The Scout: EPL Week 18 Preview

West Ham United v Manchester United – Saturday, December 23 (Kick-off 8.30pm WA time) 

West Ham United have lost only one of their past six Premier League games with four wins and a draw (against Crystal Palace) that has taken them up to eighth on the table. 

That most recent defeat stands out as a particularly bad day at the office with Fulham inflicting a 5-0 thrashing on the Hammers less than two weeks ago. 

That has been West Ham boss David Moyes’ darkest moment of the season, although a 4-1 loss to Aston Villa was also difficult to take. 

On the flip side are decent victories over Chelsea (3-1), Brighton (3-1) and Tottenham (2-1). 

Just last week, Mohammed Kudus and Lucas Paqueta’s growing understanding was on show in West Ham’s biggest win of the season – a 3-0 success against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Paqueta provided two assists for former Ajax midfielder Kudus, who now has five goals for the season. 

Unfortunately for Moyes, West Ham’s rate of goalscoring (1.71 per game) is on par with how frequently they concede (1.76 goals per game). 

It’s difficult to know what to make of United’s recent goalless draw against Liverpool. It could be a positive sign, but only if you ignore the disparity between the teams in possession (Liverpool had almost 70%) and overall goalscoring attempts, 34 to six. In the end, United mustered just a single shot on target and Erik ten Hag’s side now sit just a point above West Ham. 

United captain Bruno Fernandes is due to return from suspension after serving a one-match ban, although stand-in skipper Scott McTominay has been as important to the club this season. 

McTominay scored twice in United’s most recent win – a 2-1 success against Chelsea that has been followed by a 3-0 defeat to Bournemouth and the draw against Liverpool – and he has five goals for the season, two more than Fernandes. 

Suggested bet: Half Time/Full Time – Draw/West Ham @ $6.75*

Tottenham Hotspur v Everton – Saturday, December 23 (Kick-off 11pm WA time) 

Everton’s trip to Tottenham Hotspur coincides with their former striker, Richarlison, in good form, the Brazilian having scored three goals in his past two appearances for Spurs. 

Never the most prolific of strikers, Richarlison is expected to chip in with more goals at Spurs since the departure of Harry Kane to Bayern Munich. 

At his best, he managed 13 goals a season for two successive campaigns for Everton, and a goal against his former club on Saturday would take him to five this season. 

Son Heung-min continues to pose the biggest threat for Spurs with 10 goals this season, while Dejan Kulusevski, who was man of the match with a goal and assist in last weekend’s 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest, has scored five times this season. 

But having registered four successive victories over Forest, Newcastle United, Chelsea and Burnley, Everton won’t mind facing Richarlison, Son or Kulusevski. 

For all their impressive work early in the season, Spurs are not the form team heading into this one, although they have won their past two games. Victories over Newcastle and Forest had been desperately needed after Spurs lost four and drew one of their previous five games. 

Everton have climbed seven points clear of the relegation zone, despite being weighed down by a 10-point financial penalty. Under Sean Dyche, they have become tough to score against, conceding just 1.18 goals per game compared to Spurs’ 1.35. They have created 2.0 chances per game and only scored at a rate of 1.29 goals per game, which highlights their weakness. Spurs have scored an average of 2.06 goals per game. 

Midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure’s six goals are three more than Everton’s next highest goalscorer, the often-injured Dominic Calvert-Lewin. 

Suggested Bet: Under 2.5 goals + Richarlison over 0.5 shots on target (Same Game Multi) @ $3.25*

Liverpool v Arsenal – Sunday, December 24 (Kick-off 1.30am)   

Liverpool’s goalless draw with Manchester United might haunt them all the way to the Premier League finish line this season. Then again, a win over Arsenal on Sunday morning would be a pretty good way to exorcise the demons of last weekend.
There is not a lot between the Gunners, who are top, and the Reds, who sit second, just a point behind. If Liverpool had made the most of their chances against a struggling Manchester United, the Reds’ and Gunners’ league positions would be reversed.
Both sides are defensively stingy, conceding exactly 0.88 goals per game this season, although Arsenal have seven clean sheets to Liverpool’s six. Liverpool have a slight attacking edge having averaged 2.12 goals per match to Arsenal’s 2.06. But the official stats also show that Liverpool create more big chances with 2.59 per game versus Arsenal’s 1.94. Mo Salah stands apart as the Reds’ most potent player with 11 Premier League goals and seven assists, with Darwin Nunez (four goals) and Diogo Jota (four) some way behind.
Arsenal players have been sharing the goalscoring load with Eddie Nketiah emerging as an important figure with five goals this season. Bukayo Saka (five goals), Kai Havertz (four), Martin Odegaard (four), Gabriel Jesus (three), Declan Rice (three) and Leandro Trossard (three) have been enjoying the season. Defeats to Newcastle and Aston Villa are the only losses on Arsenal’s record but both have come in the past seven games, which also includes five victories.
Liverpool have lost only once this season when Tottenham were still in their honeymoon period of 10 games unbeaten under Ange Postecoglou. 

On paper, this looks like being a Christmas cracker. Arsenal are top but Liverpool have a statistical edge, are at home and will be in no mood for a repeat of last weekend. 

Suggested Bet: Liverpool win + Mohamed Salah over 0.5 shots on target (Same Game Multi) @ $2.85*

*Odds correct as at 10am, 21st December 2023.

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