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Previewing the English Premier League’s New Year’s Day Betting Card

Soccer

The end of the busy festive period of English Premier League soccer reaches its zenith on New Year’s Day with a huge nine-day card that runs from early in the morning through to the late afternoon. Each of the eighteen teams involved will be playing their third game in seven days. Handicapping these games in advance can be tricky, as relying on consistent lineups is not possible. Managers are often keen to rotate through players during this hectic part of the schedule. So, any analysis presented here should be taken with a bit of caution, and it is more critical than ever to wait to see the lineup that each team puts forward for these matchups before pulling the trigger. Let’s take a look at a few of the games that jump out on this marathon day of EPL action. 

Chelsea at Brighton Hove Albion (Over 2.5 -135) 

While Chelsea are short favorites in this one, at -105, the real value may be found in a goal total bet. Currently, the over-under is listed at 2.5, with significant juice at -135. Despite the high price, this could be a solid play to start the day. After scoring only 35 goals all of last season, new manager Graham Potter has revitalized the Brighton attack, and the team has netted 24 times in 20 games. Over the last seven games, Brighton has scored at least once six times. Importantly, Brighton has consistently found the back of the net against the quality opposition it has faced during this span. Brighton has scored goals against Liverpool, Arsenal, Wolves, and Tottenham. Against Arsenal and Wolves, the team managed to score twice. A tough game against fourth-placed Chelsea may make a positive result unlikely, but Brighton should be able to grab at least one goal. Defensively, Brighton has only put up one shutout in those seven games, and that came at home against struggling Bournemouth. 

Chelsea, meanwhile, has scored in five of its last seven games, and has put away two goals in four of those matches. Also, Chelsea scored two goals in the previous meeting between these two teams, which the Blues won 2-0. The Chelsea defense has conceded nine goals over the last seven, and has only recorded one shutout in that span. Both teams are in solid scoring form, and if Brighton can score, Chelsea will surely open up and play much more attacking, as it badly needs points to keep its tenuous hold on the EPL’s last Champions League qualifying spot. 

Bournemouth at West Ham (West Ham -105) 

The biggest news to come out of the holiday period was the firing of West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini. The team had lost four of five games, and managed only one win in its last 14. The Hammers currently sit only one point above the relegation zone. This is far worse than the expectations given to a club that had invested heavily, particularly in the forward positions. The fact that Pellegrini’s charges had only managed 21 goals in 19 games was no doubt a big reason the club decided to move on. In his place, steps former Everton and Manchester United manager David Moyes. Moyes’ reputation has plummeted in recent years, beginning with his disastrous tenure at Manchester United, but this is a spot he is very familiar with. Moyes has managed West Ham before in a very similar situation. He took over in 2017 with the team sitting in the relegation zone. Although it wasn’t pretty, Moyes helped West Ham retain Premier League status, with two games remaining. He will look to repeat the act this time around and, if he’s successful, he will likely be the boss next season as well. 

Moyes could hardly ask for a better way to start his reign as West Ham boss. He faces a Bournemouth team that is falling quickly into real danger. The smallest club in the EPL, Bournemouth has one win in its last nine, and has lost seven of those matches. A quality road win against Chelsea now feels like a serious outlier. Bournemouth has lost five of seven on the road, and only managed a 0-0 draw with bottom club Watford. This is a team that has long punched above its weight, and this season there’s just none of the Bournemouth magic that had served it so well during its surprising stay in the Premier League. Even though this is a relegation battle, West Ham will surely sense more urgency. Players who have disappointed, such as new signing Sebastian Haller, will be desperate to make a good impression on Moyes. The home crowd will sense a chance for the team to be revitalized, and should be fully behind the team in this one. The team’s played to a 2-2 draw in their first meeting, but West Ham should be able to do one better this time around. 

Manchester United at Arsenal (Manchester United PK -120) 

On paper, this is the biggest game of the week. However, it feels more like a testament to how far these clubs have fallen than anything else. Playing the marquee game on this big day of EPL soccer only brings into focus that times have most certainly changed. These two clubs were arguably the biggest rivals of the Premier League era, and the battles between Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger remain among definitive ones in the history of English soccer. Since the two famous managers left, both teams have mightily struggled to contend. The idea of this game being contested by the 5th and 12th place teams in the standings would have been unfathomable a few years ago, but now it feels just about right. However, for as bad as things have been for Manchester United under Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the club at least seems to have something to hold onto, a sense that things might finally be getting a little better. Arsenal, well, they feel lost. 

New Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has been at the helm for the last two games, but got precisely zero regime change bounce. He started off with a disappointing 1-1 tie against Bournemouth, and then on Sunday, oversaw the sort of game that has come to define Arsenal in recent times. The team largely controlled the match at home against Chelsea, going in front in the 13th minute. Arteta looked to have got it exactly right, and the tactical situation for Chelsea was so dire, that manager Frank Lampard made a substitution a mere 34 minutes into the game. However, as they tend to do, Arsenal found a way to lose. Two soft goals in the last seven minutes of the game turned the whole thing around, and Arsenal failed to win for the 13th time in 14 games.  

For all its flaws and limitations while dominating possession, Manchester United does tend to fare well in games where the opposing team tries to attack them. The Reds beat both Tottenham and Manchester City in early December and are the only team to get a point against Liverpool, when they tied 1-1 in a game they likely deserved to win. Arsenal simply knows no other way to play, and United will allow them to set up shop in the attacking half. But, Manchester United’s devastatingly fast counter-attack, highlighted by Marcus Rashford, Daniel James, and the in-form Anthony Martial should find plenty of quality scoring opportunities given how the tactics are likely to play out.