HAPPY New Year! Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) gives us his three best bets for the opening Premier League matches of 2016.
Manchester United v Swansea | Saturday 15:00
Good on you if you fancy backing Manchester United at 4/7 here. It’s not for me. While Monday’s draw with Chelsea was a step forward it didn’t convince enough to suggest that they’ve escaped this funk.
It’s eight games without a win now for the club and I personally don’t think they dipped this low under David Moyes. They look a knackered team bereft of any zeal or spark.
In their last eight home games they’ve scored just four goals. Unthinkable under Sir Alex Ferguson. That’s the angle I’m taking here as Swansea turn up at Old Trafford.
Fair play to caretaker coach Alan Curtis. Since he’s come in after the unfortunate dismissal of Garry Monk the ship has indeed been steadied and they’ve recorded four decent performances in a row.
The main plus point over these four games has been sorting out their defence. Swansea have conceded just two goals in their last four matches and that’s a real improvement.
Add their newly stoic defence to the fact that United aren’t scoring, will no doubt be nervy at Old Trafford and the fact that the Welsh club themselves have scored just two in their last six games and the 4/5 on Under 2.5 Goals appeals.
Sunderland v Aston Villa | Saturday 15:00
Not again Chris surely? Not again? Yes, I’m afraid so. I’m supporting Sunderland again. After backing them to score against Liverpool on Wednesday night I vowed never to touch them again. But, but, but…they’re playing Aston Villa FFS!
A simple way to justify this bet is to look at who the sides played in December. Sunderland were up against Arsenal, Watford, Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool. Pretty hot eh? You’ve got last season’s Top 2 with the top team in 2015 and a side on the fringes of the Champions League.
Aston Villa were up against Southampton, Arsenal, Newcastle, West Ham and Norwich. Not so sexy eh? You’ve got three sides in the bottom half of the table and another who went into their game without a win for two months.
See my logic? Sunderland have Villa, Swansea and Bournemouth in their next five Premier League matches and Sam Allardyce might just see a glimmer of hope if he can take 7-9 points from those games. It’s possible.
Villa are down. That’s a cert. While they’ve improved under Remi Garde it’s simply not enough to keep them up, or even get close to it. They haven’t won since August and lost to an average Norwich side on Monday.
I’d probably back Sunderland at 11/10 here for the reasons outlined above so to be offered 6/4 is something I have to attack. One last chance Sunderland, one last fucking chance!
West Brom v Stoke | Saturday 15:00
This Premier League season has been crazy and it’s made utter fools of people who respect stats and trends. I’ve created long deep impassioned pieces of prose with the aid of stats to back up my view and too often it’s fallen apart. Here, I’m taking the opposite view.
What a festive season it’s been for Mark Hughes’ team. Wins over Manchester United and Everton are big feathers in their cap and it’s seen them climb back into the Top 10.
As usual when these things happen pundits start making grandiose short term statements. Robbie Sav*ge never lets you down in these situations as he called for Mark Hughes to be offered a post at one of the very top clubs.
While Savage may have a point you can guarantee that if you asked him that question nine days earlier when Stoke lost at home to Crystal Palace he wouldn’t have been anywhere near as emphatic. Two games to build a concrete view like that, that’s just his style.
Bookmakers often show similar traits and it’s no surprise to see Stoke as short as 17/10 joint favourites for this match. It’s far too short for me.
I think Stoke are the kind of side who will have their big days and their bad days, just like last season. The kind of side that let down backers just when they’re scaling lofty heights.
There are a few examples earlier in the season of this behaviour. They won three games on the bounce in the early-Autumn before losing at home to Watford much to the chagrin of their backers.
Two wins in a row in November over Chelsea and Southampton was followed by a loss to Sunderland and last year three wins in a row saw them lose to West Brom in the next match.
The Baggies aren’t the kind of side you can pin your last pound on (as I’ve found to my cost this season) but they’ve lost just two of their last six games.
I’m going against convention here and am looking to take on an in-form Stoke side on Saturday. I’ll back West Brom Draw No Bet at 10/11 with BetVictor.
Manchester United v Swansea – Under 2.5 Goals (4/5 Marathon Bet)
Sunderland v Aston Villa – Sunderland to win (6/4 Bet365)
West Brom v Stoke – West Brom draw no bet (10/11 BetVictor)
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