PL Predictions: Different season, same old Man City on FNF

Our resident tipster and betting guru Jones Knows is back to provide his tips and analysis across the Premier League card.

Burnley vs Manchester City, Friday 8pm, live on Sky Sports

Burnley vs Manchester City
Burnley vs Manchester City, live on Sky Sports

A crackdown on time-wasting and dissent is music to the ears of someone like me who has despised the lack of respect for referees and the complete shortcomings in the timekeeping system in top-level football.

The message has been taken on loud and clear by the officials judging by last weekend’s EFL fixture list. There were 190 yellow cards shown across the three leagues – that’s 54 more than the opening weekend of last season and is the most shown over the last 20 years of data. Startlingly, 29 of those cards were shown for timewasting. An increase of 28 from the previous opening weekend where just one was shown across the fixture list.

Betting on yellow cards is a common and popular part of the football betting landscape and this developing trend, despite the sample size being only of one weekend, is something to certainly explore over the opening weeks of the season. Bookmakers will be quite nervous in pricing up the booking points and individual cards markets – and when bookmakers are nervous, punters should act in the anticipation that total yellow card counts will be on the sharp rise.

Referee Craig Pawson could be out to make a statement in front of the cameras for this season opener and my eyes are drawn to Ederson at 7/1 with Sky Bet to pick up a card. The Brazilian has been carded in four of his last 12 away games and is playing for a side who are given a 79 per cent of winning this game, meaning the probability of him having the chance to slow the game down when City are in front is high. Pawson will be watching him like a hawk.

SCORE PREDICTION: 1-3 | JONES KNOWS BEST BET: Ederson to be carded (7/1 with Sky Bet – Bet Here!)

Arsenal vs Nottingham Forest, Saturday 12.30pm

I remain edgy about Arsenal’s ability to seriously challenge for major honours this season with my instincts telling me they look overrated by the markets in being defined as the second-best team behind Manchester City.

That defensive decline since the World Cup break, that now reads eight clean sheets in their last 33 games – including pre-season friendlies – does need to be rectified before I can fully trust them to match last season’s heights.

Teams found it relatively easy to create quality chances against them in the final few months of the season, to the extent they faced 100 shots on target in their final 24 league games – seven teams conceded fewer, including – strangely – relegated Southampton. Generating a strong view based on a pre-season performance is borderline moronic but having covered their 1-1 draw with Monaco, Mikel Arteta has yet to sort that defensive issue even with William Saliba now back fit. The French side created at least five major chances in that encounter.

Until I see evidence of rear-guard improvement, I’ll be trying to profit from Arsenal’s defensive slackness. Both teams to score at Evens it is then for this one. Forest, powderpuff for the majority of last season, started to play with a bit more freedom in the latter stages, led by the dangerous duo of Morgan Gibbs-White and Brennan Johnson, scoring 14 goals across their last seven games.


Bournemouth vs West Ham, Saturday 3pm – PLAY SUPER 6 HERE!

So, who is Andoni Iraola? In an interview conducted in May, the newly-appointed Bournemouth boss gave my colleague Nick Wright a fascinating insight into turning Rayo Vallecano into European challengers in LaLiga.

Rayo Vallecano manager Andoni Iraola

If he can attain full buy-in from his players then full-throttle football and a ferocious style in terms of pressing can be expected. That may take time though. And even though West Ham’s preparation for the campaign has been a little chaotic in terms of player recruitment, David Moyes’ no-thrills, defensive-focused style makes them quite attractive in the win market at 6/4 with Sky Bet to start with maximum points.

Set-pieces will be fertile ground for the Hammers, no doubt.

Bournemouth conceded 21 goals from set pieces (excluding penalties) last season – the most of any team. Plus, Iraola’s Vallecano side conceded 23 goals from corners and free-kicks in his last two seasons in charge of the club – again the worst record of any side. This suggests to me he doesn’t spend too much time worrying about being organised from defensive set pieces situations and Moyes will be licking his lips at the prospect of pummelling them from wide areas.

My eyes are drawn to Tomas Soucek at the prices. His powers are seemingly on the wane in this side but he is still a major threat from set pieces. In his final seven Premier League appearances last season he had 12 shots at goal to a backdrop of 1.17 worth of expected goals – a healthy return. Five of those attempts were headers, so the 22/1 dangled by Sky Bet on him scoring with a header does seem rather generous.

Tomas Soucek fires West Ham ahead at Selhurst Park
Tomas Soucek scoring against Crystal Palace

SCORE PREDICTION: 1-2 | JONES KNOWS BEST BET: Tomas Soucek to score a header (22/1 with Sky Bet – Bet Here!)

Brighton vs Luton, Saturday 3pm – PLAY SUPER 6 HERE!

Luton will get battered everywhere they go – that’s the line, isn’t it? Well, it’s a lazy assumption.

Yes, the club might be small in stature and budget, but their promotion was no fluke. Over the course of the last two seasons, they amassed an average of 77.5 Championship points per season. This is a well-organised, unified football team that are used to winning football matches and are completely comfortable playing in a style that works for them.

I’m excited to see how this team full of players with points to prove at this level go about their business. I’m thinking feathers will be ruffled and some wild pre-season predictions of Derby-like points totals will be made to look rather silly.

In a complete case of contradiction, considering I’ve tipped up Brighton for the top four at 15/2, I’d be against them here at a woefully short 2/7 with Sky Bet. Roberto De Zerbi’s team did find problems against low-block opposition at home last season, drawing 0-0 with Nottingham Forest, 3-3 with Brentford and losing to both Everton and Fulham. Luton conceded the fewest away goals (18) in the entire EFL last season and picked up the joint-most away clean sheets, so Rob Edwards won’t have to tweak much in terms of style to play the frustration game.

There are a few plays to consider. Under 1.5 goals at 7/2 or Luton double chance at 3/1 – but the one that stands out is the 10/11 on Luton with a +2 handicap start, meaning we’ll get paid if they win, draw or lose by one goal.


Everton vs Fulham, Saturday 3pm – PLAY SUPER 6 HERE!

Those that like to foresee an end to a trend – or a trend ender – should note that a draw could be due here. There has been no draw in the last 24 league meetings at Goodison Park between these two, a run stretching back to 1959. Also, Fulham’s only draw in their last 18 Premier League away games was a 0-0 vs Chelsea in February.

Of the three match outcomes, the stalemate does seem very appealing as the biggest price of the three at 23/10 with Sky Bet in what screams a low-scoring game.

Everton are missing chief creator Dwight McNeil whilst Dominic Calvert-Lewin – so crucial to how Sean Dyche wants to play – remains plagued by injury issues. Everton managed the fewest home goals (16) in the Premier League last season – three fewer than any other team and there is no evidence to suggest a change in attacking output is on the cards.

Meanwhile, Fulham may not settle into a consistent pattern until the window shuts with transfer speculation surrounding key man Aleksander Mitrovic not helping matters.


Sheffield United vs Crystal Palace, Saturday 3pm

The usual snap, crackle and pop associated with a newly promoted team in the early part of a Premier League campaign is hard to find at Bramall Lane. More like a soggy bowl of cornflakes.

You can’t underplay how much of a kick in the gut selling Iliman Ndiaye is for Sheffield United.

Described in parts as one of the best players to have ever played for the club, his departure significantly weakens their prospects on a level which I’m not sure has been factored into the markets yet. Sander Berge, so key to the way Paul Heckingbottom sets up his attacks with his powerful ball carrying, has followed him out the door, too.

The club are woefully short for the start of the season, meaning two winnable games against Crystal Palace and Nottingham Forest might be thrown away. The harsh reality of a newly promoted team is that there are only 11-16 winnable games a season such is the strength at the top of the division so to be losing out on two of those matches due to bad management and planning off the field makes their chances of beating the drop lessen considerably.

A ball hasn’t been kicked yet, so this is a premature take, but the 9/4 with Sky Bet for them to finish bottom does look rather tempting – as does the 11/4 for Palace to win to nil on Saturday.


Newcastle vs Aston Villa, Saturday 5.30pm, live on Sky Sports – PLAY SUPER 6 HERE!

Optimism levels are through the Villa Park roof.

Since Unai Emery was appointed, only Man City (57), Arsenal (53), Man Utd (52) and Liverpool (51) won more Premier League points than Aston Villa, who lost just two of their final 15 matches.

The markets mirror this confidence of a top-six charge, pricing up Emery’s side as shorter in the betting than Brighton to finish in the first six. This tricky opening day challenge will provide a helpful barometer of where expectations should be under Emery.

Aston Villa's Unai Emery

A crackdown on time-wasting is going to take some adapting to by time-waste kings Villa though and I’d advise backing them falling foul of stricter rules in the opening few weeks, especially in matches of this nature where they are the underdogs.

Since Emery was appointed their haul of 17 yellow cards for timewasting last season was 10 more than any other side. Unfortunately, the markets are well aware of the Villa card angle so it’s tough to hunt out a true confident betting play, however, Villa to receive more cards in this one than Newcastle at Evens does feel a little generous.


Brentford vs Tottenham, Sunday 2pm, live on Sky Sports – PLAY SUPER 6 HERE!

Another season comes around and still Brentford remain overpriced in their home matches.

The Bees suffered just two defeats in front of their own fans last season – it’s a home ground that generates a unique atmosphere where aggressive football causes visiting teams so many problems, especially ones who have a soft underbelly. Enter Spurs.

Sunday 13th August 1:00pm

Kick off 2:00pm

Sky Sports Premier League HD
Sky Sports Premier League HD

The vibes from the supporter base have been positive regarding the style of football demanded by Ange Postecoglou, who is a very attack-minded coach. My worry is that the balance between attack and defence is going to leave an already shaky and untrustworthy Spurs defence very exposed, especially against unashamedly direct teams like Brentford.

Last season Spurs’ matches away from home produced bucket loads of goals, to the extent that 11 of those 19 matches saw over 3.5 goals cop. I’m happy to combine a pro-Brentford angle with a pro-goals angle, so a Brentford win and over 3.5 goals in the match at 6/1 does represent a slice of value.


Chelsea vs Liverpool, Sunday 4.30pm, live on Sky Sports – PLAY SUPER 6 HERE!

Since Jurgen Klopp tweaked Trent Alexander-Arnold’s position ahead of the draw with Arsenal last season, Liverpool’s performance levels spiked, with there being much more emphasis on his creative skills being utilised in a more central position. And whilst his prices across a variety of markets fail to mirror his new more attack-minded hybrid role, there remains betting angles to exploit.

Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrates after scoring Liverpool's third goal against Leicester
Trent Alexander-Arnold is Liverpool’s vice-captain this season

In that period, no player made more successful passes in the opposition half (382) and no player registered more assists than the seven Alexander-Arnold conjured up in his final 10 Premier League games of last season. He also ranked second for penalty box entries (116) – simplified as balls played into the box – behind Kieran Trippier. And he ranked fourth for chances created (23).

In a Liverpool team that surely won’t hold back on Sunday, all this evidence points towards the 3/1 with Sky Bet on him registering another assist at Stamford Bridge being a strongly fancied play.

SCORE PREDICTION: 1-2 | JONES KNOWS BEST BET: Trent Alexander-Arnold assist (3/1 with Sky Bet – Bet Here!)

Manchester United vs Wolves, Monday 8pm, live on Sky Sports

If you need some evidence to show how bleak the season ahead looks for Wolves, tracking their price for relegation since May tells you all you need to know. You could have got 6/1 with Sky Bet late last season when things seemed rosy under Julen Lopetegui, however, that had evaporated to 7/2 by mid-June to then 11/4 by the start of August and now sits at 2/1 following the appointment of Gary O’Neil.

Financial Fair Play is a factor in the frustrations at the club as my colleague Adam Bate explains brilliantly in this feature.

And this fixture first up away from home isn’t exactly where you want to go in the midst of a crisis. Wolves have won once at Old Trafford in the last 43 years. United are also unbeaten in the last 18 Premier League home games (W15 D3) since their opening day 2-1 defeat vs Brighton. There is no reason expect them to go backwards under their shrewd boss.

The home win at 2/7 with Sky Bet isn’t likely to get many punting pulses racing but the 6/5 for a United win to nil is perhaps a nice alternative. Wolves scored the fewest goals in the league last season (31) and haven’t addressed that issue.


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