We’re almost a quarter of the way through the 2019-2020 campaign (scary, isn’t it?), and this season has given us one of the most congested tables (at least in the middle) that we’ve ever seen. The gap between 2nd and 16th place is a mere 10 points, while the gap between 1st and 2nd is already a full six points. While things are becoming more spread out at the very bottom already (Watford has fallen four points behind 17th), the gap is closer than it was at the start of the week—thanks to some philanthropy on the part of Tottenham (who else would be so generous? Oh wait…Arsenal). Wolves managed to disappoint by conceding points to Southampton just one matchweek after scoring two goals away to Manchester City. Chelsea narrowly beat Newcastle and climbed up the table, while the aforementioned City got back on track against Crystal Palace. Manchester United were able to slow Liverpool in a riveting fixture, while Sheffield United took all three points (and totally deservedly) against Arsenal. Let’s take a look at some numbers:
8: the number of years it’s been since Arsenal last trailed at half-time and came back to win a match in the Premier League.
283: conversely, the number of matches Manchester United have won or drawn consecutively while carrying a lead at halftime. They have NEVER lost a match when leading at the half at home (265-18-0).
15: every team this season has conceded a goal in the final 15 minutes of a match, except Sheffield United. The Blades broke into the top ten this week on the back of a brilliant performance against a dismal Arsenal, who have only managed to win once away this season. Arsenal fall to 5th following their abject performance (a win would have brought them into 3rd).
18: the number of times Frank Lampard has faced manager Steve Bruce (both as a player and manager). He has never lost to Bruce.
17: number of consecutive Liverpool wins before Manchester United ended their run this weekend— leaving them one short of City’s 18.
1: Leicester marked the first anniversary of the tragic death of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, and honored his memory with a thrilling win, moving to 3rd place.
While Arsenal have enjoyed a relatively solid start to the season (only two points off 4th place, ten off first), their fans will be less than pleased at their recent run of form, which includes only two wins in their last five. Even less thrilled will be Tottenham fans, who have to be wondering how much longer Pochettino can continue if results do not improve. This has been Tottenham’s worst start (only 12 points out of a possible 27) since his arrival at the club, and for a club that just splashed a massive amount of cash on a new stadium, all is not well at Spurs. And with 16th place just three points away, it’s not inconceivable that Tottenham plummet out of the top half of the league. A goal from the returning Alli was all that saved them from a three-way tie for 12th place.
Our first double-digit matchweek brings with it some interesting matchups, including Liverpool versus Tottenham, Arsenal versus a 6th place Crystal Palace, and a battle for mid-table supremacy between West Ham and upstarts Sheffield United. Here are my picks for the week against the spread (standard disclaimer about not taking gambling advice):
Leicester at -.5 (+130) is a steal. They’ll win this game, and probably handily. Southampton have been abhorrent at home, allowing 16 goals in nine matches.
Chelsea at -.5 (-130) is risky, but if you’re looking to diversify, I’d take it. I don’t see Chelsea dropping points, especially with their high-powered offense.
Crystal Palace at +1 (+125) is an interesting bet, but probably better off leaving as Arsenal will more than likely reply to this week’s embarrassment with goals at home.
City at -2.5 is too risky, Brighton vs. Everton is a toss-up, as is West Ham vs. Sheffield and Newcastle vs. Wolverhampton. Liverpool will likely bludgeon Tottenham but have shown some signs of shakiness, drawing at United and almost drawing against Leicester.
Watford will likely lose to Bournemouth, so with odds at -.5 for Watford (purely because they’re at home) it’s an interesting bet.
Finally, United at -.5 against Norwich is too good to pass up. United have only scored six goals since trouncing Chelsea in Matchweek One, but Norwich have allowed a league-worst 21, and I’ve seen sieves with fewer holes.