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English Premier League Betting Tips: Play/Fade Edition

Soccer

Now that we are over a quarter of the way through the English Premier League season, we’ve got a decent sample size from which bettors can build on. While we must be careful to overestimate what we’ve seen on the field so far, we’re at a stage of the season where the markets are reacting as well. Thus, we should be able to find some spots where there have been over-corrections. Let’s take a look at two teams who have struggled to begin the year, and why one has emerged as a play on candidate, while the other one looks fit to fade. 

As luck would have it, these two EPL clubs actually meet on the next match day. Next Saturday, Manchester United (+124) travel down to the south coast to take on perennial Premier League overachievers AFC Bournemouth (+232). The total is listed at 2.5 goals (-124 on the over). Let’s start with Manchester United. In the spirit of full disclosure, I began the year fairly bullish on the Reds. I argued that the preseason point total future of 67. 5 was well within reach. United promptly went out and gained a paltry 13 points from their first ten matches. Thstart was so bad that it’s almost destroyed that possibility already. Manchester United would have to win over two points per match in the remaining 28 fixtures in order to get over the line. That said, United may be turning a corner.  

After the international break, they faced league leaders Liverpool and fought to a credible 1-1 draw. In fact, United had scored the opening goal and looked like value for the win, until a defensive lapse with minutes remaining pegged them back. There were plenty of positives to take from holding their own against last season’s Champions League winners. Young attackers Daniel James and Andreas Pereira showed further signs of settling in. They provided decent opportunities for fellow youngster Marcus Rashford, and it’s becoming clear that the makings of an effective counterattack are there. The United backline was reasonably impressive as well, facing one of the league’s two best attacking forces. They frustrated Liverpool for the first 80 minutes and there’s reason to believe this defense will be one of the league’s best at season’s end. United followed up that performance with their best effort since a 4-0 demolition of Chelsea on opening day. They were rampant against league newcomers Norwich City, particularly in the first half. They won the match 3-1, but also missed two penalties, and Norwich goalkeeper Tim Krul made a series of fantastic saves. The 21 shots, with 11 on target were high marks for Manchester United this year. United could have scored six or seven. 

There has been plenty of gloom around Manchester United this season, and with good reason. They’re off to their worst ever Premier League start and sit a startling 15 points back of Liverpool. The club is simply not where it should be and everyone knows it. However, from that public sentiment, value may emerge. A look at some advanced stats shows us that United are poised to improve in the coming weeks. They have scored only 13 goals this season, but their expected goals figure sits at 20.05. This is the 2nd largest discrepancy in the EPL. They’ve conceded 10 goals (good for fifth in the league), but their expected goals against comes in at 8.1. This is the 6th-largest gap league-wide. They have a total of 13 points, but their expected points total is 17.44, the 4th biggest disparity in the EPL. An improvement in results seems imminent. 

United have also suffered from a large number of injuries to key players. This, in combination with the short-sighted decision to let veterans Ander Herrera, Romelu Lukaku, and Alexis Sanchez leave the club this summer, has seriously hurt United’s start. Arguably United’s only world-class player, Paul Pogba, has missed fully half of their Premier League games. Striker Anthony Martial has just returned from weeks on the sideline. Luke Shaw remains hurt, but should be back soon. Pogba is out until December, but the squad is still beginning to strengthen. Martial is a particularly important addition, as he seems to have developed great chemistry with fellow striker Marcus RashfordIn the win against Norwich City, the two showed glimpses of their substantial potential as a partnership. 

Finally, we are likely to see a focused and motivated Manchester United. The upcoming schedule is one of the least difficult five-game runs they have remaining this season. Away matches to Bournemouth and Sheffield United, and home fixtures against Brighton, Aston Villa, and struggling Tottenham, present a major opportunity for United to climb the table. With plus money available for United to beat Bournemouth on Saturday, it’s plain to see that the market and the books are down on Manchester United, and there may be a brief window upon which to capitalize. If it’s going to happen for them, it’s going to happen now. 

While Manchester United and AFC Bournemouth are level on points in the league table, it looks like the two clubs are going in opposing directions. Bournemouth have failed to score in three straight EPL matches. This is even more concerning when you factor in that the last two scoreless outings came against Norwich City and Watford, who rank 18th and 19th in goals against, respectively. 13 points from 10 matches is a half-decent haul for a team of Bournemouth’s stature, but the fact is that the schedule was markedly soft, and begins to get much more difficult over the next nine match days. Home encounters against Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Wolves, and Burnley are a significant problem. Chelsea, Newcastle, Crystal Palace, and Tottenham will not be easy road games. This is a perilous stretch in Bournemouth’s season. 

The advanced numbers are not great for Bournemouth. They’ve over-performed in both goals and points, and have conceded fewer goals than expected. Bournemouth is the smallest club in the EPL, and their squad depth is thin at the best of times. Injuries to key contributors David Brooks, Junior Stanislas, Dan Gosling, and Charlie Daniels have impacted the team’s energy levels and continuity. Again, they’ve been able to tread water thanks to their unquestionably strong chemistry and the work of quality manager Eddie Howe, but questions are really starting to be asked of this upstart group. This is a bad time for this team to face Manchester United, who finally look to be on the upswing. If this upcoming run begins with a home defeat on Saturday, it could be the start of a bad run of form that forces the club to accept that they may be fighting off relegation for the first time since 2015-16, when they had just arrived in the English top flight for the first time in club history.