THE international break is over and Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) returns with his Premier League best bets.
Manchester United v Arsenal | Saturday 12:30 | Sky Sports 1
International break over and the Premier League returns with a grandstand fixture as Manchester United host Arsenal. Six points and two places separate the sides with the away team feeling in much better fettle.
Arsenal have had a pretty seamless season so far. The opening weekend defeat to Liverpool can be excused when you look at the table now and look at the teamsheet back then.
The North London side haven’t lost since then and a 0-0 home draw against Middlesbrough looks the only disappointing result since then.
It hasn’t been anywhere near as plain sailing for Manchester United. In fact it’s been a turbulent three months (well, two) since the season sounded it’s first whistle.
Soundly beaten in the September Manchester derby, it was as if the belief began to drain from the souls of the players and manager from then on in.
Just two league wins have followed in the next seven games and United have made a right hash of the Europa League with two defeats in the group already.
Despite this I’m inclined to believe they’ll get something from the match on Saturday. Arsenal have fitness worries over Alexis Sanchez, Hector Bellerin is definitely out and of course Arsene Wenger has never got the better of Jose Mourinho in a competitive match.
You may dismiss the last point but if any side are weighed down by psychological trends and expectations it’s Arsenal. It’s why I could never back them to win the league.
The absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic on Saturday could be a blessing in disguise for Manchester United. The Swede has struggled for large parts this season and without him it might add more zip to the side.
Mourinho’s soft jibe at Wenger on Friday proves that defeat is simply not on his radar here. Avoiding a loss will be his main priority on Saturday and I’ll chance them on the Draw No Bet market at 16/19 with Marathon Bet.
Crystal Palace v Man City | Saturday 15:00
You just get the feeling the roof is beginning to cave in for Alan Pardew and Crystal Palace. You think you’ve had a shit 2016? Christ, it’s been worse for Eagles fans.
Basking in the Top 6 as 2015 drew it’s last breath, it’s all been downhill since then. European aspirations morphed into trying to stay alive in the top division and this season has been patchy to say the least.
Palace have accrued a points per game score of 0.73 in 2016. A figure worse than every other side in England’s top four division. This is no blip, this is a long sag.
Despite this long malaise, Crystal Palace stack up well in the goals scored column. With 16 notched only the Top 4 in the division boast better figures. Spurs, Everton and champions Leicester sit beneath them.
Palace have scored in eight of their last nine Premier League games and I’ll back them to oblige on Saturday as well at Selhurst Park.
Man City are quite the puzzle this season eh? They looked like they would have the league wrapped up by March after the first six weeks of the campaign but since then they’ve looked fragile.
It’s just two wins from their last nine fixtures in all competitions and they’ve surrendered matches to the likes of Middlesbrough, Celtic and even Manchester United.
I wouldn’t want to be plunging into Man City at 4/7 on Saturday after what we’ve witnessed in the last few weeks but at 15/8 for them to win and both teams to score their appeal grows noticeably.
Another slip up here will be damaging to their title cause and it’s worth noting they’ve won four of their five away Premier League matches this season. The Etihad remains a bowl of flatness. Like Fruit N’ Fibre.
The fact that City have leaked in nine of their 11 league matches this season simply adds more fuel to this 15/8 fire. I like it and I’m backing it.
Sunderland v Hull | Saturday 15:00
This was the match where my prices were most at odds with the, erm, odds of the bookmakers. I just can’t have Sunderland as short as 11/10!
Whilst I appreciate they’re playing Hull, the Black Cats are hardly in great shape themselves with just one win to their name this Premier League season.
Let’s talk about that win. It was a 2-1 victory at Bournemouth two weeks ago which may have kept David Moyes in his post. While Sunderland took all three points they were battered on the stats.
The Cherries took the lead and soaked up 70% of possession over the game. From 14 corners in the game the South Coast side had 12 of them and had 13 more shots than Sunderland.
So I’m not prepared to believe that this side have turned over a new leaf. I loved backing Sunderland last season but they just seemed to have much more steel than this 2016/17 outfit.
While Sam Allardyce was uncompromising, hard and steely, Moyes feels meek and battle weary. It pains me to say it but you just get the feeling the last three years have damaged the affable Scot.
As for Hull, they may be poor but for me they have much more fight and scope than Sunderland. This is a side that have beaten the champions, saw off Southampton and almost got a draw against Manchester United.
They’ll take a few hammerings this season and ultimately should go down but I’d back them in a brawl against the Black Cats. Another intriguing sub-plot is the fact that incoming Manchester United manager David Moyes got rid of then assistant manager Mike Phelan. Perhaps it would have been a wise to keep him there?
Who knows but Hull look far too big at 58/19 (over 3/1) with Marathon Bet. In the hunt for winners I’ll back them +0.5 (to avoid defeat) at 5/6.
Manchester United v Arsenal – Manchester United Draw No Bet (16/19 Marathon Bet)
Crystal Palace v Manchester City – Manchester City to win and both teams to score (15/8 Marathon Bet)
Sunderland v Hull – Hull +0.5 (5/6 Marathon Bet)