What a first weekend! And before you have time to take a breath, we go and do it all over again – but you love to see it. Things don’t get any easier for Norwich or Arsenal this weekend, after a tough start, and it is back to the grindstone when City welcome the Canaries and the Gunners are immediately thrust into (another) tough London derby.
Saturday 21 August
Burnley absolutely bossed much of the game against Brighton and yet couldn’t get the win at home. It’s clear Turf Moor could be a funny old patch to play football and I think Burnley’s success at home will be what carries them this season.
On the topic of playing at home though, Liverpool will be back at Anfield this Saturday and I’m not sure there is another club in the league which relies on their home fans as much as the Reds.
You know Liverpool will impose themselves early and look to get onto the front foot. Whether they get off to a great start or struggle early on, the Anfield faithful will roar them on and I think they could run away with this.
You can get around 15/20 about Liverpool to score in both halves and that has to be the banker which sets us off for the weekend.
Aston Villa 8/10
I wasn’t convinced by Aston Villa before the season got underway and those sentiments were solidified at the weekend. The Hornets completely outplayed Villa in the first half and that left side for Villa seemed to emulate a highway allowing for a free flow of traffic.
I know that Villa seemingly did some positive business in the window, but I remember what they looked like without Jack Grealish last season, and I feel something radical needed to happen at Villa Park. Credit to them though, they didn’t just roll over, but at no point of that game did you think they could go on and win it.
Newcastle got off to an absolute flyer! Allan Saint-Maximin was supreme. The flying Frenchman did everything he could to put his side in front but their defensive structure, I felt, let them down.
Neither side evokes any degree of confidence in me now, so the logical way to go might be both teams to score. Get on at 7/10.
Crystal Palace 33/20
What a start for Brentford, a win against Arsenal on Friday night under the lights could only have done the world of good for them. Of course, the challenge now is consolidating that win with another passionate performance and the fact that it is another derby might make that a little easier for Thomas Frank’s men.
I wasn’t convinced by Palace, and I think it could be another long season for their fans. The Eagles just don’t ever look up for it. I’m intrigued by what Patrick Vieira can achieve but I don’t think we’ll see anything overnight.
In these first few games you must be weary of the newly promoted sides, their passion will be uncanny and now with the return of fans, it could inspire many a stellar performance. At 18/10, I wouldn’t add Brentford into any multiples per se, but I would certainly have a punt on the nose.
Leeds United 12/10
This will be an interesting game; Rafa Benitez would have been grateful to get underway with a win and possibly win over a couple fans, but I wouldn’t write off Leeds United.
Marcelo Bielsa will never change his approach, nor will the Argentinean maestro question his system because they suffered another heavy loss at Old Trafford. Leeds will ask questions of this Everton defence and I think the game could turn out to be more of a chess game than one might assume.
Everton looked sharp and displayed dynamic passages on Saturday, and yet I also thought their defence was solid. Yes, a mistake in the back led to a well taken goal by Adam Armstrong…but outside of that Southampton didn’t really threaten at all.
I know on paper this looks like a goal-fest and I wouldn’t blame you in the slightest if you thought so, but given the tactical demands of both managers, you really have the ultimate game of attack versus defence. A smart bet might be Under 2.5 Goals (Yes) at 12/10.
Manchester City 1/10
In hindsight I think we could have been a little foolish going after the City win as bullishly as we (or at least some of us – yes we see you Bryan Naicker) did. The impact of having their usual starters still out resting after a busy northern hemisphere summer really showed on Sunday.
I didn’t think City had the same feel about them if I’m honest, and I say that whilst fully acknowledging that they weren’t exactly terrible either. Grealish will need to adapt quickly and start getting used to receiving the ball already on the cusp of the final third as opposed to having to pick it up halfway up the pitch…but there’s no doubt that attacking options available to City probably cannot be matched around world football.
Norwich will probably be wondering what they did to deserve playing Liverpool and City in the first two weeks (especially when they look across to see Brentford picking up Arsenal in their first game) but I think it might work in their favour.
It forces them to end the honeymoon period of gaining promotion really before it even got underway, and that might eventually return some dividends in the future. Nevertheless, Norwich can’t challenge City.
Of course, City win the game, but I wouldn’t win too many of you over suggesting you back City at 1/10 – instead an interesting approach might be City to win the first ten minutes at 29/10. I think the pressure on Pep Guardiola and City will build as we get closer to the game, and I suspect at the Etihad they will start with a serious intent.
Watford got off to a fast start and I really enjoyed watching them, they played with the freedom and confidence of a Premier League team. It was a brilliant welcome for manager Xisco and his passion and intensity on the sideline is almost Antonio Conte like.
Brighton was the exact opposite, they got off to a sluggish start and only really found their feet late on. I wouldn’t worry about Brighton, but they’ll sort of be that team that just sort of gets by.
In terms of the game on Saturday evening, I wouldn’t expect too much in terms of highlight reel and I think the game could just simmer out into a draw. At 49/20, I rate it excellent value though.
Sunday 22 August
Manchester United 6/10
What a start for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United. They were absolutely incredible! It looked and felt like the United of old, they attacked down the flanks with pace, skill and supreme confidence. The defensive shape allowed for a positive launchpad, allowing for the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Mason Greenwood to really get into the game quickly and effectively.
Paul Pogba reminded everyone of the quality he truly holds! If the Frenchman does indeed move on from United it would be a great shame. His link up with the attacking threats United hold is simply poetry in motion and he would treat the entire league every week should he stay on.
Southampton struggled to get a foothold in their game against Everton and I doubt they’ll go one better here. At 6/10 and based on the commanding performance the Red Devil’s put out last week – throw the kitchen sink at it.
It’s going to be a very early return to his old hunting ground for Nuno Espirito Santo, and I think he has every reason to return with a Tottenham squad brimming with confidence. We all gave many plaudits to Thomas Tuchel for being able to put out a Chelsea team clearly playing with his DNA, very early on – well the same can be said about Nuno.
Immediately his focus on wide play and allowing his fullbacks the freedom to get up the field constantly was very clear on Sunday. The fact that this was maintained even against a side and manager known for allowing his defenders to hug the line and move up to add to the midfield and strikers is quite simply cheeky.
Wolves were not clinical and just lacked a sharpness you would come to expect from them. Around midway through the first half Adama Traore was in on goal, and you would have put your grandmother’s pension on him hitting the target only for him to slide it left of Kasper Schmeichel’s goal. A few minutes later Jamie Vardy put Leicester in front with a brilliant finish…
Being clinical and taking your chances in this league is half of the job. Spurs were nothing if not clinical and really impressed me on the weekend. Spurs will win the game.
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Monday 23 August
West Ham 31/20
This will be a tough game. Both these sides showed last week that they are happy to give away territory and space if it means they can push on and gain final third entries on a consistent basis.
As simple as it might sound, the passing and moving, zonal awareness and hunger to get in front of goal was a breath of fresh air in a league often overcomplicated by compounding and layering what will always be a rather simple game.
Now at the risk of doing the very thing I have just criticised and thus rendering myself a perpetual hypocrite, let me say this: Just as “Arsenal to lose” is quickly going to become a weekly banker (well, at least until something inherently changes) so is “both teams to score” when West Ham plays. Get on at 6/10.
QUAD @ 7/1
Liverpool To Score In Both Halves 15/20
Man United Win 6/10
Chelsea Win 15/20
West Ham vs Leicester BTTS (Yes) 6/10