Premier League Picks Week 19 (Boxing Day Edition)
Photo credit: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY.
Completion of this midweek round of Premier League fixtures marks the halfway point of the league season. We have learned a few new things.
Arsenal is much improved with Unai Emery at the tiller. Manchester United finally realized what everyone seemed to know already, which was that Jose Mourinho’s time as a top-level manager has long passed. Chelsea likely won’t miss the Champions League places again.
We have also seen a number of developments that were entirely expected. Entering the season, it was widely considered a two-horse race for the league title between Manchester City and Liverpool. Hopefully you took them in a quinella, because Liverpool is a mildly surprising leader on Christmas morning. But it is not as though City has been bad — City has just not been unblemished, as Liverpool has. Wolverhampton Wanderers have been an impressive new addition to the league, presently tenth in the table after promotion.
At the foot of the table, there are no real surprises. Cardiff City and Fulham have done nothing to make anyone forget that they are basically Championship sides that rose to this level because, well, they promote three clubs every season because those are the rules. Southampton continues to flounder after selling all of their best players over the past four seasons. Huddersfield Town is still a local club trying to play at a national or regional level. The gulf between the very best and very worst clubs in this league defies all hope for parity.
In terms of this space, well, it’s been a disappointing first half. Bad beats and dubious selections have left the running tally deep in the red. Nowhere to go but up, though, and the crowded festive period means all the more opportunities to pull the nose up and fly right again. Here are your Boxing Day winners:
All about attack. https://t.co/pmDwIEPwu0
— Andy Mitten (@AndyMitten) December 24, 2018
MANCHESTER UNITED v. HUDDERSFIELD TOWN
Plenty of my picks have flopped, but last week when I said that United at 3/5 with a new manager against a terrible Cardiff City club was car payment-worthy, well, winning 4-1 means never having to say you’re sorry.
The new manager bounce has exactly one more week to play out, as Ole Gunnar Solskjær brings United to Old Trafford for a homecoming of sorts and, at least for another week, more “glory, glory Man United.” Huddersfield Town is exactly the sort of opponent that the new manager will want to see run out against his side in his first home match at the controls. Last week we weren’t particularly greedy, taking the boring and safe bet of a simple win.
Now is the time to get a little greedy. Huddersfield is atrocious and, most notably for this bet, has scored the fewest goals in the league through 18 matches, with 11 tallies all season. We don’t traffic in these exotics often, but this one looks too good to pass up. Take United to win both halves, to surpass 2.5 goals in the match and to keep a clean sheet at 3/1.
LEICESTER CITY v. MANCHESTER CITY
It took a number of factors to come together to make Crystal Palace winners at the Etihad last weekend, but perhaps none was more unexpected and frankly impressive than this one:
OH WHAT A GOAL! Andros Townsend take a bow! 🚀 pic.twitter.com/otLpb8dq8l
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) December 22, 2018
City had lost just two of 48 league matches at home under Pep Guardiola before Palace stole their lunch. Worse yet, City scored first in that match; City had not even drawn (much less lost) a match they led in league play this season.
So much of life is yin and yang. In grabbing United at 3/1, it makes sense to make a multi-layered, contingency-heavy bet at home against a relegation-threatened side. In this instance, the opposite approach makes the most sense. City has won 14 of 18 league matches. If they hadn’t just lost at home, these odds would be 1/6 or 1/5. But the book wants you to think City isn’t all that right now, that City is vulnerable…maybe you’ll grab the Foxes at home with attractive odds.
Don’t do it. City is down four points in the table and know full well that another failure to get anything but three points could doom their title hopes. Leicester has scored two goals in their last four league matches, and they can’t nearly hope to win this match. Take City to win at 4/11.
— Mesut Özil (@M10) December 22, 2018
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION v. ARSENAL
Here we have another instance where you have to trust your eyes. Except for the drab 1-0 victory that the Gunners posted at home against Huddersfield on December 8, in their past six league matches, Arsenal has won three times and scored at least twice in those wins. They also played a 2-2 draw with United in that span. Bottom line: Arsenal is in the goals now.
Brighton is a frisky side and can be counted on to score, with 20 goals through 18 matches played. Combine those factors and the play here is to take Arsenal to win and over 2.5 goals at 6/4.
Good luck, and above all, happy holidays and I wish you the best of all things during this season of joy.
West Ham to win over Watford at 5/4: LOSS
Manchester United to win at Cardiff City at 3/5: WIN
Manchester City to win AND over 3.5 goals over Crystal Palace at 21/20: LOSS
Newcastle to win over Fulham at evens: LOSS
LAST WEEK: -$240
SEASON TO DATE: -$1104