After coming close to some huge-priced ante-post success last season, Jones Knows is back with four bets to attack on the eve of the new Premier League campaign.
2pts on Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool all to finish in the top three (11/4 with Sky Bet – bet here!)
We’ve been accustomed to using the term ‘big six’ when it comes to analysing the top of the Premier League but it’s probably wise to now think differently. The way the bookmakers have priced up the various markets towards the top end of the Premier League points towards a thinking that we’re in a period of a ‘big four’ of Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United. And while that might be the case come the end of the season, I think United – with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at the helm – are a fair way off being able to truly compete with the other three. This ‘big three’ have strong claims at being the top three teams in Europe when able to play their strongest XIs. Manchester United couldn’t even win the Europa League last season.
Solskjaer has many strengths as a human being and seems to command the respect of an ego-filled dressing room but has shown time-and-time again that when a big game comes around against an elite coach, his team fall short.
With some impressive recruitment done in the summer, now is the time for United to be challenging. Yet, they still find themselves a holding midfielder, centre-forward and elite manager short. I was looking for a market to take on Manchester United at a short price somewhere but couldn’t see a situation where they’d finish out of the top four or five as a replacement for Solskjaer halfway through the season could see a Chelsea-like improvement to when Thomas Tuchel took over from Frank Lampard. So, I decided to come down on City, Liverpool and Chelsea to finish in the top three in any order. 11/4 with Sky Bet is a sound investment if long-term punting is your thing.
2pts on Southampton to be relegated (4/1 with Sky Bet – bet here!)
This was a bet I’ve had in my mind since watching Southampton towards the end of last season. From leading the Premier League in November their performance level dropped so significantly they ended up finishing in 15th place. Evidently it was their inability to defend with any sort of cohesion that triggered this sharp decline in results – something which has consistently held the impressive Ralph Hasenhuttl back during his career.
His teams play with great energy in forward areas and make life difficult for teams that like to build from the back, however, they concede far too many sloppy goals at crucial stages of matches. They won just four times after January 1 last season and ended up conceding 68 goals along the way. Only Fulham shipped more.
After their final-day defeat at West Ham, the body language and general mood of Hasenhuttl was alarming. He looked deflated, almost out of ideas at how to fix the problems, saying: “We know what we have to change. Even with these players or with others.”
Well, that call to his owners has been met with no action. Saints have been surprisingly quiet in the market and look set to go into battle with a very similar squad to the one that consistently performed to standards you see from relegated teams. When you add the loss of Danny Ings, who scored 12 goals from limited service last season, and Jannik Vestergaard, into the mix then it’s hard to foresee a positive season on the horizon for the Saints.
The fancy 6/1 quotes on their chances of relegation have evaporated in recent weeks with punters seemingly thinking along the same lines as me. However, the loss of Ings does still make the 4/1 with Sky Bet on offer worth taking, especially when there is much to admire about the newly-promoted clubs. Norwich and Watford are both fancied to drop but have Premier League experience to call upon, while Brentford are a shrewd outfit that have the capabilities to survive up a level. Plus, all three clubs will have a feelgood factor back in their grounds that might be lacking at St Mary’s.
1pt EW on Kelechi Iheanacho to finish Premier League top goalscorer (50/1 with Sky Bet – bet here!)
A changing of the guard is due in the Leicester striking department.
Jamie Vardy – who will be 35-years-old in January – is steadily declining. He only managed four goals in the Premier League after January 1 last season, suggesting this might be the beginning of the end on what has been an extraordinary career. Of course, he has defied logic and opinion for much of his career so this presumption that age is getting the better of him might be slightly premature. But I’m in the business of trying to anticipate what is around the corner and the market still has him priced up as Leicester’s chief goal threat which looks wrong in my eyes.
This season should be all about Kelechi Iheanacho in front of goal.
He is likely to get a huge amount of game-time as the central striker in a team that is set to make another challenge for the top four. When given his chance in the second half of last season, the Nigerian showed Brendan Rodgers and doubters like me, he has the tools to score goals at a rapid rate in the Premier League. In the final four months of the season, no player scored more than the 12 Iheanacho bagged working out at an average of 0.89 goals per 90 minutes. Only Gareth Bale recorded a better ratio.
As shown in the Community Shield, he is impossible to leave out of the side scoring at such a rate. With a full season to attack and with the doubts about the ageing limbs of Vardy, Iheanacho has the skills to threaten the likes of Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah at the top of the charts. The quotes of 50/1 are a complete disrespect to his talents. We must act.
Sky Bet are offering a quarter the odds in the each-way market for the first four places in this top goalscorer market, so the Leicester striker is bound to give you a fantastic run for your money with the caveat that you’ll be getting over 10/1 on the place part of the bet if he finishes in the top four.
1pt on Nicolas Pepe to be Arsenal’s top goalscorer (10/1 with Sky Bet – bet here!)
This long-term punt is more focused on the projected downfall of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang than the faith or skillset of Nicolas Pepe. The winger is steadily improving his output under Mikel Arteta but still flatters to deceive for large parts of matches, especially in big moments in big matches. However, he is a juicy price to finish the season as Arsenal’s top goalscorer with Aubameyang falsely taking up a huge chunk of the market (1/2 with Sky Bet).
Whether it’s due to his advancing years – he turned 32 in June – or perhaps the comfortable three-year £55m contract awarded to him in 2020, there are huge question marks surrounding Aubameyang’s current status as an elite striker.
Jamie Redknapp was criticised heavily for claiming Aubameyang was “past his best” and that the Arsenal striker had “lost his superpower” last season, yet, I can totally see where he is coming from. Aubameyang scored just 10 Premier League goals last campaign as his downward trend in terms of his goals per 90 minutes continued to spiral. In the 2017/18 season he was averaging 0.85 goals a game – that is now down to 0.39. Yes, perhaps that is down to a positional change to playing off the left so his goal output is naturally going to fall, but to my eye his overall sharpness in and around the box is nowhere near the electric levels we’ve been accustomed to seeing.
A blank pre-season of goals now means the striker has scored just once in his last 13 starts for Arsenal. That’s over 1,100 minutes of action. When you throw into the mix an already fractious relationship with Arteta, who dropped him for turning up late ahead of their clash with Tottenham last season, then there really is no guarantee that Aubameyang will be trusted to be Arsenal’s main man over the season. Remember, Arteta isn’t afraid to put his faith in younger members of his squad and in Gabriel Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah they have talented options which could see Aubameyang cast aside if his form continues at the same level.
This predicted decline of Aubameyang does open the door for Pepe to take his chance at becoming a regular scorer for Arteta. Despite playing 700 fewer minutes than Aubameyang last season, Pepe ended up with 10 goals to his name in the Premier League, scoring five times in his last three appearances. There are no real excuses now for the £72m signing not to kick on further in his third season playing Premier League football and his Riyad Mahrez-like style of cutting in from the right onto his deadly left foot is a weapon Arsenal should be looking to utilise.
Plus, he is likely to be on Arsenal penalty duty in the absence of Aubameyang, having scored all four of his four spot-kicks since joining from Lille.
When you add it all up, the 10/1 with Sky Bet for him to finish Arsenal’s top goalscorer is just begging to be backed.