The Scout: EPL Week 9 Preview

Liverpool v Everton – Saturday, October 21 (7.30pm WA time)

At the best of times, the Merseyside Derby is one of the most anticipated fixtures of the season. But these days?

After finishing a disappointing fifth last season, Liverpool are starting to turn things around with a controversial defeat to Tottenham Hotspur and draws against Chelsea and Brighton their only blemishes in eight league matches. Five victories have taken them to fourth in the Premier League, just three points behind surprise leaders Spurs.

They have talent. You know the story –  Mohamed Salah, Luis Diaz, Alexis Mac Alister, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk etc. In Jurgen Klopp, they also have a coach who is as quotable as he has been exceptional.

But what about Everton?

For several seasons now they have been threatening to end their long stay in England’s topflight, flirting with relegation danger before pulling themselves out of the mire.

Last season, Sean Dyche dug them out of a hole. Everton reached safety by just two points. They are currently 16th, three points above third-from-bottom Burnley.

Hopes that Everton would build on last season’s daring escape didn’t last long. The Toffees lost their first three games to Fulham (1-0), Aston Villa (4-0) and Wolverhampton Wanderers (1-0).

A 2-2 draw with Sheffield United early last month has been the catalyst for improvement. Victories over Brentford and Bournemouth have followed, although a defeat to struggling Luton Town was hard to take for Dyche.

So, what next?

It will surprise most people that Everton, whose top scorer is midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure with just three goals, have created 2.63 chances per game, which is surprisingly better than Liverpool’s 2.5.

The fact that Everton have scored at a rate of only 1.13 goals per game (versus 2.25 per game for Liverpool) says a great deal about where the Toffees problems lie.

The signing of Jack Harrison on loan from Leeds United could be important in Everton’s season, and it did produce an instant reward with the midfielder scoring in the 3-0 win over Bournemouth.

But even though derby games can produce odd results, Liverpool are too good for Dyche’s mercurial men.

Suggested Bet: Liverpool to win + Over 3.5 total goals + Both teams to score (Same Game Multi) @ $3.25*

Chelsea v Arsenal – Sunday, October 22 (12.30am WA time)

Is it possible that Chelsea have finally started to turn the corner? Could it be that successive Premier League victories for the first time since March will be the catalyst for a genuine return to form?

Before anyone jumps to conclusions, it’s worth remembering that after last year’s 3-1 win over Leicester, which came on the back of a 1-0 victory over Leeds (and midweek European success against Borussia Dortmund), they won just one of their final 12 Premier League games of the season.

Let’s also not forget that recent wins over Burnley (4-1) and Fulham (2-0) were hardly earth-shattering successes, although they were particularly important to manager Mauricio Pochettino, who had steered the team to just one league win (against Luton) prior to that.

Pochettino expects that it will take time for some of his signings to have an impact, although both Nicolas Jackson (two goals) and former Manchester City starlet Cole Palmer (one) appear to be adjusting to the rigours of the Premier League. The jury is still out on how much impact Mykhailo Mudryk will have on the Blues. In 22 appearances, the attacking midfielder has scored just once.

Unfortunately, Arsenal are in rare form, trailing league leaders Tottenham Hotspur only on goal difference. They are creating and scoring goals (Bukayo Saka leads the tally with four, ahead of captain Martin Odegaard’s three). And in their most recent fixture, they beat champions Manchester City thanks to Gabriel Martinelli’s late goal.

Most things about this fixture point to another Arsenal victory, although Chelsea, who are 11th, will have home comforts at Stamford Bridge. Goals had been difficult to come by for Chelsea with just five scored in their opening six league games before hitting six in their past two matches.

Both sides have been defensively sound with Arsenal racking up four clean sheets already and conceding just 0.75 goals per game. Chelsea have three clean sheets and a defence that has conceded only 0.88 goals per game. This particular statistic suggests the game might be tighter than many people predict.

Suggested Bet: Arsenal to win + Under 2.5 goals (Same Game Multi) @ $5.10*

Sheffield United v Manchester United – Sunday, October 22 (Kick off, 3am WA time)

Is this a golden opportunity or a potential banana skin? We know Manchester United have fallen on hard times but surely they can’t lose this one?

If they do, we can only assume their current condition may not be of a temporary nature.

On paper, this is a game that gives United an opportunity to flex their muscles and build on their recent 2-1 win over Brentford. But this is also a day when the pressure of expectation will weigh heavily on their shoulders.

The Blades are in terrible form. Bottom of the league with just a point from their first eight games, they could hardly have made a worse start to the season.

Since a 2-2 draw against Everton, in which goals came from Cameron Archer and a Jordan Pickford own goal brought a short-lived sense of relief, they have lost four in a row. An 8-0 mauling against Newcastle United stands out against defeats to Tottenham Hotspur (2-1), West Ham United (2-0) and Fulham (3-1).

They have scored just 0.75 goals per game and conceded 2.75. Gustavo Hamer is their top scorer with two goals, Archer has one goal and Jayden Bogle is their only other goal scorer. Two of the six goals the Blades have scored have been own goals.

In comparison to this bleak picture, things don’t seem so bad at Old Trafford, even though United have lost three of their past five games. Victory over Brentford, in which Scott McTominay scored twice in stoppage time to secure a 2-1 victory, and a 1-0 success over struggling Burnley (Bruno Fernandes scored on the stroke of half-time) are their most recent successes.

By their lofty standards, the Red Devils are limping along and Erik ten Hag must have serious concerns about his capacity to turn things around.

Nothing less than a comfortable win over Sheffield United will do for now. United fans will be holding their breath, regardless.

Suggested Bet: Manchester United to win + Both teams to score + Over 3.5 total goals (Same Game Multi) @ $3.95*

*Odds correct as at 9am, 19th October 2023.

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