WLB Season Preview 2020/21 | Premier League: Specials
Southampton to win Without The Top-Six (10/1 SkyBet)
The 2020/21 Premier League season promises to be one of the most hotly contested of recent times. The top-four have now turned into the Big Six and there will be a whole host of teams wanting to break that oligopoly, one of those being Southampton.
I was keen on the Saints last season, mainly due to the man in the dugout, Ralph Hassenhuttl. The former Ingolstadt and RB Leipzig manager has always impressed me with his high-pressing football and focus on taking the game to the opposition. He’s had a couple of years on the south coast now and it looked like the team have really bought into his philosophy, especially in the second half of last season.
Danny Ings was a constant threat and bagged himself 22 goals, just one behind the league's top scorer Jamie Vardy. Che Adams showed promise at the end of the campaign too and is only going to improve under the German coach.
I really like Nathan Redmond and Stuart Armstrong who play almost as inverted wingers in their 4-2-2-2 formation, the pair love to get shots off. James Ward-Prowse has a wand of a right foot and is without doubt one of the best set-piece takers in the league.
Pierre Hojberg has left, which is a blow, and they do need an extra body in the middle of the park but they have brought in Mohammed Salisu from Real Valladolid who is a defender with plenty of promise and will provide competition to the likes of Jack Stephens and Jan Bednarek.
It’s a settled squad, who know their roles individually and collectively, and they showed resolve to bounce back from a poor start last term. If you take the table in 2020 alone then Southampton would’ve been sixth, which shows just how much they improved as the campaign progressed. Saints also impressed on the data, ranking as the eighth best team on Expected Goals (xG) ratio as well as sixth for shots taken.
Teams hate playing Southampton and their incessant pressing leads to turnovers high up the pitch and therefore greater quality of goalscoring chances. SkyBet have the Without The Top-Six market available and the Saints are chalked up as 10/1 shots which does make a decent degree of appeal.
Wolves, Leicester, Everton and possibly Leeds will also be well fancied but given the price, double-figures for the south coast club is the pick.
Crystal Palace to be the Lowest Scoring Team (15/2 SkyBet)
Only rock-bottom Norwich scored fewer goals than Crystal Palace last season. The top end of the pitch was a real problem for the Eagles who were reliant on their sturdy and experienced backline to keep the relegation zone at arms length.
I expected Palace to go out and get a goalscorer but that has not being the case as of yet, however they have brought in the supremely talented Ebere Eze to Selhurst Park to add class and creativity to a side that was badly lacking such attributes last season. If teams focus on man marking Eze and mercurial winger Wilfred Zaha then there’s little else they offer in forward areas.
I actually think last season was a slightly disappointing one from key man Zaha; he’s not getting any younger coming up to 28 and in terms of goal involvements he managed just three goals and four assists. It’s true he offers them alternative threats with his pace and trickery drawing fouls and getting Palace up the pitch from their deep block but those numbers are surprisingly underwhelming for a player with such quality.
The London club managed just 31 goals in 38 games in 2019/20 – that’s five fewer than the next worse team which was Watford. Hodgson is naturally a defensive-minded coach who likes to work on shape and keeping the goals out at the other end, and making games won or lost only on small margins.
Palace were one of only two sides to average fewer than 10 shots per-game and if they carry on in the same manner it could prove unsustainable – their Premier League place could be under serious threat. Quotes of 15/2 (SkyBet) on the Eagles being the Lowest Scoring Team look a good thing, especially with the majority of firms going 4/1 for the same selection.