World Cup qualifiers will probably think he’s one of the most lethal long-range marksmen around – he scored a 25-yard stunner to cap off his debut and only the woodwork denied him a repeat against the Poles in midweek.
However those who watch Spurs week in, week out might have a slightly different viewpoint as, while he rarely needs a second invitation to shoot, the accuracy and penetration of those efforts can sometimes leave a little to be desired – to see what I mean just take a look at this graphic posted on Twitter on Friday morning by @ColinTTrainor.
There’s been plenty of chat in the stats/analytics community about Townsend – only Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud with 27 has had more than his 26 shots this term (and that from a game more) but whereas the Frenchman has four goals and two assists, Townsend’s tally is zero in both those columns.
The main reason for that is surely the positions from which Townsend is shooting (often in the less dangerous areas outside the penalty box, though as a winger the comparison to out-and-out striker Giroud is possibly a little unfair) but for the purposes of this market it doesn’t matter whether his efforts fly into the top corner or balloon into row Z.
And as the player with the highest number of attempted shots per game in the top flight (4.3) and one who is now buzzing with confidence after his heroics in an England shirt, there are strong reasons for expecting the shoot-on-sight trend to continue on Sunday. As if he needed a further incentive, team-mate Aaron Lennon returned to full training this week and could soon be pushing Townsend for a spot in the side.
Townsend has won this market outright in one of his six games (he had nine shots against Norwich when the next best was four) and also dead-heated with one other player twice (against Cardiff and West Ham) so that’s a return 50% of the time.
That last outing against the Hammers saw Spurs beaten 3-0 which underlines Townsend’s claims whether or not Spurs win on Sunday (and they are around even money to do so), so the odds of 5/1 simply look too big and we’d have him closer to 7/2.
We pointed out a similar situation a few weeks ago when Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil was 7/2 for an anytime assist and the German now goes off at 2/1 in the same market. Clearly the Townsend wager may not collect this weekend for any number of reasons but in the long run this policy should pay off.
And one additional motive for getting involved on Sunday is the fact that Bet Victor’s most shots market has a favourite worth taking on in the shape of Christian Benteke as the Villa talisman has been out injured for the last few weeks and may just take a little while to regain full match-sharpness.
Turning our attention to Saturday’s action and our banker bet of the weekend is the 11/10 about both sides scoring in Arsenal v Norwich at the Emirates.
The Gunners – for whom record signing Ozil should be fit after limping out of Germany’s win over Sweden on Tuesday – have been breathtaking at times going forward but there’s also been a vulnerability at the back which has manifested itself with just one clean sheet in seven league games.
Their other six matches have all seen both teams score – and the opposition (Aston Villa, Fulham, Sunderland, Stoke, Swansea and West Brom) has mostly come from the lower reaches of the table.
Indeed it includes the teams currently in 20th, 17th, 16th and 15th so Norwich going into the match in 18th place isn’t the negative it might have been.
The Canaries built up a real head of steam to equalise against Chelsea last time out before they were undone on the break and their recent record against the Gunners also provides lots of encouragement as they led in this fixture last season until five minutes from time and have scored in all four Premier League meetings with Arsenal.
The other single which appeals is Romelu Lukaku to score anytime for Everton in their clash with Hull at Goodison as the bookies still don’t seem to have fully got a handle on his scoring potential.
He has the best minutes per goal ratio in Premier League history of those players who have scored 20 or more, with one every 115 minutes, and yet he’s available at odds against for a home match against last year’s Championship runners-up who have conceded two goals in each of their three away games.
Lukaku maintained the hot streak during the international break for Belgium with both goals in their 2-1 win over Croatia which made it six in his last six games and his Everton side are boosted by the return of fellow loanee Gareth Barry who will be pulling the strings in midfield after he was forced to sit out their last match against his parent club Manchester City, their first defeat of the season.
It’s no better than 4/9 about an Everton win but the 11/10 on offer about Lukaku looks the way to go.
Finally we’re predicting goals to be in short supply at both the Britannia and Old Trafford.
Stoke and West Brom lock horns at the first venue and neither could be described as anything resembling prolific.
The Potters have evolved under Mark Hughes into a side that enjoys more possession than they did when Tony Pulis was in charge but that hasn’t translated into more goals. Their conversion rate (goals from shots on target) is a league low 15% and five of their seven matches have featured under 1.5, with the last two seeing them slip to 1-0 defeats.
Counter-attacking has served West Brom well in their most recent two games against Manchester United and Arsenal but this is unlikely to be anything like as open and not a single Baggies match this term has seen more than three goals.
It was 0-0 in this fixture last season and there have been just 13 goals in the last eight between them so in current form under 2.5 at 4/6 looks a no brainer.
It’s odds-against about a similar scenario when Manchester United welcome Southampton to the Theatre of Dreams but again we’d suggest going low. It wouldn’t surprise us in the slightest if the Saints can cause another huge shock to eclipse their 1-0 win at Liverpool as Mauricio Pochettino’s men are the top flight’s most improved outfit.
They are no fewer than 11 points better off compared to the same seven fixtures last season whereas United, under David Moyes, are at the opposite end of the spectrum with six points fewer garnered from their septet of matches.
But the best approach could prove to be under 2.5 goals at 11/10 – the way Southampton set up on their travels sees them constantly press the ball and it’s led to a paucity of scoring chances. It’s now eight games on the trot away from St Mary’s which have seen less than 2.5, with only eight goals in total in those fixtures.
United for their part have hardly been in scintillating form in their three league games at Old Trafford, drawing 0-0 with Chelsea, labouring to a 2-0 win over relegation favourites Crystal Palace and then being stunned 2-1 by West Brom.
The double pays 5/2 with Bet Victor, Boylesports and Stan James.
Weekend banker – both teams to score in Arsenal v Norwich at 11/10 (bwin).
Next best singles – Andros Townsend to have most shots in Aston Villa v Spurs at 5/1 (Bet Victor, market settled on www.whoscored.com stats) and Romelu Lukaku to score anytime for Everton v Hull at 11/10 (Bet365, Bet Victor, Boylesports and bwin).
Double – under 2.5 goals in Stoke v West Brom at 4/6 and Manchester United v Southampton at 11/10 (double pays 5/2 with Bet Victor, Boylesports and Stan James).
Get a full break down of all the Premier League games this weekend at bettinglive.com