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I think I spoke too soon last week when I said that it was the craziest week of them all, because last week didn’t include Champions League football! So, yes, ⅔ of my picks turned out to be wrong (I told you not to follow my advice!), but the week had some crazy twists and turns (especially for André Gomes’s ankle…too soon?), Son Heung-min, Kyle Walker, the entire Chelsea squad, Ajax, Tottenham, and Manchester United. Luckily, the one constant was Arsenal, always to be relied upon to draw matches, regardless of whether it’s Wolves at home, or Vitória SC, whoever that is (seriously though – I was just in Guimarães, their hometown, for the Nations League and still didn’t even know that the local club was Vitória SC).

Let’s dive in.

Stats

358: the number of minutes Bournemouth went before scoring the goal that defeated Manchester United, just three days after United beat Chelsea. Rollercoaster, anyone?

Josh King: I know, it’s not a number. But he’s literally the only Bournemouth player to score winning goals for Bournemouth against Manchester United! After coming on as a super sub in 2015, King’s game winner Saturday marked the second time he’s thwarted the Red Devils, and only the second time Bournemouth have ever beaten United in a league fixture. 

50: Aubameyang notched his 50th goal for Arsenal in only his 78th match, the second fastest in the club’s history after Ian Wright (68 matches). 

35: the number of winning goals Liverpool have now scored in the 90th minute or later since the Premier League began, ten more than any other side.

3: Brighton won their third consecutive home match, marking only the second time they’ve done so in the Premier League!

5: the number of players who have scored a hat-trick of assists in a Premier League match for a newly promoted team, thanks to Lys Mousset’s work against Burnley. 

7: Chelsea have won seven consecutive away fixtures in all competitions, their joint-longest run, and their longest since 1989. 

39: Tottenham have never lost any of the 39 Premier League matches that Dele Alli has scored in. 

Week 12 Pick ‘Em

I admit: My picks this week were a little off.. While I was on the right side of both Manchester City and Southampton, I was overly optimistic about how much they’d win by. Wolves, predictably, drew with Arsenal, bringing my record this week to 1-2. With that in mind, here are my picks for this week:

Key: lines in bold are my actual bets – I re-read my picks last week and noticed the way I described bets might have been slightly unclear about which ones were worth taking. 

Norwich City at 0 (EVEN) odds is extremely safe. Odds are they’ll win, but this protects you in the event of a draw. 

Chelsea at -1.5 (-105) is risky, I’m not sure I can see a path to them beating Crystal Palace at home (Chelsea have been worse at home than away) by two goals here.

Burnley vs. West Ham, Newcastle vs. Bournemouth, Southampton vs. Everton, Wolverhampton vs. Aston Villa, and Liverpool vs. Manchester City are all toss-ups. Any of these games could go either way. Bet at your own risk.

Tottenham at -1 (EVEN) is interesting. I think they’ll probably win, although Sheffield has been surprising this season, and the odds line is safe enough that it’s a bet worth taking. 

Manchester United at -1 (+110) is also a good bet. Any time the spread is an even number I’m more interested in taking that bet, as the possibility of a wash is present, rather than the result being binary (win or lose). 

VAR and Video Review As a Whole

VAR has been an issue this season, largely due to inconsistency. For example: Deulofeu scored a penalty kick given against Chelsea this weekend, on a challenge identical to one just hours before that earned Sadio Mane a yellow card for simulation. In addition, Son Heung-min was shown a red card for a careless tackle, which was later reversed, yet cost Tottenham a win against Everton. In the Champions League, inadvertent hand balls for defenders are not automatically fouls (although Ajax’s Veltman deserved the yellow card, according to the new denial of an obvious goal scoring opportunity by handball, or DOGSO-H, rules), while inadvertent hand balls for attackers that lead to a goal are always called back. Also, even as a Chelsea fan, I’m 100% sure that VAR was not used to determine whether or not Azpilicueta was offside for his goal, as the eye test showed him at least a foot offside. The blatant inconsistency of the application of VAR this season has caused issues akin to the havoc wreaked by allowing coaches to challenge  pass interference calls in the NFL this season. It raises the question: is all-encompassing video review actually harming sports more than it is helping them? Does video review in fact adversely affect the quality of the game by impacting its natural flow, often drastically? Fans seem to be getting more confused and frustrated every week. The real answer is probably somewhere in-between, as overall we have seen less simulation this season, and at least in the Premier League, both goal-line technology and offside decisions have been applied consistently and relatively quickly. What is clear, however, is that VAR’s application when it comes to fouls must be reviewed for the sake of both clarity and consistency.

Champions League

Wow. As I was writing my column this week, I thanked the football gods for delaying my normal publication, which gave me the opportunity to include a recap of the Champions League. The matches were not just crazy – they were mind-blowingly, never-have-we-seen-or-ever-will-see-again, insane. Kyle Walker in goal as Manchester City drew with Atalanta; eight goals, which would have been ten had two not been disallowed, two red cards in 30 seconds, and two own goals— all in one game; four goals scored by a team whose manager is supposed to be in meltdown (Pocchettino lives to fight another day, it seems); and six red cards across 16 total matches. It was all just incredible to watch. Not to mention the fact that there were 60, yes, 60 goals scored in those 16 matches, a Champions League record. With one more round of Premier League matches before the last international break of the season, the stage is set for Euro 2020 qualifiers to throw some fireworks our way. Stay tuned!