Manchester United vs Brighton Hove & Albion
Erik ten Hag’s first game as United’s manager comes at Old Trafford, as they welcome the Seagulls from Brighton. To put it nicely, the Red Devils had a poor campaign for their standards in 2021-2022. They came in at 9th in NPxGD, which is a little mind boggling. This is a side with a massive wage bill and a storied history. They should be a lock for top 6 and even top 4. They snuck into 6th, but shouldn’t have. Now, I would probably throw this data out for the most part, as ten Hag comes in as a huge upgrade at the helm. I do think the transfer window wasn’t super impressive, and if they get into a UCL spot, it will be on the shoulders of the new manager. Long-term I am buying him, but I’m not sure about his first season. The locker room still seems in turmoil, and this is a big step up from the Eredivisie. The side still has loads of talent, but needs work to be a balanced XI. Midfield needs to be addressed, and he knows this. That is why he wants Frenkie De Jong so badly. I also don’t love the defense. Lisandro Martinez was brought in from Ajax, but again, it’s a big step up for him in class. The attack is potent, which is where they will make their bread. I have United as 6th in the league this season, but it could include peaks and troughs as the new manager implements his new system with some bad attitudes in the locker room.
Brighton are one of the sides I am bullish on again this season. This is your analytics darling in the Premier League. Has been the last 2 seasons, and I expect that to continue. The Seagulls are likely the 10th-11th best team in England. Safely in the mid-table, but pretty far off the European places. Brighton finished 9th in the table last season and 10th in NPxGD, right below their opponents come Sunday. And honestly, that is about right. They are run by a very intelligent manager in Graham Potter. Tactically speaking, he is one of the brightest young mangers around the globe. I expect him to move to bigger and better, but until he does, I will continue to bet on Brighton. They did lose two class players in Yves Bissouma and Marc Cucurella, and have yet to bring in anyone notable. They have loaned Levi Colwill, but he’s young and an unknown. The window isn’t closed, so we’ll see if they bring anyone in. With that said, I think Potter’s system is what makes them 10th, and they should be able to cope. I rate these teams closer than the market does, so I will be on Brighton +1 come Sunday.
Leicester City vs Brentford
The Foxes begin their 2022-2023 campaign at the King Power Stadium taking on the Bees. Leicester had a down year last season, finishing 8th on 52 points. They actually outperformed their metrics, where they came up as 12th in NPxGD. A large part of this had to do with injuries. When you are a club like Leicester, it’s just difficult to sustain that with the limited squad depth they possess. Vardy being out hurt their attack somewhat, but were still pretty solid at 9th in NPxGD. The real issue was defensively, where they came in 15th in NPxGA. For me, a huge part of this was when Wesley Fofana and Jonny Evans were injured. I rate both of them pretty highly, and their backups were just really poor. The concern for this season is that multiple of their quality players are on the block, and they are the only EPL squad to bring in no one in the transfer market. I still think Tielemans probably goes, but it sounds like Maddison and Fofana aren’t for sale, which would be huge. Losing goalkeeper and captain Kasper Schmeicel is also a pretty big loss. The attack will be good again, but the main question is can they improve at the back this season. Fofana could be a game changer in that regard.
Brentford were one of the promoted sides from last season, and the only ones that had a really impressive campaign. The Bees finished 13th on 46 points, but were 7th in NPxGD. So theoretically, they underperformed their numbers pretty drastically. The question for this season is can they do that again? It is sustainable? They lost Christian Eriksen to Man United, who was great for Brentford last season. On the flip side, they haven’t brought anyone in of confidence. The other narrative is it is more difficult if you stay up in your 2nd season then your 1st for promoted sides. See Sheffield United from recent history. I think Brentford stay up, but I do get a little worried they didn’t improve the squad at all. I would think 13th-15th would make sense for them. The play here for me is goals. I like Brentford’s attack enough and I really like Leicester’s attack, especially at home. With Kasper not in goal, I still need evidence that the Foxes can keep clean sheets. So BTTS and over 2.5 is good value for me.
West Ham United vs Manchester City
This is probably my favorite game of the weekend. Tons of attacking talent on both sides of the ball in this one. The Hammers are at home, and are led by David Moyes, who is an above average manager in this league. Transfers wise they didn’t lose anyone of confidence, and added some nice pieces for depth in Gianluca Scamacca and Maxwell Cornet. They have been steady in the top 8 the last few seasons, and I’m not sure why that should change now. Cornet is a speedy and athletic fullback, and Scamacca is a 6’5 physical Italian striker that should be a nice additional weapon to pare with Michail Antonio in attack. They finished 7th in the table on 56 points and were 8th in NPxGD. That’s honestly right where they belong, as the 1st or 2nd best team outside of the big 6. I love playing them as a dog against the bigger sides, and should be game for City at home.
What can I really say about Man City. On paper, they should probably win everything this season. Bringing in Erling Haaland is the transfer of the summer, and add in Kalvin Phillips and Julian Alvarez to that as well. They did lose Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling, and Oleksandr Zinchenko as well, so it’s a bit of a lot of turnover for the defending champions. I do worry a touch about their depth in midfield, but that really is the only concern for them. They also are now more reliant on Jack Graelish, who had an inmpressive 1st season on the wing. No Sterling and Jesus makes them a bit more thin on the wing, but we shall see. They won the league and clobbered everyone on NPxGD, with +62.0. If you watched the community shield vs Liverpool, it did seem like the Cityzens were in preseason form. With the addition of Haaland, this attack could take a few weeks to gel, and that is what I am betting on here. City still getting their footing, on the road, against a quality side in West Ham. Give me the home side at +1.5.
Brighton +1 -128
Leicester City / Brentford BTTS Yes / Over 2.5 Parlay -103
West Ham +1.5 -116
All Plays 1.5 Units
Image Credit: Alex Pantling/Getty