For all intents and purposes, 2015 has come to an end. It was hardly a vintage year in the Premier League, although the rise of Leicester City and the failures of the big name clubs has certainly provided something for the neutral. The unpredictable results continued through the festive season, with Arsenal given a sound beating by an out-of-sorts Southampton, while Liverpool – terrible for much of December – claimed three points at the expense of the high-flying Foxes. All the talk was of Louis van Gaal’s impending departure, but as of writing, he remains in the Old Trafford hot seat. United were better against Chelsea, but that’s hardly a point of solace for the fans, who saw their sixth 0-0 in their last 14 matches and their eighth without a win. Oh happy days.
Saturday 2 January
West Ham 26/10
Moving swiftly on, let’s get to the football at hand, starting with Liverpool’s trip to Boleyn Ground. The Hammers ended a run of five consecutive draws with a 2-1 win over Southampton on Monday Night. Liverpool flop Andy Carroll – sporting a new hairstyle straight out of the 90s boy band look-book – claimed a vital winner with a customary header. The big Geordie will provide a stern test for Liverpool’s defence, who have looked decidedly shaky against set pieces in recent weeks. In fact, I fancy him to get on the score sheet. However, the Reds have shown they are more than capable of scoring on the road and should do so again. I fancy a dabble on the Reds and Both Teams To Score at 33/10.
There’s no denying Arsenal were awful at St Mary’s. The referee may have played a part in two of Southampton’s goals, but there only ever looked to be one winner. A Mesut Ozil-inspired victory over Bournemouth helped lessen the damage to their title tilt, but questions still remain. Luckily for them a visit from Newcastle should provide them with a golden opportunity at another three points. The Magpies have gone back to being dreadful again, drawing with Aston Villa before suffering consecutive 1-0 defeats to Everton and West Brom. They’ve lost their last six against Arsene Wenger’s side, managing just two goals in that period. I’ve been burnt before, but surely the Gunners are a banker bet here. Throw them into your multiples and move on.
Leicester City 9/10
Writing this article as I am on Tuesday, Leicester’s result against Manchester City remains unknown. However, if their performance against Liverpool is anything to go by, City should make it back-to-back defeats for Claudio Ranieri’s men. Both Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez were yanked off early at Anfield, after lethargic performances. The sheer volume of football is starting to tell. Both lacked the zip and quick thinking typified by their early season displays. Still, Leicester remain firmly in the race for Champions League football and a home match with Bournemouth should see them return to winning ways. The Cherries sit sixth in the form table, despite their defeat to Arsenal on Monday. However, the Foxes should be too strong for them and at 9/10, the home win looks good value.
Manchester United 11/20
Louis van Gaal looks set to bring in the New Year as Manchester United manager, but failure to pick up all three points against Swansea could be the death knell for his tedious reign. United were better against Chelsea, which should come as no shock to those who witnessed their abysmal performance against Stoke. Who would’ve thought benching Marouane Fellaini would help with the mobility and balance of their side? Of course, they still have the problem of a woefully out-of-form Wayne Rooney leading the line. Having already lost to Swansea, another defeat is not out of the realms of possibility. The Swans have kept three consecutive clean sheets and must be in with a shot of another here given United’s failures in front of goal. Another 0-0 draw anyone? This one comes in at 17/2. The Swansea Double Chance at 13/10 also looks a good bet for the more conservative punter.
Southampton followed up their 4-0 thrashing of Arsenal with a meek 2-1 defeat against West Ham. Therein lies the difficulty of punting on the Premier League. No sane person would’ve predicted those set of results. This weekend they travel to Norwich, a side that had gone four matches without a win before beating Man Utd at Old Trafford. Their victory over Aston Villa on Monday makes it two wins from three and moves them three points clear of the relegation zone. Meanwhile, Southampton have lost their last three away matches, making the home win an enticing prospect at 9/4. The Canaries are seemingly on the up, while Southampton simply aren’t – despite their shock win over Arsenal.
Aston Villa 2/1
Aston Villa are doomed. Much has been made of Chelsea’s flirtation with the relegation zone this season, but Villa’s impending relegation is just as big a shock. The Villain’s are one of just seven clubs to have featured in every Premier League campaign to date. They will be missed next season. That is unless they pick up all three points from their trip to the Stadium of Light on Saturday. Sunderland find themselves in equally choppy waters, while Big Sam’s appointment has done little to right the ship. Nine points from as many matches is relegation form. A draw simply won’t do for either of these sides, so expect both to go all out for the win. I fancy Both Teams To Score, but it is Sunderland who will claim the valuable three points. The Matchbet market is available at 42/10.
West Brom 16/10
Stoke City 18/10
Mark Hughes has gone quietly about his business at Stoke, who are now just six points off the Champions League places following their dramatic 4-3 win over Everton on Monday. The Potters are playing some super football at present, with Xherdan Shaqiri hitting form alongside the likes of Marko Arnautovic and Bojan. On Saturday they travel to the Hawthorns to take on a former manager who must be utterly dismayed at this fanciful football being played at the Britannia. Tony Pulis doesn’t do pretty. He doesn’t do trickery. This is a mockery to the good name of English football. You can be certain West Brom won’t involve themselves in such things. Which style will triumph? Form suggests the away side are a decent bet, despite being 18/10 outsiders.
Manchester City 13/20
Watford finally tasted defeat again, as a Nathan Ake red card and a late Son Heung-Min strike condemned them to their first loss in six matches on Monday. Prior to Ake’s dismissal, they had gone toe-to-toe with Spurs, equalising through Odion Ighalo after Erik Lamela handed the visitors the lead. There was enough in the performance to suggest they can test Man City on Saturday. City have struggled on the road this season and had lost their three previous away trips prior to Tuesday’s meeting with Leicester. The outcome here will depend very much on the composition of the Man City side. Watford on the Double Chance is the way to go at 11/10.
Sunday 3 January
Crystal Palace 51/20
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A couple wins and people are talking up Spurs’ title challenge once again. When will they ever learn. As good as Mauricio Pochettino’s side have been over the festive season, they simply won’t be able to maintain the standards with such a limited squad. Harry Kane remains the only recognised striker on the books and he’s played a ludicrous amount of football over the past year and a half. He’s heading for a fall. Sunday sees them travel to Everton, a side as good as Spurs on their day, but simply horrific at defending. Roberto Martinez needs to go if the Toffees are to go anywhere. They risk losing the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley and Gerard Deulofeu at the end of the season if they don’t push forward. The good news is they’re entertaining as hell to watch. I’m going to back Over 2.5 Goals here, pour myself a whiskey and watch the goals roll in. I suggest you do the same.
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