The first time something bad happens to you, it’s a fluke. The second time, it’s a shame. The third time…it’s a message.
Your humble and slowly-going-broke pal Paddy O’Dollars has come limping out of the blocks with three losing weeks in a row. This column may well hinge on the success of this week’s picks, so it’s time to post some wins and turn this streak around.
CHELSEA v. LIVERPOOL
Liverpool are on top of the table, the only club to win its first six Premier League matches this season. Chelsea are third, having dropped two points in a scoreless draw at West Ham last weekend. This is undoubtedly the marquee matchup of the weekend, made even more enticing by Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat of Liverpool at Anfield in League Cup play midweek.
The Reds will be motivated to exact revenge on Chelsea’s home ground, and they have had an awful lot of success at Stamford Bridge over the recent seasons. Chelsea has won just two league matches at home against Liverpool since the 2010/11 season. But one of those wins over Liverpool at the Bridge came last season.
Liverpool are in very select company with this perfect start through six league matches. It’s only been done four times in Premier League history — Newcastle (1994/1995), Manchester City (2016/2017) and Chelsea (2009/2010, 2005/2006). City rode that start to the league title last season, and Chelsea also won the league after their two 6-0-0 starts. It’s also notable that the only side to win its first seven Premier League matches was Chelsea in 2005/2006.
In the present day, Chelsea’s players probably don’t much care about things like keeping Liverpool from matching the Blues’ best-ever start to a league campaign. But they care plenty about not letting Liverpool get too far out ahead of them in the table. The key question to my mind is the health of Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk, who as of this writing is questionable to play. And even if he plays, it’s fair to wonder how effective he will be. Liverpool only became a reasonably competent defensive side after acquiring van Dijk. If he is not 100%, it is hard to imagine Liverpool winning this match. So the pick is Chelsea to win at 13/8.
ARSENAL v. WATFORD
The Gunners have been pretty good to me in the early going, if not overachieving than at least not underperforming as they sit sixth in the league table. The real overachievers here are Watford, who are fourth in the table off the back of a very hot start.
Here’s the thing, though: Watford’s only win of any distinction came at home over what has proven this season to be a typically uneven Tottenham Hotspur. Watford’s other victories came over sides in the bottom half of the table (Brighton and Hove Albion, Watford and Crystal Palace.) Watford also drew with recently promoted Fulham last week.
Neither of these teams does a very good job keeping a clean sheet. Both teams are scoring well over a goal per game, and eight of the 12 Premier League games involving either side this season featured at least three goals. So it looks like this will be an entertaining match, and Arsenal’s quality and the fact that they are home make them too tempting to pass up. Therefore, take Arsenal to win AND over 2.5 goals at evens.
WEST HAM UNITED v. MANCHESTER UNITED
All is not well at Manchester United, who crashed out of the League Cup this week to a Championship side on penalties to Derby County. Manager Jose Mourinho is once again at odds with midfielder Paul Pogba — the two had a tense exchange at training this week — and with United sitting outside the European places in seventh in the league table, the vultures are again circling over The Special One.
Meanwhile, after a disastrous start (four losses in four matches), Manuel Pellegrini has West Ham playing more coherent and competitive football. The Hammers are unbeaten in three straight in all competitions, including a fairly gratuitous rout of Macclesfield Town in the League Cup. West Ham will take far more confidence from their previous result, that aforementioned draw with Chelsea.
Four of the last five meetings between these two in London has ended up under 2.5 goals total. Mourinho’s name was made on his defensive tactics, and there is no reason to think he will risk very much away from home after the midweek loss to a lower-level side and the fairly turgid draw with Wolverhampton last week. This match feels like a draw, but there is no reason to get greedy and count on that outcome (which is listed at 13/5 if you like it.) The pick here is West Ham +1 at 21/20.
Best of luck to all of us this weekend.
LAST WEEK’S RESULTS
Manchester City to win against Cardiff City AND both teams to score at 2/1 — LOSS
Liverpool to win over Southampton AND over 2.5 goals at 4/6 — WIN
Manchester United to win against Wolverhampton at 3/5 — LOSS
TOTAL LAST WEEK: -$134
TOTAL TO DATE: -$331