You can analyze trends and probabilities all you like. You can diagnose a match to within an inch of its life. But there are certain things you really can’t account for. Before shutting out an impotent Newcastle United on January 2, Manchester United hadn’t kept a clean sheet in the league in their prior seven matches. The Red Devils went to Wembley last weekend to take on Tottenham Hotspur. Goals aplenty, right? Yeah, no:
11 – David de Gea made 11 saves for Manchester United vs Tottenham Hotspur today; the most saves he’s made in a top-flight league match without conceding a goal. Unbeatable. #TOTMUN pic.twitter.com/r7xYnHzalv
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 13, 2019
World class players occasionally thwart the best of all laid plans. The blinder from de Gea cost me a winning week, but as usual, the best part about the past week is that it’s in the past. Looking for a rebound in Week 23, we’re going to ignore the early card and hone in on the weekend’s final three matches. Here come this week’s winners:
ARSENAL v. CHELSEA
— SuperSport 🏆 (@SuperSportTV) January 17, 2019
This time of year you start hearing a lot about “relegation six-pointers.” That’s when two clubs near the bottom of the table play each other; the winner gets the benefit of adding three points to their tally while depriving their fellow strugglers of a potential three points.
Neither Arsenal nor Chelsea is anywhere close to being relegated. But this match can fairly be called a “Champions League place six-pointer.” Chelsea is fourth in the table with 47 points, clutching onto the last Champions League place. Arsenal is tied with Manchester United on points for fifth (the Gunners have a slightly better goal difference) with 41 points.
Chelsea will naturally see this match as a chance to put Arsenal irretrievably behind. A Blues win would stretch their lead over Unai Emery’s men to nine points with nearly two-thirds of the season gone. Chelsea is on a nice run in league play, with five wins and a draw in their last seven. Meanwhile, Arsenal continue to waste time figuring out what to do with the expensive malcontent that Arsene Wenger stuck Emery with:
Unai Emery says he has not given thought to the possibility of Mesut Ozil leaving Arsenal and the midfielder could return against Chelsea.https://t.co/Q5c8Vr3Tc6
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) January 18, 2019
Arsenal is not favored at home for a reason. Two losses from three in league play, including the 5-1 humiliation at the hands of Liverpool, make the Gunners the wrong side of this tie. Take Chelsea to win at 5/4.
HUDDERSFIELD TOWN v. MANCHESTER CITY
Highest & lowest scorers in England this season, all comps:
1. MAN CITY 99 goals
2. Doncaster 71
3. Bury & Tottenham 70
90. Newcastle 22
91. Cardiff 20
92. HUDDERSFIELD 13
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) January 18, 2019
If there is one drawback to the Premier League, it’s the abundance of matches like this one. Second-place Manchester City, packed with talent and capable of scoring goals quite nearly at will, against 20th-place Huddersfield Town, which has scored 13 goals in 22 matches in the league and recently lost the manager who got them into the Premier League in the first place.
“Caretaker manager” is another of those phrases you start hearing as the season drags on and teams decide that they “need to go in a different direction.” It’s not that they need to go in a different direction…it’s that they’re going down and gravity only pulls one way.
City has no realistic hope of catching Liverpool if it can’t aggressively disembowel a crippled side like the Terriers. For that matter, City’s previously exceptional goal difference has been whittled down by Liverpool in the past few weeks — the Citizens’ goal difference is just two better than that of Jurgen Klopp’s men.
At least three goals have been scored in each of City’s last six league matches. That trend will continue this week, and we’ll take the higher goal total in light of the likelihood that this match could get out of hand quickly. Take City to win AND over 3.5 goals at 11/8.
TEAM NEWS: @ericdier (appendicitis) – returned to full training@HKane (ankle) – commenced rehabilitation@LucasMoura7 (knee) – commenced on-field rehabilitation@VictorWanyama (knee) – begun to reintegrate into training
Heung-Min Son – away with South Korea at Asian Cup pic.twitter.com/Nc5BH4poRM
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) January 18, 2019
FULHAM v. TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
David de Gea didn’t just stone Spurs last weekend — he may have broken their season. Look at that injury list for Spurs, then note that playmaker and scorer Heung-Min Son is lost not to injury but to patriotic obligation.
Fulham has been impressively stingy in recent weeks, with six of their last nine league matches featuring two goals or fewer. The Cottagers know Spurs are hurting and will almost certainly look to take the air out of the ball with the intent of edging a result. Fulham’s only way out of the bottom of the table is by taking points in opportune spots like this. A week ago, this match would probably have been a runaway win for Tottenham.
The loss of Harry Kane is a real problem for Spurs, though. Do you trust 33-year-old Fernando Llorente to replace what Kane brings? I don’t. Take Fulham to win OR draw at evens.
WEEK 22 RESULTS:
Cardiff City to win at Huddersfield Town at 5/4: LOSS
Manchester City to win AND over 2.5 goals against Wolverhampton Wanderers at 8/13: WIN
Tottenham Hotspur to win against Manchester United at 21/20: LOSS
LAST WEEK: -$138
SEASON TO DATE: -$1375