Arsenal, Liverpool and Man City are in 3pm Premier League action on Saturday and Mike Norman has a back bet, a lay bet, and a back-to-lay trade in those trio of games...
Arsenal to end a bad week badly
Arsenal1.80 v Wolves 4.90; Draw 4.00
Arsenal have been on the drift all week in the Match Odds market and it's not difficult to see why. The market opened before the Gunners hosted Crystal Palace last Sunday and Unai Emery's men have been matched at 1.63 to beat Wolves this weekend. They're now out to 1.82.
The Gunners threw away a 2-0 lead at home to the Eagles last weekend in a game that saw Granit Xhaka in an extraordinary confrontation with his team's own fans. Xhaka has since been offered counselling by the club with Emery admitting that his midfielder is upset, devastated and very sad, and feels that the supporters don't like him.
Xhaka is the recently appointed Arsenal captain may I remind you. He probably won't play against Wolves, which actually might be a good thing for the Gunners, but you have to question the mentality of the team as a whole.
On Wednesday night Emery's men couldn't even beat a third-string Liverpool team! Okay, third-string is a bit of a stretch, but names like Kelleher, Williams, Van den Berg, Elliott, Brewster, Jones and Chirivella are hardly household names, and yet the Gunners led 2-1, 3-1, 3-2, 4-2, 4-3 and 5-4 but still failed to see out the game, eventually losing 5-4 on penalties.
This corresponding fixture ended 1-1 last season, while Wolves won 3-1 at Molineux, so there's absolutely no reason why Nuno Espirto Santo's men can't go to the Emirates and avoid defeat at the very least. Arsenal have won just one of their last four league games and even that was a bit of a struggle, managing just two shots on target in a 1-0 win over Bournemouth. The Gunners have since lost to Sheffield United and failed to beat Palace on home soil.
Wolves are going about their business quite steadily, putting together an unbeaten run of seven games before an excusable midweek loss in the EFL Cup when Santo changed his full starting XI. Their last away game in the league resulted in that magnificent 2-0 win at Manchester City, and while the long-term injury to defender Willy Boly is a huge blow, I believe on current form Wolves can go to the Emirates and pile more misery on Emery's men.
Laying Arsenal at1.83 in the Match Odds gets both the Wolves win and the Draw on your side.
Hosts can give Reds a tough game
Aston Villa9.80 v Liverpool 1.38; Draw 5.60
There'll be very little excuses for either of these two teams on Saturday afternoon after 20 of the 22 players that started for their respective sides last weekend were rested for midweek EFL Cup games. In fact, not a single member of Liverpool's starting XI against Tottenham was in the squad to play Arsenal.
Liverpool's tempo and attacking play against Spurs on Sunday was a joy to watch at times, yet they still conceded, won by just a single goal thanks to a hotly-debated penalty, and even could have squandered their lead in the final moments had Tottenham been a bit more clinical in front of goal.
Jurgen Klopp's men are still doing the business, but they're not at their brilliant best right now and they're not winning games by comfortable margins as regularly as they were at the end of last season and the beginning of this one.
The Reds have won just two of their last 10 games in all competitions by more than one goal, and those victories were against Genk and MK Dons! It's a similar record in Premier League away games, where Liverpool have won just one of their last six by more than a single-goal margin.
What those stats tell us is that backing Aston Villa with a two-goal start should give us a great run for our money.
To land the bet Dean Smith's men need to avoid defeat by at least two clear goals. If Villa score at least once then the Reds would need to score at least three to gazump the bet, so it's comforting to know that Smith's men have scored in all bar one of their six home games this term, and only twice in 13 games this campaign have they lost by two goals or more - last week away at Man City and on the opening weekend of the season when conceding three late goals at Tottenham.
Villa avoided defeat in five of their last six outings, scoring at least two goals in each and 14 goals in total. On current form I believe they can definitely push Liverpool all the way and they're more than capable of keeping the score respectable if they do fall to a defeat.
Goals certain at the Etihad, but how many?
Man City1.09 v Southampton 40.00; Draw 16.00
My final selection in this week's column is one that I don't usually do, but it's a bit of a hunch having backed Man City to run riot on a number of occasions this term only to be frustrated by the lack of an early goal.
City won 8-0 at the Etihad Stadium not long ago, Southampton lost 9-0 at home to Leicester last week. This really could be anything, so much so in fact that Over 2.5 Goals is available to back at just 1.25, the shortest price I've ever seen in that market on a Premier League game.
The over 2.5 option was a bit bigger last week when City hosted Villa and something I noticed in that game is that as the game approached half-time at 0-0 the price didn't drift at a rate you'd normally expect, but in the Over 3.5 Goals market it did. It was as if the general feeling was, okay, City will still get two or three goals in the second half, but they're unlikely to get four or more.
With this in mind, I'm going to back Under 3.5 Goals in this game from the outset at 2.40, and hope that Pep Guardiola's men start slowly again, to a point where the price reaches 1.45 and then lay the same stake back, giving me a return to the equivalent of a 1.90 winner.
We'll need the score to be 0-0 at around the 25 minutes mark in order to reach the lay price, or no more than one goal scored in the game at around the 50 minutes mark, and I don't think that's completely out of the question.
Don't get me wrong, if City score early then they could run riot again, but I envisage the Saints setting up extremely defensively, knowing that they need to avoid a repeat of something similar to last weekend. If they get men behind the ball I have no doubt they can frustrate Guardiola's men, just like Villa did for long periods last Saturday.
And it's also worth pointing out that all of City's last three league games went under the 3.5 goals mark, and the opposition in those matches were Crystal Palace, Wolves and Villa, two of them being at the Etihad. Add in the fact that City have scored inside 20 minutes just once in their last five league games then I believe the recommended trade has a good chance of landing.