The ever fascinating Premier League table continues to simmer with just 14 points separating 5th place Tottenham Hotspurs and 19th place Watford. Nobody seems able to grasp the potential this seasons offering. European football, mid-table safety, Premier League survival are all up for grabs, yet there were just two wins outside the top 6 last weekend! Is anybody brave enough to grab the initiative? One team I think might be is Southampton given their upcoming fixtures:
· Burnley H
· Aston Villa H
· West Ham A
· Newcastle H
· Norwich A
They will be favourites in four of those five games and the other, West Ham away, the home side have lost 6 of their last 10 at the London Stadium, winning just one. The Saints are in good shape, they’ve beaten all of Leicester, Chelsea and Spurs in the last two months, two away, and are the 5th best team since the end of November, just three points worse than the 2nd best side in this period, Man City. Even in the most recent 4-0 defeat to Liverpool they were not completely outclassed. They had 10 shots in the first half, the most the Reds have faced in the opening 45 minutes of a Premier League match at Anfield since Chelsea in November 2014, and it took until the 2nd half for the Reds to make the breakthrough. In terms if underlying data, they’ve got the 9th best xG ratio but there is less than half a goal separating them from 6th Everton and I think there’s lots of scope they can make the five point ground up to 6th place Sheffield United given their rivals problems.
Spurs are without Harry Kane to at least April and look lost without him. They were completely outclassed by Man City on Sunday, managing just three shots in the entire game despite being up against 10 men for a third of the game. They’ve failed to score in four of their last eight, and poor league form could see Mourinho concentrate on the cup competitions for success. Sheff Utd have scored just 26 goals in 25 games, and their lack of goals could cost them that top six. They’ve won the same amount of games as the Saints. Man Utd look absolutely hopeless without Marcus Rashford, and without him have managed just one goal in four games outside of Tranmere.
It’s 7/5 Southampton finish in the top 10, but given the nature of this topsy-turvy league, I think it’s worth chancing the 22/1 for top six, especially given their run of games.
The League One promotion race is another fascinating battle in England. Just 12 points separate 1st place Rotherham United and 11th place Burton Albion. What makes it even more fascinating is some of these teams have up to three games in hand on others. I’ve had one team on the radar for a few weeks, given their performances and closing odds, and was strategically waiting until after the transfer window before placing a bet. Unfortunately Oxford United sold 2nd top scorer Tarique Fosu and midfield superstar Shandon Baptiste to Brentford. They then failed to bring in a striker Karl Robinson wanted, and look a little light upfront. Indeed they are the 3rd top scorers in the league but since defeating Southend 4-0 at the end of November, they’ve scored just 8 goals in 10 games and Jamie Mackie’s total of just seven in 67 games doesn’t suddenly look like improving.
The team I do like the look of that has masses of firepower is Peterborough United. They managed to keep hold of both Ivan Toney (league top scorer with 19 goals) and Mo Eisa (3rd top scorer with 13 goals) while replaced wantaway Marcus Maddison with Sammie Szmodics who’s hit the ground running with four in five. After a stutter over Christmas and early 2020 where they lost four of five, the departure of Maddison seems to have coincided with a return to form, winning the last four, which includes beating the rest of the top four in Rotherham, Wycombe and Ipswich by an aggregate score of 10-2.
They are the league top scorers which is no surprise when they land the most efforts on target per-match in the division. They also sit 1st for most goals from open play which is good as they are not reliant on set-pieces and penalties. MyBetBuddy columnist Mark O’Haire article this week also shows Posh sitting 2nd in terms of expected goals ratio. Sitting at the top of these performance metrics gives a very indication that their underlying process is a successful one.
In a league of fine margins, I’m happy to be with a side who score for fun. Twice before Posh boss Darren Ferguson has got them promoted from League One.