Tottenham vs Wolverhampton Wanderers
Spurs face off against against Wolves at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium early Saturday morning, in what is usually a competitive matchup. Spurs have had a successful start to their top 4 campaign, with one win and one draw. There are sky high expectations for Antonio Conte to deliver, with all of the money Spurs have put into this squad. Conte can’t complain they haven’t backed him, so it’s top 4 or bust for them. The 4-1 win over Southampton was a tad fortunate, with xG of 1.6-0.4. The win was never in doubt, but the score-line is misleading. Southampton’s defense is very lackluster, so I was particularly interested in how they faired at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea won on xG, but narrowly (1.8-1.6). Included in this data however is the fact that Anthony Taylor royally screwed up two, if not three critical calls. All three went Spurs way. If they hadn’t, this xG would like different. The Blues were the better side, and Spurs got massively lucky to come away with a point. It will be interesting to see how they fair with more of a middle of the road opponent vs the top and bottom-end. Wolves will be tougher to break down than Southampton were, but won’t have the ball control that Chelsea had. It will come down to breaking down their defense in tight spaces.
Wolves had a pretty lucky season last year, primarily on the defensive end. They conceded 43 goals but had 50.9 NPxGA, which is a pretty large gap. A lot had to do with the outperformance of Jose Sa, most of which is not sustainable. You combine that with the 18th ranked NPxG from last season, and I think this team could be a bad team this season. 3rd last in the Prem in NPxG would probably surprise some folks. And on the rare occasion they do get service in the box, now they don’t even have Raul Jimenez to get on the end of balls. They have talented wingers who can score on their day, but this attack could struggle across the length of the season. To me this game is Wolves sit deep, try to keep a clean sheet, and successfully convert the 4-5 counters they get in the game. Problem is I don’t think their defense is that good, and I see Spurs taking care of their counters with their newly talented wingbacks. Feels 2-0 Spurs to me.
Crystal Palace vs Aston Villa
Crystal Palace welcome Aston Villa to Selhurst Park for this Saturday fixture. Both of these clubs are mid-table sides that had expectations of moving up to the top half this season. Palace have had a lukewarm start to the season if we just look at the points total. One point through two matches, but so much of that is the quality of their opposition. They lost 2-0 to Arsenal at home, a game in which they probably should have taken a point from (xG 1.2-1.4). Their matchday 2 fixture was away at Anfield, which is an incredibly tough result to go get. They pulled off a 1-1 draw that they didn’t really deserve (1.6-2.2). Regardless though, it was a pretty impressive performance away to Liverpool. I thought Palace played pretty well all things considered, and Villa are undoubtedly a step down from these opponents. Palace were an above average side last season, putting up a NPxGD of +4.4, which ranked 6th in the Prem. To get to 6th, you have to beat average to below-average teams at home. That’s what we have Saturday.
Aston Villa come into this matchup sitting on 3 points, after their most recent nail biting victory over Everton last weekend. It was a deserved win (xG 2.7-1.4), but they almost blew it late on. It was needed however, after losing away 2-0 to Bournemouth. This was a team that lost to Man City 4-0 in what looked like a casual practice for the defending champs. Based on strength of opponent, I would say their matches have been incredibly easy thus far. Bournemouth might be the worst in the league and Everton are no higher than 15th. Palace are probably 10th, and you could argue higher. On top of this, they are coping with Diego Carlos rupturing his Achilles. He was their big offseason signing, coming in from Sevilla. Steven Gerrard will be forced to put Tyrone Mings back in at CB, in what looks to be a contentious relationship a bit. Given the injury, the data, and the strength of opponent, I think this all adds up to a Villa road loss come Saturday.
Leicester City vs Southampton
Leicester City take on Southampton at the King Power Stadium this weekend. A lot of negative talk going around about the Foxes this season. Losing longtime keeper Kasper Schmeicel to Nice, and now Wesley Fofana is practically begging them to sell him to Chelsea. Holding firm for now, but it sounds like Brendan Rodgers will keep him out of the side this weekend because he is too upset to play. A little childish for me, but that is where they are at. Still no transfers have come in, which is also pretty troubling. To focus on the pitch, Leicester have taken a point off of two matches. 1st match was a 2-2 draw to Brentford (0.5-0.9) and a 4-2 loss to Arsenal (3.0-0.7). xG would say both of these results were deserved. The Brentford match is frustrating for Leicester, because tactically the manager just got taken to the woodshed. If they swap managers, they probably win the game. Away to Arsenal was always going to be difficult with the way they are playing. With all of that said, I do still think Leicester are safe around 10th. They are an average Premier League side right now. Smells like a good get right spot, against a putrid Southampton at the King Power.
I’m just going to keep riding this Southampton fade train until it stops. Hopefully that doesn’t happen this weekend, but I don’t like the way this squad is playing. As I have said previously, this team is far too young and inexperienced to hang with teams like Leicester. They quality difference across the XI is eye opening. The Saints are way too dependent on 1-2 players and set pieces to score goals. On top of that, their defense just stinks. So we add that up, and this team is not good. They pulled out a 2-2 draw to Leeds, which they didn’t deserve (1.4-2.0). That was more down to Leeds weak mentality to hold leads than it was impressive by Southampton. The 4-1 loss to Spurs speaks for itself, especially after we saw Tottenham’s lackluster performance to Chelsea last weekend offensively. If we look back to last season, Southampton ranked 15th in NPxGD, and an even worse 19th the last 3 months of the season. Given what happened the first two weeks, I don’t see why that should change. Bottom side away to an average side, think Leicester should take this, and -114 is too cheap.
West Ham vs Brighton Hove & Albion
West Ham and Brighton face off in a match I am pretty excited for. I am high on both of these clubs this season, so I’m interested to see how this plays out. West Ham have looked kind of bad the first two weeks of the season. Two losses is never the way you want to start the season. The first to Manchester City was perfectly acceptable, even though it was borderline non-competitive. Even when they went down 1-0, they just couldn’t string an attack together to save their lives. xG 0.3-2.6. The away loss to Nottingham Forest was more of a gut punch. And to be fair, the Hammers hit the post twice in this match. On another day, both could have gone in and this is a different story. Forest’s only goal was also a bit of a lucky deflection. A 1-0 with xG of 2.1-2.0. It’s still not great against a promoted side, but they deserved a point. They did win their Europa Conference League match midweek, which will help with their confidence. They did play Thursday, so only two days off between that and the Brighton clash. If fitness is any issue, that could be an added hurdle for them. I just think they need some time to get their guys some chemistry and to integrate Gianluca Scamacca. It has looked fairly disjointed to me.
Brighton what can I say, I love this team. Your average Premier League fan would say this is a small club that doesn’t amount to much. I don’t know man, I kind of think they may be like the 8th best team in England right now, and that may be too low. They straight up bossed Man United at Old Trafford in their first match. And yes, United clearly have larger issues at play. Even saying that, if this team finished 7th and grabbed a Europa Conference League spot, I would not be surprised. They have a top 5 manager in this league, and it shows with how they outplay clubs with way bigger budgets. Take their 0-0 draw with Newcastle last week. A club that has way more backing it, and there was only one team that was ever winning that match. The Seagulls were unlucky to not get all 3 points (xG 1.6-0.2). Newcastle are a quality side, so that data speaks to me. West Ham are likely the better team overall. However, Brighton have the better manager, and are playing far more cohesively at the moment. If West Ham are better, it’s ever so slightly at the moment. Brighton as a dog are the side.
Tottenham Moneyline / Under 3.5 Parlay +120
Crystal Palace Pk (-125)
Leicester City Moneyline (-114)
Brighton Hove & Albion +0.25 (-120)
All Picks 1.5 Units