HUDDERSFIELD welcome fellow strugglers Fulham to the John Smith's Stadium for Monday Night Football. Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) previews the encounter, picking out his best bets.
Huddersfield v Fulham | Monday 4th November 2018, 20:00 | Sky Sports
Heading into this weekend’s Premier League action, the bottom-six in the top-flight were posting alarmingly few points. Cumulatively, the six strugglers had tabled a paltry tally of 30 – an average of five points each from a possible 30.
In contrast, the cumulative figure at this stage of the season in 2017 was 46, with 43 in 2016, 44 in 2015 and 50 in 2014 – that’s an average of 46 over the four previous years. The implication being, a lower points total might be enough to keep your Premier League status intact this term.
That’s good news for both Huddersfield and Fulham, who lock horns in Monday Night Football having managed a solitary success between them. With Newcastle ending their winless wait on Saturday, these two teams come into this clash occupying the bottom two positions in the Premier League.
Huddersfield (7/5 Betway)
Huddersfield heroically stayed up last season, thanks mainly to their excellent opening stanza. The Terriers triumphed just three times after Christmas and that malaise has yet to be lifted around the John Smith’s Stadium. Indeed, David Wagner’s troops have posted just W0-D3-L7 across their first 10 fixtures.
Before aiming both barrels at the hosts, it’s worth pointing out that Town have played seven top-half teams thus far, and so early accusations of Second Season Syndrome could be a touch premature. Arguably more accurate would be, Huddersfield are simply punching well above their weight to even be here.
The Terriers defended poorly in last weekend’s 3-0 loss at Watford and their struggles are compounded by their toothless attack. Town have notched just four goals – 15 players have scored more individually than the hosts who've now fired blanks on six occasions, meaning the home side have failed to score in 27 (56%) of their 48 Premier League matches since promotion.
Such struggles in 2018/19 should come as no surprise when viewing the performance data over Huddersfield’s opening 10 tussles. The West Yorkshire outfit are averaging just 5.20 attempts from inside the penalty area and conjuring up a league-low average of just 0.46 Expected Goals from open play.
At the John Smith’s Stadium, Wagner’s men have picked up a single point from a possible 15 (W0-D1-L4) and are yet to score this season – it's now 205 days since their last home goal. However, the hosts put Liverpool under plenty of pressure in their 1-0 reverse here, and if we exclude the Big Six, Town have collected W5-D6-L4 here since the start of last season.
Fulham (23/10 Bet365)
Despite spending north of £100m in the summer, Fulham’s W1-D2-L7 efforts – including four successive Premier League losses – have left the Cottagers marooned in the bottom-three, with whispers (publicly scotched by the owner, Shahid Khan) that Slavisa Jokanovic’s job is under threat.
Perhaps the most alarming aspect of the Londoners’ campaign is the sense of chaos around team selection, dubbed “Slav Bingo” by supporters. Jokanovic has used 22 players (including three goalkeepers and nine defenders), made 25 starting XI changes and used at least four formations. Such inconsistency is surely the main reason Fulham have failed to recreate last season’s swashbuckling style.
The Cottagers have yet to keep their sheets clean and have conceded 28 goals – equal to Barnsley (1997) and Southampton (2002) as the worst defensive record at this stage of a season. Should the capital club continue to give up goals at the current rate, they’ll conclude the campaign having shipped a record-breaking 106.
The visitors have collected four of their five points at Craven Cottage, although Fulham did earn a deserved point on a trip to Brighton. Trips to Spurs, Manchester City and Everton were always likely to be tough encounters, although the 4-2 reverse at Cardiff in their last road trip was beyond bad.
My gut feel was to oppose goals, and although evidence remains reasonably strong to support an Under 2.5 Goals play, the 5/6 (BetVictor) available just isn’t big enough to tempt me in.
Huddersfield haven’t scored more than a solitary strike in their past 20 Premier League matches – netting just seven. Meanwhile, the Terriers have delivered for Under 2.5 Goals backers in 16 (67%) of their 24 home games since promotion. Exclude the Big Six and that record enhances to 13/15 (87%).
But it’s hard to have confidence in a Fulham backline that’s leaked twice or more in nine of their 10 tussles at this level, with eight games breaking the Over 2.5 Goals barrier. Indeed, the Cottagers matches are producing 3.90 goals per-game as the guests have scored themselves in six encounters.
Both Teams To Score ‘No’ is available at 11/10 (BetVictor) and holds more appeal considering it’s banked in 17/24 (71%) of Town’s John Smith’s Stadium showdowns, as well as 11/15 (73%) against non-Big Six sides.
Play your cards right
With so much at stake – even at this early stage of the season – I’d be surprised if Monday’s meeting was a tame encounter. One the league’s leading whistleblowers, Anthony Taylor, has been given the officiating gig and that’s where we might be able to squeeze out a couple of value bets.
Taylor has overseen 10 Premier League contests this term, dishing out 37 cards. Include his three games from the Champions League and Nations League, and his average cards per-game increases to 3.92. But what’s piqued my interest is, his consistency for carding the home team.
In 11 of 13 matches in the middle, Taylor has booked the hosts at least twice, including in eight of 10 domestic duels. His Bookings Points average for home teams in that sample is 21.54, which remains at 21.00 when viewing Premier League outings only,
Huddersfield have been averaging 17.50 Bookings Points per-game, with only West Ham and Crystal Palace making more tackles. Sure, the Terriers are middle-ranking for fouls committed but there’s enough evidence to suggest they deliver 20+ Bookings Points (4/5 SkyBet) for the fourth time in six home matches.
If you’re new to Bookings Points, a yellow card earns 10 Bookings Points and a red card earns 25 Bookings Points. If a player receives two yellow cards and is consequently shown a red card, he receives a total of 35 Bookings Points.
Elsewhere, I’m having a nibble on Jonathan Hogg to be carded (4/1 Betfair), as well as Phillip Billing to be carded (7/2 Betfair). Both are significantly shorter elsewhere and are prime candidates to enter Taylor’s notebook.
Hogg was cautioned nine times in the Premier League last season – averaging a card every three games – has already seen red this term. The aggressive midfield operator gives away more fouls per-game (2.00) than any Huddersfield’s player.
Like Hogg, Billing is tasked with breaking up play in the middle of the park. He’s been booked every 2.86 league games over the past three campaigns – including on four occasions already in 2018/19. He also tops Town’s list of tackles, and is second on the list for fouls committed.