Is under-fire Liverpool keeper Loris Karius better than David de Gea? And 6/1 about Jermain Defoe and Sunderland looks value.
A look ahead to the Premier League action in Weekend Watch…
Manchester United and Spurs have lost just four times between in the Premier League this season and, as expected, both sit in the top six with 14 games gone. But rather than first and second – something that would have been within the realms of possibility at the start of the campaign – the duo are fifth and sixth. And the problem is they’re expected to stay there.
The latest betting for a ‘top four’ finish (Chelsea 1/20, Man City 1/7, Liverpool 2/9, Arsenal 1/4) suggests the current top four have already been pencilled in for Champions League spots while United and Spurs are all set for another season of Thursday nights in the Europa League. Fair? On current form it is.
Jose Mourinho’s men have won just one of their last eight Premier League games (at basement dwellers Swansea), drawing six of the others, while Spurs have drawn four and lost one of their last seven in the top flight. Both sides are desperate for three points on Sunday and yet the problem is that, on current form, this match appears to have ‘draw’ written all over it.
Is either side strong enough to brush the other aside? Or are we in for an unsatisfactory stalemate that will frustrate both sets of fans further?
Sanchez the difference maker
Everything appears just as it always is in the world of Arsenal this season. An early wobble (4-3 home loss to Liverpool) enrages the ‘Wenger must go’ brigade and then the Gunners go on a run which thrusts them back towards the Premier League summit and re-opens the debate about whether this could be their year.
Many Arsenal fans will fold their arms defensively and say “seen it all before mate”, citing the evidence of the now countless campaigns in which Arsene Wenger’s team have put themselves in position to win the title and come up short. But, in Alexis Sanchez, do they finally have a difference maker?
A player so determined and gifted that he’ll drag them over the line in a way that the likes of previous talented but fragile Arsenal forwards never could. His hat-trick against West Ham last week was sublime and he’s starting to resemble a 2013/14 Luis Suarez but with a better supporting cast.
If Sanchez stays in this form – a home game against Stoke on Saturday is his next chance to shine – does Arsenal’s 13-year wait for the Premier League title finally end?
Carry on Karius
Earlier this week, Opta released a chart showing how the Premier League’s goalkeepers should be ranked according to the shots attempted against them. Using angle, distance and other factors, Opta awarded every effort on goal this season a rating from 0 to 1.00.
A 0.5 ranking suggested it should result in a goal 50% of the time. The top stopper, according to these numbers, is Burnley’s Tom Heaton.
The stats say he should have conceded 24 goals but he’s only let in 19 so his final ‘goals prevented’ tally is +5. By contrast, Hull’s David Marshall is ranked bottom with -7.
At a guess, given his late mistake against Bournemouth and general negative reviews, you’d expect Liverpool’s young goalie Lorius Karius to be somewhere near the foot of that table but, in reality, he’s doing okay.
In fact, he has a positive rating with Opta saying he should have conceded 10.26 goals when he’s actually let in only 10. Keep scrolling and you’ll find Manchester United’s David Gea nine places below Karius with a rating of -1.08.
Clearly, only a madman would say Karius is the better No.1 at this stage in his career but is the Liverpool goalkeeper actually justifying his place? Or, if he slips up again versus West Ham at Anfield on Saturday, will Jurgen Klopp decide it’s best to pull him out of the firing line?
Yes, they’d already qualified for the Champions League knockout phase and hats off to them for doing so with a game to spare, but getting a 5-0 thumping against Porto in midweek can hardly have helped Leicester’s fragile confidence.
A loss like that – the biggest margin of defeat ever by an English side in Europe’s top competition – reinforces the belief that anything less than full concentration or commitment makes the Foxes easy prey for rival teams. In all comps, Claudio Ranieri’s men have now won just one of their last eight matches, losing four of those.
The picture looks brighter when assessing their home form or at least it did. In the last two Premier League matches at the King Power, Leicester have lost 2-1 to West Brom and rescued a 2-2 draw with a last-minute penalty against Middlesbrough.
One Foxes fan on a phone-in last Sunday was so befuddled that he suggested Iain Dowie should be appointed as the new manager. It’s clearly an upsetting and confusing time after last year’s incredible title win and it could take another turn for the worse this Saturday when Manchester City visit.
Leicester are 9/1 for relegation. Any takers?
Defoe no friend of Swans – cash in!
After hauling themselves off the bottom of the table with three wins in the last four Premier League matches, Sunderland and David Moyes are all smiles again. Contrast that to Swansea where new American boss Bob Bradley had to endure his worst ass-whooping yet when the Welsh side were spanked 5-0 at Tottenham last weekend.
This match already looks loaded in Sunderland’s favour but how about these two stats. Moyes has won five matches out of six when taking charge of teams against Swansea while Jermain Defore has scored five times in his three matches against the Swans, including a hat-trick the last time the sides met in May.
Defoe has scored 14 goals in his last 22 matches away from home in the Premier League and must be licking his lips at the prospect of taking on a Swansea side which has shipped 19 goals since Bradley came in.
If you have one bet this weekend, make it Defoe to score in a Sunderland win at a massive 6/1 with William Hill.