EPL Best Bets - Week 2
August 22, 2014
By Toby Maxtone-Smith
Week 1 of the English Premier League saw four of the five genuine title contenders seal wins, although only Chelsea's 3-1 win at Burnley came with any conviction. The Blues roared back from behind with a powerful performance putting fear into the hearts of those who have opposed them.
The major shock came as Swansea City beat Manchester United at Old Trafford 2-1, but when the United teamsheet came out, it seemed almost inevitable. Swansea made a mockery of United's 4/1 quotes on winning the league. As well as Man City, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Swansea, there were also wins for Hull, Aston Villa and Spurs.
Let's handicap Week 2.
Odds provided by Sportsbook.ag
The Banker: Southampton to beat West Bromwich Albion at 17/20
Any worries that Southampton's summer exodus could seriously threaten their Premier League status were quelled as the Saints put in an excellent display away to Liverpool, where they were unlucky to lose 2-1. Dusan Tadic, in particular, looks like a superb signing, skilfully setting up underrated right-back Nathaniel Clyne for their goal. There are still improvements to be made on the squad and, while it is unlikely they will finish as high as last year, they are just far too good to go down.
They look well set to keep hold of Clyne, as well as Morgan Schneiderlin, Victor Wanyama and James Ward-Prowse - all key parts of their success. Their style will not change under Ronald Koeman, who looks a sterling appointment from Feyenoord in Holland.
West Brom, who were my tip for relegation, played reasonably well in a 2-2 draw with Sunderland. However the team is desperately uninspiring and that result can hardly be called 'good'. No team won fewer games than the Baggies last season (seven), and it is hard to see much creative spark in that team.
The Solid Bet: Everton to beat Arsenal at 7/4
Everton are a continually underrated team by bookmakers, and they should not really be outsiders here. Only seven points separated the teams last year, and it looked like Everton might pip Arsenal to fourth when they thrashed the Gunners 3-0 seven games from the end of the season. Everton won 13 of their 19 home games, averaging two goals per game at Goodison Park - a big contrast to the successful, but cautious days of David Moyes.
That performance was among the best I have ever seen from Everton, and it was the culmination of a season of massive continual improvement under Roberto Martinez. They have done quietly encouraging summer business, and have pulled off a major coup in signing Romelu Lukaku permanently.
Arsenal bossed the Community Shield against a second-string Man City side, but City did not take the game seriously and more consideration has to be given to how Wenger's side struggled to break down Crystal Palace. They were disjointed and lacked ideas, and the defence struggled against an attack far more limited than what they will face in blue at Goodison.
The Outsider: Sunderland to beat Manchester United at 13/4
It just has to be Sunderland. They are one of my picks to do quite well this year after recovering what seemed like a lost fight against relegation last season after the appointment of Gus Poyet as manager. But this pick is far more based on the woeful Manchester United performance in their loss to Swansea.
Seeing the 18 players in United's first team and bench really emphasised how much they have fallen, and how stupidly overrated bookmakers have made them. There is still a scary lack of quality in the squad. Ashley Young is still there, as is Shinji Kagawa. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones just are not good enough without senior partners alongside them. Youngster Tyler Blackett was hopelessly exposed. Then there is the problem of who plays behind the striker. United have four players (Rooney, Mata, Kagawa and Fellaini) who make the number 10 spot their preferred position. That conundrum is still far from being solved.
There was a great sense of unity at Sunderland last year and, while off-field issues are never far away at the Wearside club, it is easy to foresee them starting well. They beat United 2-1 on the way to the League Cup final last year and could well make United's start even worse.
The First Goalscorer: Sergio Aguero at 9/2 for Manchester City vs. Liverpool
Easily the game of the weekend in the Premier League takes place on Monday night as Liverpool travel the short distance to face Manchester City. With City the 8/11 favourites there is little room to manoeuvre in the betting, but Sergio Aguero looks a fair bet at 9/2 to break the deadlock. Aguero played only seven minutes from the bench on Sunday but that was enough for the Argentine to net his first goal of the season and, in so doing, seal the win for City.
Of Aguero's 75 goals for City, 48 have come at the Etihad - a rate of 64%. His World Cup was pitifully and sadly crocked by injury, but he is returning to full fitness and, on his day, is the best striker in the league. Liverpool's defence still does not look good enough for a title challenge and they will find it difficult to keep out Aguero.
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