Your humble tout grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory in Week 4, rolling a winning Saturday into a Sunday that took away all the profits and then some. Fortunately, the international break provided ol’ Paddy with the time to research some winners (and replenish the money clip) for Week 5.
Here Paddy’s picks in the Prem this weekend:
WATFORD v. MANCHESTER UNITED
It was United’s convincing 2-0 win over Burnley that sent my winnings back to the book two weeks ago; I predicted a draw, and Burnley did not cooperate. Call me stubborn, but I’m going right back to the same well in this match.
Jose Mourinho’s club is off to what amounts to a terrible start at United — two wins, two losses (one of them a hiding by Tottenham Hotspur.) Complicating things for Mourinho this week is the fact that many of his most crucial performers spent the past two weeks on international duty. Goalkeeper David de Gea, striker Romelu Lukaku, winger Marcus Rashford and all-everything midfielder Paul Pogba all made appearances in international play, while Watford had no player near the level of any of United’s stars exerting themselves in glorified friendlies.
Watford are out of the gates perfect in league play, and their record of four matches, four wins matches their longest Premier League winning streak in club history. Watford has a share of the league lead in early days and their supporters are dreaming of qualifying for European football next season. Unfortunately for the homestanding Hornets, their record against Manchester United over the years has been atrocious. Watford has only beaten United once in their last 13 tries, a 3-1 home win in 2016.
I anticipate a slow start followed by Watford scoring one (or perhaps two) first-half goals as United’s players struggle to maintain the pace set by the home side. But Mourinho will make the necessary adjustments at the half, Watford will play too conservatively trying to protect its lead, and United will do exactly the minimum needed to secure an away point. Take the draw at 12/5.
NEWCASTLE v. ARSENAL
Here’s another side that threw a wrench in my plans for a winning Week 4. Newcastle didn’t beat Manchester City, but they held City to two goals. Even scoring one themselves, Newcastle managed to bring the total under 3.5. Again, maybe I’m stubborn, but I’m doubting that Newcastle can come up with that sort of performance two matches in a row.
Newcastle beat Arsenal in this fixture last season, which ended a 10-match Prem losing streak against the Gunners. Arsenal have beaten Newcastle 26 times in league play; only Everton and West Ham United have claimed more victories against the Magpies in Premier League history. History hasn’t been kind to Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez as far as Arsenal is concerned, either: Benitez has lost to Arsenal sides six times in his managerial career.
Arsenal has been as uneven as the aforementioned Manchester United thus far this season, with the same 2-0-2 record and in Arsenal’s case a goal difference of zero. This pick is less an endorsement of Arsenal as it is an indictment of Newcastle, who simply aren’t talented enough to keep Arsenal from playing the attractive style of football the Gunners favor. Take Arsenal to win at 5/6.
MANCHESTER CITY v. FULHAM
As mentioned earlier, City didn’t score often enough to line my pockets in their last match. You aren’t going to believe this, but stubbornness is the week’s theme: I think City will show much more this week at home against the Cottagers. But they are such prohibitive favorites against Fulham that, again, we need to make a combination wager just to get decent value.
City’s record at home in the Premier League under manager Pep Guardiola is fairly intimidating for visiting clubs — City have lost just twice in 40 tries at the Etihad in league play with Guardiola at the helm. Fulham’s matches in their four tries since being promoted to the Premier League this season have been action-packed, with 16 total goals being scored in those four outings. They try to score, and they’re willing to expose themselves at the back in the process. Against the likes of Brighton & Hove Albion and Burnley, that might work. Against City at the Etihad, it’s a death wish.
We are also going to take into account that Guardiola has not lost to a newly-promoted side in any league since 2011, when Real Sociedad beat his Barcelona side in La Liga play. Add it all up, and City are a virtual lock not only to win this match, but to do so in style. Take City to win AND over 3.5 goals in the match at 3/4.
Good luck this week!
LAST WEEK’S RESULTS
$100 to win $40 on Liverpool v. Leicester City: WIN
$100 to win $180 on Wolverhampton v. West Ham United: WIN
$100 to win $105 on over 3.5 goals in Manchester City v. Newcastle United: LOSS
$100 to win $160 on a draw between Burnley and Manchester United: LOSS
$100 to win $60 on Tottenham Hotspur v. Watford: LOSS
TOTAL TO DATE: -$80