Soccer Betting: A Speculative Guide to Investing in Everton F.C.
For the casual fan, the EPL season still feels brand new. Bettors, on the other hand, know that almost one-fifth of the year’s matches are already in the books, and we are entering a critical time for those seeking to end the campaign with a positive ROI. The sample size is still relatively small, but the betting markets have begun to react to what they’ve seen on the pitch. This is where we can look for value, those places where we might react against the reaction, and trust in regression and research to make some gains.
One of the preferred approaches is to find a club to invest in over a decent number of matches. At this stage in the season, there’s often an appeal in finding a team that has underperformed, one that you think will begin to right the ship. This obviously comes with its own risks, as you have to distance yourself from some of the performances you’ve seen. Despite their stuttering start to the season, Everton F.C. seems like a solid buy low opportunity. This isn’t to suggest it’s a safe play, but often times finding value runs directly against a desired conservative move. Let’s take a look at what has happened to Everton in the EPL so far, and why the club’s stock may soon be rising.
The Season so Far
When the Westgate Superbook released their season point totals for the 2019-2020 EPL season, Everton were listed at 52.5. This placed them tied for eighth with Leicester City in Westgate’s projected league table. While Leicester have raced out of the gates, claiming 14 points from their opening seven matches (putting them on a 76-point pace), Everton have limped to seven points. At that pace, the Blues would be fighting for their league status, not for the European qualification they had set as a goal to start the year.
So, what happened? To begin with, Everton spent a lot of money in the transfer market. Despite the early returns, it still seems like they spent well. Buying young prodigy Moise Kean from Juventus and ex-Arsenal winger Alex Iwobi should, in theory, provide needed attacking impetus. Indeed, a front four of Kean, Iwobi, Brazilian international Richarlison, and Icelandic talisman Gylfi Sigurdsson is as good a group of attackers anywhere outside of the top six. Unfortunately, the new additions did not officially join until August, leaving them very little time to gel with the first team. In fact, these four have yet to start a game together, and have barely been on the field at the same time. As that changes, there’s reason to believe the goals will come. It also appears that Everton are seriously missing engine room midfielder Idrissa Gueye, who joined French powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain this summer. Their apparent replacement, the Ivorian Jean-Philippe Gbamin was injured, and subsequent surgery means he will still be out for weeks to come. Their best passing midfielder, former Barcelona man Andre Gomes has been out for four weeks, but should return against West Ham. If the new weapons at his disposal are out there with him, Everton’s entire attacking system will start to make a lot more sense.
It’s hard to deny there’s a degree of speculation going on here. In truth, there’s not much to be optimistic about if you judge Everton solely by what they’ve produced so far. They’ve appeared uninspiring at best, and utterly disjointed at worst. So far, Everton has only managed to win twice in seven games, and both victories came at home. The first came against bottom club Watford F.C., a match in which Everton got an early goal and failed to create much more. In fact, they could only manage a total of two shots on goal against a side that has conceded a ridiculous 20 goals through their first seven EPL games. Other than that, there’s only a 3-2 win against Wolves. On the one hand, a win against a team around their level is a positive, but it’s important to remember, they were facing a Wolves side that had just begun their first foray into European competition in years. Only three days before their encounter, Wolves had to grind through a midweek fixture against Italian club Torino. Likely tired from their heavy early season slate, Wolves were surely not at their best. The most worrying match in this poor early season run came at home against newly-promoted Sheffield United. With a full week off, Everton simply had no answers, meekly falling to a 2-0 defeat. Their dominance of possession (65%-35%) yielded next to nothing in the way of quality chances, this time out only cobbling together three shots on goal.
Despite losing their last time out, they finally managed to put in a performance that could give some confidence that investing in Everton is still a reasonable idea. The 3-1 scoreline flattered defending champions Manchester City. In truth, a two-goal loss to City is hardly an embarrassment, and certainly not a cause of concern. Simply put, there were real signs that the results will come. As usual, City started the match on top, using their unparalleled quick passing game to stretch the Everton back line. The 24th minute opener, scored by City striker Gabriel Jesus exemplified the worrying lack of organization showed by the Everton defense far too often this season, with loose marking leading to an open header. However, the team responded well, leveling less than ten minutes later, with a well worked goal involving new signing Alex Iwobi. After that, the game was well-contested, and Everton could easily argue they deserved at least a point. Manchester City needed two goals in the final 20 minutes to secure the points.
The fact is that the foundation exists for Everton to climb the table. The center back pairing looked better against City, and full-backs Lucas Digne and Seamus Coleman are some of the best in English soccer. As the season goes on, Everton will surely begin to take more advantage of Digne and Sigurdsson’s phenomenal set piece ability. Particularly intriguing is the rising involvement of towering defender Yerry Mina, who caused the champions plenty of problems in the air throughout the game. And, when the combination of Richarlison, Iwobi, and Kean get more familiar with each other, they have all the makings of a top-level counter-attack.
Still, we must be honest about the bad news: we can’t blame the schedule. It’s unfortunate, as that’s usually the simplest place to look for a correction. A team projected to finish in a comfortable league position gets a tough fixture list to start off, and then proceed to move up the table once they run into a series of also-rans. That’s just not the case here. Of their first seven opponents, four find themselves in the bottom half of the table. They also tied Crystal Palace who currently sit ninth, and were soundly beaten 3-1 at seventh-place Bournemouth. There were plenty of points for the taking, and Everton failed to capitalize. But, here’s the good news: Amazingly, the schedule stays soft for the next six match days. On paper, the toughest fixture appears to be at home to Tottenham, but even that is perhaps not as daunting as it could be. Tottenham have been unimpressive away from home so far, with two ties and one defeat. Outside of that, Everton get Burnley, West Ham, Brighton, Southampton, and Norwich. At the beginning of the season, one may have expected them to be favored or even money in every one of these games. After such a disappointing start, Everton is listed at +155 away to Burnley next week, and are currently sitting at +105 for what should be a winnable home game against over-performing West Ham United.
Everton might not quite be desperate, but it’s reasonable to assume they will play the next slate of games with a degree of urgency. This next six matches will go a long way to defining their season. If they don’t round into form against these clubs, things could really fall apart. After they’re done with Norwich, they face a brutal gauntlet of matches (away to Leicester, away to Liverpool, at home against Chelsea, away to Manchester United, and at home to Arsenal). This might be the most difficult five game stretch that any EPL team faces all season. Both the players, and maligned (but quality) manager Marco Silva know that they have to come good, and they must do so soon. The combination of a favorable schedule, the market being down on them, and the overall context of Everton’s season, suggests that now might be the time to pick up some stock on the blue end of Merseyside.