Can The Big-Five All Win Again?
There was much speculation about how teams would perform before the start of the 2018/19 Premier League season, yet there was something ominous about the opening round of Premier League matches. Last season’s top-five all made winning starts as Manchester City beat Arsenal, Manchester United beat Leicester, Tottenham beat Newcastle, Liverpool beat West Ham, and Chelsea beat Huddersfield. Meanwhile, that defeat for Huddersfield, plus defeats for Cardiff and Brighton, meant the three clubs rated most likely to be relegated by the bookies all made the worst possible starts.
Despite victory for Tottenham, Harry Kane also continued his much-publicised failure to score in August (now 0 from 14 games), whilst Mo Salah started where he left-off last season by scoring Liverpool’s first goal of the season.
Therefore, the big question is, will it be more of the same this weekend with wins for the Premier League’s big-five? We’ve some interesting stats and analysis for Tottenham vs Fulham, Chelsea vs Arsenal, Manchester City vs Huddersfield, Brighton vs Manchester United, and Crystal Palace vs Liverpool.
Tottenham vs Fulham (Saturday 15.00)
It’s a second straight London derby for newly-promoted Fulham who, despite spending big in the summer, didn’t look ready for the Premier League as they lost their opening match at home to Crystal Palace. In his post-match interviews, Fulham Manager Slavisa Jokanovic suggested his side has lots to learn about life in the top-flight of English Football, but also suggested he wouldn’t be changing his tactics of playing the type of attacking football fans love to watch. That could spell danger against a Tottenham side that won its opening game against Newcastle, despite them not bringing in any new signings this summer.
However, when you consider Tottenham had nine players that played in the World Cup semi-finals, it’s easy to why Tottenham Manager Mauricio Pochettino thinks he has a good enough squad. Those nine players should also be a lot sharper this week after coming back into training late, and this is expected to be an open match with plenty of goals. However, odds-on quotes about Harry Kane scoring at any time, considering his woeful record in August, could make the England Captain a lay for many punters.
Chelsea vs Arsenal (Saturday 17.30)
A second London derby on Saturday pitches two of last season’s top-six sides against each other, with Chelsea having made much the better start with a 3-0 win at Huddersfield, whilst Arsenal were outclassed by Manchester City. However, whilst new Arsenal Unai Emery must be cursing his early fixture-list, surely Chelsea don’t deserve to be odds-on against their fellow top-six side. Last season’s results certainly don’t suggest Chelsea should be odds-on, as Chelsea failed to win any of the four matches the two teams contested last season, as the pair met twice in the Premier League and twice in the Carabao Cup. Both matches at Stamford Bridge ended 0-0, whilst the Premier League match at The Emirates was also a draw. Meanwhile, Arsenal won the replay in the Carabao Cup 2-1. Therefore, there may be some value in laying Chelsea at odds-on this weekend, and giving yourself odds-against for the draw or an Arsenal win.
Manchester City vs Huddersfield (Sunday 13.30)
If you didn’t know the scores of the head-to-heads between Manchester City and Huddersfield last season, you could be forgiven for thinking that Huddersfield would have been the victim of two heavy defeats by a Man City team that scored 106 goals in 38 games. However, that wasn’t the case, as Huddersfield led City 1-0 at half-time at home before succumbing 2-1 to a late goal by Raheem Sterling.
Meanwhile, Huddersfield held City to a 0-0 draw at the Etihad in May, a point which possibly gave them the confidence to survive relegation. Whether Huddersfield can survive relegation again is a tough ask, but, if you think Huddersfield can put up a spirited performance against last season’s champions, you can have around 5/2 there are less than 2.5 goals.
Brighton vs Manchester United (Sunday 16.00)
Brighton Manager Chris Hughton will have been disappointed by his side’s 2-0 away defeat at Watford last Saturday, but that defeat came as no great surprise given that Brighton had the worst away record in the Premier League last season. What was a surprise was Hughton fielded most of the players that contributed to that record in Brighton’s first match of this season, despite bringing in plenty of summer signings.
However, in a bid to avoid relegation, he’s vowed to get ruthless. Brighton also had the eighth best home record in the Premier League season. They took time to adjust to the top-flight, losing at home to Manchester City, Liverpool, and Chelsea. However, they improved in the second-half of the season to beat Arsenal, draw with Tottenham, and beat this weekend’s opponents Manchester United. Therefore, as Brighton play their first match of the season at the Falmer Stadium, the bookies may have gone a little overboard pricing-up Manchester United at odds-on.
Crystal Palace vs Liverpool (Monday 20.00)
Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson showed his experience as Palace hit attack-minded Fulham on the counter-attack with ruthless efficiency in their opening match, and he’s likely to employ the same tactics against Liverpool. However, the big question is will they be able to hold Liverpool at bay after Jurgen Klopp’s team started the season with a bang with a 4-0 win against West Ham. Liverpool could have also scored many more goals but for the heroics of West Ham keeper Fabianski.
The wonderful-to-watch trio of Salah, Firmino, and Mane looked every bit as lethal as last season, whilst Naby Keita could be the signing of the season if he can boss the midfield on a regular basis like he did against the Hammers. Liverpool also look much more solid in defence this season, and a title challenge looks assured.
However, Palace could provide Liverpool with an interesting test, with Liverpool winning the matches between them last season 1-0 and 2-1. Palace also won their last three home matches last season after that 2-1 defeat. Therefore, Liverpool do look too short at around 4/9 but, if you’re thinking of risking the 6/1 about a Palace win, you might want to make sure Wilfried Zaha is playing first. That’s because Palace failed to win a single game last season when the Ivory Coast international striker wasn’t in the starting line-up.
Meanwhile, after a great start to the season with two goals against West Ham, it’s worth noting that Sadi Mane scored in both matches against Crystal Palace last season.