Saturday 29th November
12.45 West Bromwich Albion v Arsenal
Seeing as this column was proven spectacularly wrong in all its predictions last time out, this week we will adopt an approach not unlike that of the EU and Angela Merkel in relation to economic matters – calculated, cautious and cowardly. We want sure-fire winners, enticing odds be damned. After all, the bookies can’t be too far wrong when offering a short price on the team everyone knows to be favourite so let’s work under the assumption they’re right and want you to win money. First up in this new order sees West Bromwich Albion host Arsenal, the team of constant sorrow. Mid-week win over B. Dortmund aside, the Gunners are firmly stuck in their annual hamster wheel of mounting injuries and comically predictable crises. One can now add Mikel Arteta and Jack ‘angry hamster’ Wilshere to the list of long-term injuries.
But seriously, is it worth spending any time at all covering the multitude of problems at Arsenal when it has literally all been said before? Instead, let’s consider the Baggies – since their win over Burnley in September, it’s been pretty grim for them in the EPL. A record of 1W 2D 3L does not fill one with hope and news of star striker Berahino’s run-in with the law during the week can hardly do much for morale. So, both teams are playing very poorly but the bookies call Arsenal as favourites therefore so shall we. Boylesports are offering 20/23 for a Gunners win.
15.00 Liverpool v Stoke City
The strategy for this week is going to be sorely tested regarding the outcome of this match. Liverpool are favourites and so, we hold, should win. But as anyone who has watched Liverpool this season will tell you, don’t ever expect them to win that which you expect they should win. Which is to say, presently, they are awful. Sitting 4 points above the relegation zone, Liverpool simply have to win this match to retain any relevance in their pursuit of a top 4 finish but such is the lack of zip, confidence and base competency in the team that calamitous collapse seems the default setting at the moment. Stoke, meanwhile, continue to baffle.
They generously welcomed table-proppers Burnley to the Britannia last week and saw them to the door with three points for their take-away doggy bag, the week before they beat Spurs at White Hart Lane. Stoke are grooving on a weirdly structured system of results which reads – DWLDWLWLDWL. Divide this into sets of 3 and it seems to suggest a draw is the most likely outcome here; those of you of the statistical kind who fancy that as an outcome will be doing cartwheels at the offer of 3/1 from Betvictor. However, this column will stick fast to the plan and draw attention to the 8/11 from Totesport for the Liverpool win.
17.30 Sunderland v Chelsea
Alright, this is the ultimate banker. There can exist only the most slender sliver of circumstances that would allow for anything other than an away win for Chelsea. It’s a largely pointless affair to outline the results and form of Mourinho’s men this season but suffice it to say, they are head and shoulders above all other teams in England and can be considered genuine contenders for the Champion’s League title next June. Chelsea seem to be playing without any deficiencies of style and nerve and it would be an upset if any team in England were to beat them, let alone serial splutterers Sunderland.
In fairness to them, they are 1W 2D from their last three games – better than anything Liverpool or Arsenal can claim. However, Gus Poyet’s men are those responsible for shipping eight goals against Southampton earlier this season and with Chelsea helping themselves to 30 goals in the EPL so far, it’s entirely likely they’ll put a few more past a game but limited Sunderland. The longest price for the heavy favourites is 2/5 from Betfred amongst others. Lacking a house, this column would put its tent on the Chelsea win but they have yet to reverse the 3D printing process so the shekles will have to do.