I work hard to overcome a late-in-life start in handicapping English football, triple-checking names, dates, places, and stats while deferring to grizzled UK scouts on fine tactical points and formation-advantages.
But as valuable as the 5-year learning curve has been for forecasting EPL matches, I’m glad I’ve still got a little bit of “the naïve newbie” routine still in my back pocket. All sports bettors can stand to ask the obvious questions more often, and “experts” aren’t always prepared to answer them.
For instance, Manchester City has been the “gimme” futures pick of European soccer for years now, a can’t-miss proposition to conquer not only the FA Cup but brackets played-out on distant shores. But for all of Sky Blues’ domestic success, there’s still no European title to speak of, even as proposition bettors eagerly buy into markets on Man City to win trebles and quadruples.
Could the same overconfidence in an elite club be afflicting EPL gamblers in ’22?
A newcomer might think that Manchester City has an overwhelming lead in points on the English Premier League table, just by glancing at February’s EPL futures odds. But that’s not the angle; rather Sky Blues’ talent, tactics, and circumstances have combined to draw steep long-term wagers of 1-to-6 odds.
Sunday’s win casts Liverpool as a solid underdog at only 8 points back. Chelsea has lost only 3 EPL matches this cycle, but Blues’ lowly 110-to-1 odds reflect the frustration of Christian Pulisic’s attacking crew in late minutes.
Chelsea Football Club has ledgered 8 draws in just 24 fixtures, a liability underscored by January 18th’s draw with Brighton in which Blues whiffed on a dozen out of 15 shot attempts and allowed Adam Webster of Seagulls to level the score for good early in the second 45 minutes of play.
Blues’ unfortunate “snowman” of 8 draws with 14 matches to play easily surpasses every other club in the EPL’s top half with the exceptions of Brighton (9th place) and Southampton (10th place).
Man City is in-fact in such a position so that no other legacy club besides Liverpool could make a charge at Sky Blues. Below Chelsea on the EPL table lies West Ham, a fun, rollicking upstart that drops 3 points too often to compete with Citizens’ W-D-L record throughout winter and spring. Manchester United is going through yet another “transitional” cycle of domestic play, if not UEFA Champions League, thanks to managerial upheaval and Ronaldo’s strange lack of impact on the team’s winning chances.
Eliminated from the FA Cup and the EFL Cup, Manchester United has recalibrated its spring priorities to fit a run at UEFA glory and a top-4 league finish. MUFC enjoys fairly optimistic betting odds to finish in the top 4 at (+195), but Red Devils’ championship futures odds are already a moot point, along with those of 17 other EPL clubs. FanDuel Sportsbook has taken 14 teams off the championship betting board as of mid-February, leaving only 4 available long-shot bets to choose from.
Thanks to the club’s vulnerable upcoming schedule, Liverpool has an opportunity to shorten the gap with Man City on the table and on the Premier League betting board. Reds will face blue-collar foes Norwich City and Leeds United following a winnable UEFA Champions League leg against Inter Milan.
After that, Liverpool will enjoy a full 2-week break from Premier League competition, and 8 days separating the EFL Cup final on 2/27 and visiting West Ham’s challenge in an EPL match on March 5th. League-obsessed manager Jürgen Klopp can’t avoid playing his best starting 11 in a final, but could quietly limit his superstars’ minutes for a matchup against Canaries in the FA Cup.
Matches against Tottenham, Arsenal, and Manchester United will loom in the distance for Sky Blues, who must also deal with international legs and FA Cup fixtures. Should the defending EPL champions manage to approach Easter unscathed, Liverpool will still get a chance to gain 3 points when the teams meet in 2 months.
Saturday, February 19th: West Ham United vs Newcastle United
“Reversion” forecasts from EPL betting experts have continuously been defied by West Ham, who currently stand at 41 points and ahead of 5th-place Man United. Craig Dawson’s added-time goal to draw level with Leicester on Sunday puts Hammers (-145) in position to fortify their potential UEFA Champions League qualification bid with a win over Newcastle (+420) as Magpies take to the road.
Magpies and Hammers had an entertaining, back-and-forth match on Newcastle’s home grounds back in August, merely 1 reason that the 1-to-1.5 odds on West Ham look a little steep. West Ham’s attack has proven to be no fluke since scoring 4 goals that day, however. Newcastle’s 25 goals in 23 league matches is tied for 4th-worst in the EPL, making the threat of relegation a constant concern.
Recommended bet: Handicap Draw (West Ham (-1)) (+260)
Saturday, February 19th: Brighton & Hove Albion vs Burnley F.C.
Brighton and Burnley have more in common than just the “B” in the clubs’ names. Neither team is highly touted as a top-half club on a regular basis, and Brighton’s recent success in 1-off domestic tournament matches can’t easily translate to a UEFA Champions League berth due to Seagulls’ lack of quality depth behind their 11 starting players. Clarets have been performing “up to the competition” in EPL fixtures against an uneven slate of Arsenal, Manchester United, Watford, and Liverpool F.C. The club dropped 3 points in an 0-1 loss to Reds on Sunday but drew level with Red Devils, Hornets, and Gunners.
The host footballers in Saturday’s fixture are (-140) money-line favorites, a steep price on any 3-way moneyline, and especially for a Premier League kickoff at Falmer Stadium.
It helps that Burnley, who is in danger of relegation, brings a pitiful league record into Matchday 25, sitting in 20th place and having won only a single Premiership match in the cycle. Brighton is having a much “brighter” campaign. Seagulls recently weathered a series of challenging matches with Crystal Palace, Chelsea, and Leicester City, emerging with a 1-1 draw each time. Brighton went on to lose to Tottenham in the FA Cup, embarrassed by an own goal that gave Lilywhites a prohibitive 2-0 lead in the 1st half. Seagulls, however, bounced right back on the road with a 2-0 victory over Watford.
FanDuel’s (-150) odds on Under (2.5) goals reflect the stingy tactics of both clubs. Burnley’s 5-to-1 money-line odds present another way of capitalizing on Brighton’s pedestrian attack, since Clarets may only need 1 goal to secure an upset victory.
Recommended bet: Burnley (+470)
Saturday, February 19th: Southampton F.C. vs Everton F.C.
The past few rounds of Premier League battles should have answered any questions about Southampton’s steady form in 2022. Saints matched Manchester City 1-1 in a late January contest, recovered from an upset FA Cup loss to defeat Tottenham Hotspur 3-2, and then went on to draw 1-1 draw at Old Trafford while outperforming Man United for much of the appearance.
Were it not for fits of promising form in the very recent past, Everton (+250) might be a 5-to-1 underdog against Southampton, or any other top-half EPL club. Toffeemen are facing the potential ignominy of a rare “Premier League staple” relegation with only 6 wins and 4 draws on the campaign, but have awakened a bit in the last 3 fixtures having scored a total of 8 goals.
Saints (+105) could very well become a solid pick against bottom-half teams at plus odds. Conversely, with the visitors producing a push to ensure Premier League affiliation in 2022-23, a safer pick forecasts 90+ minutes of goal-box chaos, as a hard-pressing host meets an Everton lineup that’s more prepared physically than mentally.
Recommended bet: Over (2.5) (-112)
Saturday, February 19th: Aston Villa vs Watford F.C.
Aston Villa is another one of Saturday’s unlikely short-odds favorites. Lions are a (-170) bet to claim 3 points over Hornets at Villa Park, and unlike the scenario leading to Burnley and Brighton’s odds, there’s no huge gap on the EPL table to inspire the woebegone market for Watford (+490).
Relegation to Championship is a very real concern for Hornets, but Villa’s 12 losses tie for the 4th-worst mark through mid-February, and Lions have defeated only 1 opponent this calendar year.
Perhaps EPL bettors are reading headlines and not the fine print. Aston Villa has included Philippe Coutinho in a souped-up starting 11, with the crafty footballer on loan from Barcelona. But the Barca cog’s honeymoon with Villains was cut short on Monday when reports surfaced of Arsenal luring Coutinho away in 2022. Gunners can’t heist the La Liga standout right away, but at present it’s still a demoralizing narrative.
Sour form from the underdog are driving odds more so than devout faith in a favorite. Watford hasn’t scored a single tally since January in spite of enjoying the lightest-possible schedule available to a Premier League team. Hornets virtually didn’t test Brighton keeper Robert Sánchez at all in last Saturday’s 0-2 defeat, erring on almost a 3rd of the team’s pass attempts and committing an ugly 16 fouls.
Recommended bet: Watford to Score No Goals (Prop Bet) (+110)
Saturday, February 19th: Arsenal F.C. vs Brentford F.C.
The story for 2021-22 Arsenal and Brentford is well known and even poetic in hindsight. Gunners lost to Bees in an opening EPL defeat that caused supporters to overreact as usual, but since then, Arsenal has made a terrific charge at UEFA placement while Brentford has sunk into 14th position.
Gunners are a (-1) pick against the goal spread and a (-240) money-line favorite to win Saturday’s bout at Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal’s light schedule is contributing to favorites’ action, as an EFL Cup loss to Liverpool and COVID-19 precautions have conspired to limit Gunners to merely 3 fixtures in February. The club overcame a late 11-on-10 disadvantage to claim 3 points at Molineux Stadium last week, frustrating a Wolves side that is already highly-engaged.
Frank Lampard believes that Brentford striker Ivan Toney could return to the pitch this weekend. Toney scored Bees’ most recent EPL goal in a match against visiting Wolves, but it became a rather lonely celebration in short order as Brentford has mustered exactly 4 on-target shots and no goals in 2 kickoffs since that match.
Recommended bet: Arsenal (-1)
Sunday, February 20: Leeds United vs Manchester United
Picking an EPL legacy club at 1-to-1 odds is never a given opportunity, a point underscored by Chelsea and Man City’s winnable matches and short odds this week. Blues are a (-155) money-line favorite against a host Crystal Palace side that’s lost its scoring touch from autumn. Manchester City’s line is even more exaggerated, as Citizens can boast of nearly 1-to-4 gambling odds to defeat Tottenham.
The (-115) odds being offered on Man United represent this weekend’s only “Goliath” pick of nearly equal risk and reward. Sunday’s favorites would typically be assured of (-200) or (-250) odds to defeat Leeds United, a club that cannot afford a lineup of comparable caliber to Red Devils. Manchester United has been struggling badly against lower-ranked and lower-tier opponents alike, taking a pale 2 points from Saints and Clarets and falling to humble Middlesbrough in the Football Association Cup.
Leeds is a (+300) money-line pick despite having won just 2 matches across all competitions since November. Ronaldo’s latest side can’t fall much lower than that in the eyes of bookmakers, unless Middlesbrough joins the EPL and beats MUFC again.
Recommended bet: Under (2.5) (+124)
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.