Rounding off the week with his Inside Edge analysis, Nick Haynes from Form Labs – a division of Bettorlogic – looks at how the festive period can ‘make or break’ a season, and why Sam Allardyce has his work cut out at West Brom.
Who does the festive period suit best?
A late Roberto Firmino winner at Anfield not only maintained Liverpool’s 100% start to the season at home, but also catapulted them to the top of the table as they leapfrogged Jose Mourinho’s Spurs. They’ll have precious little time to revel in that victory, though, as the festive period rears its head again and an onslaught of fixtures awaits.
This time of the year can often make or break a season. Squad depth is imperative in making it through this period unscathed, and thus, come the new year, we tend to see those teams that have been ‘overperforming’ slightly drift off the pace while the clubs with the bigger budgets have an opportunity to flex and claw away at some of their lost ground.
When looking at the period between 10th December and 4th January prior to this season, it’s no surprise that Man United have been the most prolific side since the 1998/99 season with their 2.13 points per game (ppg) a whole 0.19 better than the next best Chelsea. Arsenal, Liverpool, Man City and Spurs make up the top six, unsurprisingly, while Leeds rank 7th over this period, albeit with a small sample of just 27 matches and none for the last 16 seasons.
Noticeably, it’s the Baggies that have the worst record from the current crop of Premier League sides with just 59 points accrued from their 63 matches in that time, so Sam Allardyce has a serious job on his hands, with Brighton, Fulham, and Burnley all following in behind with under 1.1 ppg. Sheffield United have a respectable 1.27 over this period, though with that coming from just 11 matches we wouldn’t be too confident of them turning things around before the new year.
The order of the ‘Big Six’ changes drastically over the last five seasons however, with Liverpool’s 2.22 ppg just edging Man City’s 2.21, despite the Cityzens winning 14 of their 15 home matches over this time, while Arsenal and Man United are the only sides to have dropped off to 1.61 and 1.89 ppg, respectively.
Interestingly, Spurs have the third best record in the league at 2.11, though an average opposition placing of 11.74 over that time indicates they’ve had the easiest run out of the ‘Big Six’ sides, with City having the hardest task with opposition averaging out at a position of 9.93.
Based on this, Chelsea’s home fixture with Arsenal on Boxing Day points in the direction of the Blues. The Gunners have averaged just 0.93 ppg away from home over the last five years during this period, while their form at the moment leaves a lot to be desired, and that will tilt much more heavily in the hosts’ favour if they were to beat West Ham on Monday.
In the meantime, Everton are a long 2.42 on the Betfair Exchange to beat Arsenal at home this weekend, while Southampton currently trade at 7 at home to Man City, who have a quite dire 1.64 ppg on the road over this period, while form isn’t on their side either so that’s certainly one to keep an eye on.
Spurs vs Leicester: Who will bounce back?
Four of Spurs’ six meetings in all competitions with the traditional ‘Big Six’ sides this term have seen fewer than three goals, though we wouldn’t bank on that here. Six of the last seven head-to-heads with Leicester have featured at least three strikes, with 16 goals shared across these, as Tottenham ran out 3-0 winners at this venue in Mourinho’s sole clash with Leicester in his current job.
The Portuguese coach holds a good record against Brendan Rodgers and that win in July took him to five victories from seven unbeaten clashes with the Northern Irishman. In fact, he’s gone W8-D1-L1 versus Leicester since first encountering them as Chelsea boss back in August 2014, with the sole defeat coming at the King Power during the Foxes’ title-winning campaign. Eight of the 10 games also saw a minimum of three goals, and that’s currently trading at 1.78 on the exchange with the visitors often involved in high-scoring affairs on their travels.
Across all competitions, nine of the Foxes’ past 11 road trips have featured at least three goals, with a particular tendency for late strikes occurring. 10 of their last 12 away days have seen one team or the other net from the 80th minute onwards, with 13 goals over this late time period in total.
Leicester continue to go through patches as they’ve often bundled a whole series of wins together under Brendan Rodgers, before suffering a quick succession of defeats. That could spell trouble having lost at home to Everton on Wednesday, ending a run of victories over Sheffield Utd, AEK Athens and Brighton. Those are the Foxes’ only victories in eight appearances (W3-D1-L4), and failure to score in defeats against Liverpool, Zorya and the Toffees has to be of concern. In fact, Leicester have failed to hit the net in eight of their past nine defeats now dating back into July.
Erik Lamela and Japhet Tanganga are the only absentees for Spurs, with Gareth Bale expected back having missed the last two league games through illness. Rodgers can at least welcome back Timothy Castagne and Jonny Evans following injury and suspension respectively, but it’s a tall order to expect Leicester’s rearguard to hold out against the likes of Heung-min Son and Harry Kane. The hosts are currently at an odds-against price of 2.14.
Stat of the day
Sam Allardyce has managed seven different Premier League clubs before taking the job at West Brom and has never been relegated, with all seven teams left in a higher position than the one he inherited. He’s won his first home game in the division at five of these clubs (W5-D1-L1), registering six clean sheets across these as his organisational skills have made an immediate impact.