EPL Best Bets - Week 1
August 14, 2014
By Toby Maxtone-Smith
The English Premier League is finally back this weekend, and with it come tens of thousands of interesting betting opportunities. I've already tipped Chelsea as the value at the top of the table, while West Bromwich Albion could be heading the wrong way at the bottom in my EPL Season Preview.
Now it's on to the weekly previews.
These will be split into four sections. One will be a 'banker'. This will usually be a handicap bet on one of the big sides whose superiority we feel has been underrated. Second will be a 'solid bet', which will just be a simple match winner bet. Then there is 'the outsider' which will be a team at a longer price, and last is the self-explanatory 'first goalscorer' bet.
So, on to week one.
Odds provided by Sportsbook.ag
The Banker: Arsenal -1.5 vs Crystal Palace at 5/6
Arsenal were imperious in the Community Shield last weekend, seeing off a second-string Manchester City team. Only so much can be taken from this match, treated by City as a friendly. However Arsenal's performance was virtually faultless and the Gunners have a history of starting the season well before fading in around February and March. They have an abundance of attacking options and should have few problems seeing off Crystal Palace, despite the Eagles' tenacity under Tony Pulis.
Arsenal's struggles in big games are well-documented, but a constant ability to see off lesser opposition, usually comfortably, has seen them stay in the top four of the Premier League for as long as Wenger has been at the club. In the last four years, Arsenal's home record against teams in the bottom half has been Won 23, Drawn 5, Lost 2. Of those 23 wins, 17 were by two goals or more, including all eight from last season. Arsenal just blow average teams away at the Emirates.
Even in this fixture last season, when Crystal Palace gave a really good account of themselves and were level at half-time, Arsenal still ran out 2-0 winners.
The Solid Bet: Stoke City to beat Aston Villa at 19/20
This is a lovely fixture first up for Stoke. They have had a quiet summer of steady, stable improvement. Bojan Krkic on loan is their big-name signing and, while he represents something of a risk having failed to live up to his potential since breaking into the Barcelona team, he can terrorise defences.
After two years as a team in transition under Paul Lambert, Aston Villa are still a team in transition under Paul Lambert. Their are talks of a takeover at the Birmingham club and investment in the squad has been minimal. Their two best strikers, Christian Benteke and Libor Kozak, will both miss a large chunk of the start of the season leaving Andreas Weimann and Gabby Agbonlahor, who were both poor last season, up front for Villa. Their is a lack of quality all over the pitch for them.
Since their promotion in 2007/2008, Stoke's big strength has been their home record. They have won 51 of their 118 home games at a rate of 43%, and this Villa team will be among the poorer they have played. Last year their record at the Britannia Stadium was won 10, drawn 6 and lost just 3.
The Outsider: West Ham United to beat Tottenham Hotspur at 12/5
There was one good thing about an otherwise unremarkable 2013/14 season for West Ham. They beat Tottenham, their main rivals in the Premier League, three times (once in the League Cup) after not beating them for four years. The league win at home, which happened at the end of last season, was an alarmingly comfortable 2-0 win for the Irons against a lifeless ten-man Spurs side.
There is a bit more optimism around Tottenham now with Mauricio Pochettino installed as the new manager, but after an astonishingly wasteful summer in 2013, money is tighter than usual at White Hart Lane. There is an amazing lack of quality in the squad compared with three years ago, and Pochettino will need to coax good performances out of players who flopped badly last year. They have no chance of qualifying for the Champions League.
There are still murmurings of discontent at West Ham with manager Sam Allardyce, but it has been a summer of promise in East London. Enner Valencia is a risky investment for =C2=A312m, but if he replicates his World Cup form he will score goals. His aerial ability means he will fit right into West Ham's system. Mauro Zarate will add some much needed pace, while Aaron Cresswell and Diego Poyet look good acquisitions from the Championship.
West Ham raised their game spectacularly against Spurs last season and at 12/5 they look value to do the same on Saturday.
The First Goalscorer: Wilfried Bony to score first in Manchester United vs. Swansea City at 11/1
The 4/1 on Manchester United to win the Premier League is one of the worst prices I have ever seen. How they are rated more likely to win the league than Arsenal I do not know. The squad has not seen nearly enough strengthening yet, and I will be opposing them for most of their first few games.
This includes backing opposition first goalscorer against the Red Devils, which leads me to Wilfried Bony at 11/1 in the early kick-off on Saturday. Bony notched 26 goals last season - a fantastic return for someone playing in their first season in English football. The most pertinent stat, however, is that 13 of his 17 league goals came in the second half of the season, showing that the physical Ivorian has just got better and better for the Jacks.
As it stands, United's three centre-backs are Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. None of them are particularly good, and it looks as if Louis van Gaal will be playing all three of them in a 3-5-2 formation. None of them has ever played in this system before and it will take some getting used to.
Bony will be faced with three average defenders trying to find their feet in an unfamiliar system, and he could really enjoy himself on Saturday.
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