FBI Column: Deconstructing the Weekend’s Football Odds

Premier League Treble

MAN CITY v Queens Park Rangers, West Ham v FULHAM, SWANSEA v Sunderland

A £10 bet with Coral returns £67.37 for a win

Man City are very short priced in their game, I only put that one in because there is a lot of good matches this weekend that would be a bit of a risk to put into the treble, such as  West Brom v our boys, Wigan v Stoke and Liverpool v Arsenal.

West Ham v Fulham could be a tough one, but new faces Mladen Petric and Hugo Rodallega look promising for Fulham. Damien Duff scored in their last game and Bryan Ruiz is looking sharp too.

Swansea have taken the Premier League by storm in their first 2 games, winning 5-0 and 3-0. Their new manager Michael Laudrup looks to be working miracles, so I have tipped his side to beat Sunderland.

Goalscorer Treble:

Michu, Carlos Tevez and Shinji Kagawa all to score would return you £76.61 from a £5 bet. However if you are unsure on Kagawa and would rather play safe on Robin van Persie, £5 could return £42.56 from StanJames.

Best Of The Rest:

A 2-0 Fulham win over West Ham boasts a generous price of 14/1, as does the 15/4 offered for in-form new boy Santi Cazorla to score at anytime against Liverpool. In the same game as the latter, you can get 7/1 for highly-rated Olivier Giroud to score first as he looks to break his early duck. Rickie Lambert to score at any time v Manchester United looks great at 3/1 as well.

Saturday Treble:

Over 2.5 goals: West Brom v Everton, Swansea v Sunderland, Man City v QPR. A £10 bet with Ladbrokes could get you £60.14.

Sunday Double:

Newcastle to beat Aston Villa 1-0 and Man United to beat Southampton 2-1, just a fiver bet with Coral could bag you (drum roll please) £318.75!

Weekend Longshot

My weekend longshot came in last week and would have got you £286.60 from a £5 bet! Everyone knows punter’s luck comes in runs so this weekend’s longshot is below, I’d put a few quid on if I were you!

3 draws: Leeds v Blackburn, Nottingham Forest v Charlton, Liverpool v Arsenal. A £5 stake could return you up to £222.44!

By Tom Clarke – Follow Tom on Twitter @TomClarke40

WBA v Everton Tactical Preview

WBA Intel

The Baggies under Hodgson where perennially two banks of four in close proximity, usually 4-4-2 with an emphasis on defensive shape and being tough to pull out of this shape. This formula achieved decent results and a period of stability. Clarke has looked for evolution not revolution maintaining the bulk of the squad and making a couple of shrewd purchases to add to what is a decent side. He has shifted a bit more towards 4-2-3-1 with Odemwingie and Gera in the wide offensive roles against Liverpool with the more defensive Dorrans and Fortune selected in the trip to WHL last week for various reasons. Odemwingie should be fit enough to return and I’d expect them to line up like this;


4 points from his first 2 games is a very competent start for new boss Steve Clarke considering he was one of the front runners to get sacked pre season. A comfortable 3-0 win against Liverpool and a credible 1-1 draw with Spurs were both good results but must be put into the context that both of these sides are in transition under new managers with their respective personnel also in a state of flux. Whilst Clarke is also a new manager the starting players – with the exception of Yacob – all know each other pretty well and this is certainly a strength of WBA’s and why I’m expecting a much tougher game than Villa last week.

One to watch

Claudio Yacob will be a name unfamiliar to most but has already proved to be an excellent capture especially considering there was no fee involved in his transfer. Yacob has good pedigree having been capped for Argentina and playing over 100 games for Racing Club where he was also club captain. His passing range is decent as is his positional play. The midfielder is also the Baggies top passer so far with a 91.6% completion from his 47 passes per game.

Toffee Tactics

We will be facing a team who won’t be as open as Villa and as such we will need to be even more creative than we have been to open WBA up. Their centre backs McAuley and Olsson are strong in the air and will defend the high ball into their box all day long. We need to pull them out of this comfort zone and take them into areas of the pitch and situations they are less at ease. Expect Fellaini to come deep and act as the starting point for most attacks with Jelavic looking to run in the channels between the centre backs and fullbacks.  If this works and the 2 centre backs are pulled into deeper and wide zones there will be space to exploit for the likes of Naismith and Pienaar. We have no injuries with Hibbert back after missing last weeks win at Villa. I’d expect Mirallas to get another 30mins most likely from the bench.

Betting Forecast

The last 3 games against the Baggies (home and away) have seen less than 2.5 goals scored; last season we won both games without conceding.

4 to ponder…

13/2 Naismith scores anytime / Everton win double (Betfred)

4/5 Under 2.5 goals in the game (Bet365)

10/3 Everton to win by 1 goal (Ladbrokes)

19/2 Jelavic last scorer, Everton win Double (William Hill)

For a full preview of the weekend’s betting check out the FBI Column here


EB’s Toffee Deadline Blog: Steven N’Zonzi Stats/ Analysis

With Fellaini cementing his position as a forward with his strong early season form we need to fill the defensive midfield void he has vacated and N’Zonzi seems to fit the bill.  The Blackburn man is disenchanted working under the colossal ball sack that is Steve Kean and is on the market for £3m which is £2m in Everton money.

Last season N’Zonzi won the most aerials per game for  a midfielder in the top flight (2.8) with a 54% success s rate. His pressing isn’t as good as Fellaini; whilst the Big Belgian managed 7.1 pressing contact per game (tackles, interceptions, fouls) N’Zonzi managed just 4.9, which still isn’t bad. He also bagged 5 assists and a couple of goals as well. His pass completion wasn’t too shabby at 83.5%.

Weakness wise, his first touch doesn’t seem fantastic, also his disciplinary record is pretty dire with 7 bookings last season when he finished as the 11th dirtiest midfielder in the top flight.

EB Verdict; 50/50

Fresh Produce on EB Today…

WBA v Everton Tactical Preview 

EB’s Deadline Day Blog – Bryan Oviedo Analysis

Bryan Oviedo is an attacking left wing back who can also operate left midfield. He has similar attributes to Pranjic who we tracked earlier in the summer in that he is versatile, good at crossing with a ‘sweet’ left peg to boot. He offers significantly better options than Pranjic in terms of pace, energy and at only 22 fits in with the clubs transfer policy of having sell on value. With his age he is also more malleable in terms of future development. Oviedo has been a regular starter for Copenhagen where he has won 2 Danish titles. Previously he plied his trade at Deportivo Saprissa who are based in his home country of Costa Rica.

We have had no like for like cover for Baines for a couple of seasons now and whilst we haven’t been caught with our pants down yet, Oviedo gives us something a bit extra and will also give Baines competition which is crucial in terms of keeping players on their toes. Its probable that this will allow young Luke Garbutt to go out on loan.

Steve Round appears to have done his homework on the scouting front…..

“I have seen him on a regular basis – I have been abroad and watched him, as have all the scouts and the manager. But as yet he is not our player. We have work permits to get. That is why the manager is not doing the press today – he is in London trying to tie that up and finalise it. Until it’s all done we can’t really comment too much, but I think later in the day it will all become clearer and when he puts pen to paper we can talk about the player. He can play left back, left midfield, and left wing – all the way down the left hand-side. That will give us good cover in our squad.”

EB Verdict: Done Deal.

Tactical Deconstruction: How Everton’s midfield bossed Aston Villa

The key differential strategy wise to the United game was Moyes confidence that, given the players we have and the side Villa were likely to put out, we had a significant advantage in terms of quality and cohesion. Our dominance of the ball was total: we had 61% of possession overall with 73% possession in the final third, more than double the amount of final third touches than Villa (219 v 105) and crucially more touches in Villa’s box (34) than they did in ours (13) .

The below shows our side in relation to average position and touches of the ball (the bigger the font the more touches)

Midfield Numbers

Why was our dominance so total then? The key was in our midfield shape. Villa put out an attacking 4-4-2 with Delfouneso and Bent up top with Ahmadi and Bannan in the centre of midfield which was a bold move by Lambert – he was hardly likely to park the bus in his first home game at his new club given the negativity surrounding his predecessor and his defensive tactics. Villa’s midfield duo were completely outnumbered though as Naismith (although deployed right mid) spent most of his time narrow and Fellaini was also playing a tad deeper than he was vs Utd. This meant we often had a 4v2 situation in the middle of the park which we used to control the game and then feed the left flank as shown below…

This numerical advantage in midfield enabled us to control the first half; a situation which only relented when Lambert brought on a midfielder (Holman) for Bent’s strike partner Delfouneso and reverted to 4-5-1 at half time.

Naismith had a pleasing debut; the former Rangers man completed 96% of his passes which was the most of any of our starting line up. Below is an example for goal 1 where Naismith comes inside to make up an extra man and assist a screamer from Pienaar which followed a slick one touch passing move.

As noted in this article, Naismith is adept at winning free kicks in dangerous positions and was the most fouled player on the pitch, in part enabling us to carve out 7 scoring opportunities from set plays compared to Villa’s 0.

Left Side

The creation of Baines and Pienaar and its dominance of this game was ridiculous even by their high standards with Villa’s inexperienced full back Lowton continually exposed. Creativity wise, Baines was on fire, with 8 key passes and a whopping 60% crossing accuracy underlining his status as the division’s number one creative fullback. With Pienaar crafting 3 chance of his own the duo were responsible for creating 65% of our 17 chances to Villa’s 6.

Goal 3 was another example of the brilliance of Baines delivery with Jelavic’s movement class as he deploys the classic double run used for the bulk of his efc goals so far.

Notice how he makes 2 movements; firstly running centrally into the box (arrow) then befuddling his marker by pulling back into the space behind him (marked x) to lash home Baines delivery.

Last word

This was a game of total dominance by the toffees and will develop the growing belief in the squad that we have more than one way of winning a football match. In recent seasons we have been able to win the more tricky games against sides that came at us and give us opportunities. The frustration has come against sides in the middle to lower reaches of the table when we often lack the incision to break them down. We now have much more options at our disposal to do this. Granted, Villa were very open; Lambert was never going to park the bus in his first home game in charge and Moyes pre-empted this ruthlessly. Up the Toffees!


Aston Villa v Everton – Tactical & Betting Preview

David Moyes will be hoping to capitalise on the significant momentum generated by Monday night’s exploits against a Villa side looking for a win in Paul Lambert’s first home game in charge of the club. ..

Villa Last Season

Its unlikely any Villa fans were sad to see the back of the hapless Big Eck and his safety first, slow and dour brand of football. Villa were largely shite for the most part of the previous campaign with their matches the footballing equivalent of attending a Keane concert.

The Villains struggled to score goals and despite having some old school groc’s in their back line such as Dunne and Collins had an  inability to defend the aerial ball into their 18 yard box resulting in a campaign where safety was only ensured in the latter weeks of the season.

Lambert Tactics

New boss Paul Lambert’s summer has been spent sifting through the debris of squads expensively assembled by previous managers with contrasting football ideologies.

Lambert is a very intelligent coach who has shown in his managerial career to date he is happy to radically change personnel, formations and tactics game to game and for me he was the obvious like for like candidate should Moyes have walked in the summer. Like Moyes, he is reactive in the sense of being willing to deploy specific tactics to nullify an identified threat game to game. He is also capable of switching things in the attacking phase; in the 2-2 draw with his Norwich side last season he seamlessly shifted from a 4-4-1-1 to a midfield diamond with 2 out and out strikers to rescue a point after we had been in control at 2-1. Its thus difficult to second guess his personnel or tactics but given the limited options at his disposal I’d go for him opening up in a 4-2-3-1 with Holman (left) Ireland (centre) and N’Zogbia (right) providing narrow support to Darren Bent up top. It will be something of a new look side with Ahmadi (distributor) and Delph (runner) the two anchor men in midfield. Lowton and Baker are two promising if albeit inexperienced fullbacks who will be sandwiched by new signing Vlaar and Cieran Clark in the CB slots.

Villa’s opening game with West Ham was eerily similar to our game with Man Utd stats wise. Like ourselves, West Ham had minimal possession (34%) and significantly less touches overall yet had more touches in the opposition 18 yard box than Villa did in theirs. The Hammer’s winning goal showed that Villa are still susceptible to the aerial ball into their box which will be an area Moyes will look to exploit.

Everton Approach

I’d be surprised if there was much change personnel wise from Monday. Strategy wise I’d expect Villa to come at us which will suit our counter attacking approach; expect a deep toffee line with  plenty of men behind the ball to mitigate the threat of Bent’s pace in behind especially early on in the game. As noted, Villa have an achilles heel for defending crosses into their box so again I’d expect us to mix things up with diagonals targeting Fellaini with Jela, Pienaar and Osman (who has a very good scoring record against Villa) looking to pick up the second balls. Mirallas will probably start from the bench and I’d be surprised if he didn’t get 30 mins given the inexperience of Villa’s fullbacks especially if we are chasing the game.

Betting forecast

Its really difficult to see any other outcome than a draw. Moyes two games with Lambert last season ended in stalemate as did our games vs Villa – the sixth draw in the last seven meetings between the clubs. Youwin offer the best price of 38-25 for a toffee win with Villa at 24/11 with Pinnacle. The draw is a best priced 12-5 with Paddy Power.

5 to ponder;

11/12 Both teams to score (32red)
6/1 for a 1-1 draw ( betfred)
8/1 Mirallas last scorer (skybet)
5/1 Fellaini scores anytime / Everton win double (Willie Hills)

11/1 Osman scores anytime / Match drawn double (Willie Hills)


Did Leighton become the Baine of Our Attack Last Season?

By Football Fact Man

Watching the 3-0 drubbing Everton took at Anfield last season, it seemed the Baines-Pienaar axis was becoming so influential that it was somehow detrimental to the whole attacking balance of the side. They were the only outlet in that game, but they continually over-egged the pudding, adding in one too many passes or flicks which caused moves to break down.

Towards the end of the season Baines got injured, meaning Distin moved out to left-back for 5 games. Everton went out and scored 13 goals in those games and kept 3 clean sheets, taking 9 points. Over the course of last season, Everton’s win % was better when Baines didn’t play.

Obviously there’s lots of variables in there –the quality of opposition, home advantage, who else was in the side on certain days. To try and counter this, the data since 2008 (when both Baines and Pienaar came to the side) was pulled up.
The sample spans 240 games over the last 5 seasons:

As you can see there’s very little difference when one or the other isn’t playing. Everton’s win % actually rises slightly when they don’t play together. Baines has an individual win % of 41 for Everton when he starts. Pienaar’s individual win % is 44.

Baines managed only 2 assists in the Premier League last year despite creating 67 chances (key passes). He made 27 assists in the previous 3 seasons. This could be attributed to Tim Cahill’s waning influence, but Everton have only had two players break 10 league goals a season in the last 5 years.  Baines still hasn’t assisted a Jelavic goal yet either.

Much is being made in football analytics at present about the inefficiency of the cross. The below graphic illustrates the typical positions Baines picked people out from last season:

On the face of it, most of the positions where the attacker meets the ball look good – around the penalty spot and in the six yard box. And they would be if the ball was delivered on the deck from a shorter pass at slower pace – therefore being easier to deal with. But they aren’t, and Baines found no success in these games.

Perhaps the biggest factor of all was how Everton held shape and position more rather than keep up their pressing game throughout as EB noted last week. Despite the team as a whole being deeper, Baines was further up the pitch than ever last season, to the point where his average position was 10-15 yards inside the opposition half. Here’s the graphics from the same Norwich and Bolton games above:

Compare these to the two examples below from the previous season where Baines got assists against Sunderland and Fulham:

The positions look much more conservative – narrower and nearer the halfway line. Despite a season of being in these more conservative positions, Baines made 11 assists, swinging in over a 100 more crosses. In both the last two seasons his accuracy in picking someone out was 28% so his quality remained the same.

The data suggests that when Baines has been the major attacking outlet rather than the midfielders and forwards, his own effectiveness has been restricted. The United game this week saw Baines back around the half-way line while Pienaar buzzed around Fellaini. Often it was Baines accuracy into Fellaini from these deeper positions that caused United so many problems.

The acquisitions of Kevin Mirallas and Steven Naismith may break up the Baines-Pienaar axis more often, or indeed provide a greater balance between attacking down left and right. This should see Baines in a more orthodox full-back position. Time will tell if this helps Baines rediscover his knack for supplying well crafted goals. Having to do it all by himself last season didn’t really work for anyone.


Everton 1-0 Man United – Tactical Deconstruction

Teams & Formations

Everton lined up in the usual 4-4-1-1 with the same forward 6 players that played in the 4-4 draw at Old Trafford in May. Further back, Distin’s superior pace gave him the nod ahead of the unfortunate Heitinga. United went in with a 4-2-3-1 with Welbeck and Nani on the flanks with new signing Kagawa in ‘the hole’ behind Rooney. Rio Ferdinand’s injury meant that Carrick was deployed at centre half with Valencia at right back.  The game played out in a familiar manner, with 2 distinctive phases of play.

Phase 1 – Aggressive Attacking

Our main strategy was to maximise the colossal threat of Fellaini, playing a more direct game perhaps in response to United’s central defensive injury crisis. The Belgian was immense; as we noted last season our goals output goes up 50% in the games he plays in an advanced role to those he plays as a defensive midfielder. The Belgian received the ball 28 times in the final third last night with 49 touches in the final third which was more than any player from either side.

His aerial prowess was crucial and in a more than deliberate tactic we looked to bypass Vidic and get the ball forward to Fellaini who was looking to pull onto the back of United’s fullbacks to win diagonal balls from Howard and Baines. This perhaps doesn’t do Fellaini justice – his chest control for example is better than anyone in the Premier League by a distance. He made plenty of gains and United couldn’t handle his physical prowess as the game developed. Firstly he outmuscled Valencia and rolled Carrick to hit the post, and then he provided a knock down for Osman to strike the bar.

It was third time unlucky for United though; Fellaini again dominated Carrick (the hapless stand-in centre back won just 28% of his aerial duels) as the curly haired dynamo shrugged off his attention to arrow home a great Darron Gibson centre to send Goodison into raptures.

For detail on passing tempo and various other nerding view EB’s Post Match Stats Dashboard

Phase 2 – Containment

With the goal in the bag ‘Operation Goodison’ shutdown commenced. United dominated possession, moving from 64% control in the first half to 69% in the second. This is nothing new for us though. For example, the wins against Man City, Chelsea, Spurs & Swansea last season were achieved with an average possession of just 35% with Moyes happy to retreat 10 yards, concede possession and get as many men behind the ball as possible.

Whilst United dominated possession (692 v308 passes), they were less incisive getting the ball into the box and creating threatening chances. The Blues had significantly less touches (571 v 933) but crucially we had more touches in United ‘s penalty box than they did ours (42 v 27) with us having 22% of our chances in their 6 yard box compared to United’s 0% in ours. The below image shows this nicely with United’s passing meeting a brick wall around our penalty box…..

With the centre of the pitch congested United were attacking down the flanks rather than utilise Kagawa through the middle with an emphasis on crossing which we were happy with given our organisation and prowess in defending such situations. United’s crossing accuracy was poor with just 17% accuracy, half the figure we chalked up. Van Persie’s introduction on the right side had limited rewards and he cut something of a peripheral figure as United continued to chase the game with minimal gains.

Jagielka’s display in the defensive phase was crucial; he won a crucial one on one with Welbeck following a great through ball from Kagawa and then foiled United’s best chance of the game, sensing the danger to clear Cleverleys shot of the line. Distin also performed heroically with some crucial headers at the death.

In Summary….

This was a classic Everton display of recent times and was very much an extension of what happened from January onwards last season at Goodison. On this form Fellaini is unplayable and his aggression combined with our ability to win the second balls around him were crucial in the attacking phase of play. Defensively we are resolute – Goodison is a real fortress with 7 clean sheets in our last 10 games at home – and in truth we never looked like conceding with United creating little from their large share of possession. In summary, this was a well deserved victory and a great start to the campaign.


The FBI Column: Deconstructing the weekend’s football betting

Premier League Odds

Kicking off the season will be Arsenal and Sunderland. Arsenal have made many useful additions to their squad such as highly-rated Spanish starlet Santi Cazorla, Ligue 1 top scorer Olivier Giroud and German playmaker Lukas Podolski. They start life post RVP at a best-priced 4/9 (Paddy Power) to beat a Sunderland side who are a whopping 17/2 with Stan James. Fulham are favourites (17/20 with Willie Hills) to win their opener against Norwich. They have been active during the window, adding players such as Rodallega, Petric and Sascha Riether to their squad; Norwich did well in their return to the Premier League last season and are 4/1 with Pinnacle to come out on top here.  One of the closest bouts of the opening weekend sees Tottenham travel to Newcastle. Spurs finished 4th in the Prem last season with Newcastle only a place behind. Newcastle are best-priced 8/5 with Boylesports but the 47/25 from Betfair for Tottenham looks the best value lay in my opinion.

Swansea look great value in their opener with QPR, with Betfair offering 16/5 with Betfred . They have brought in Michu from Rayo Vallecano for £2m who plundered 16 goals in La Liga last season. However, QPR are favourites as although finishing 6 places below Swansea in the Prem last season, they have recruited well. In my opinion there’s some great value in Stoke beating new boys Reading, with the Potters at 57/29 with Pinnacle Sports. Although Reading have brought in 7 new signings, I believe Stoke will have the edge and at that price, are worth adding to your accumulator if you’re looking for value over short-priced favourites. There are some interesting prices in Liverpool’s opener with West Brom. Sadly, Liverpool appear the obvious choice and are well-priced at 11/10 with Coral. However, West Brom only finished 2 places below Liverpool last season in the Prem in 10th, and 3/1 with Pinnacle seems very generous.

West Ham are favourites to beat Aston Villa at Upton Park, with Coral offering 11/8 for the Hammers and Stan James giving as far out as 5/2 for the Villains to come out on top. I expect long balls and goals aplenty with Villa and Lambert’s superior know how edging this one. In the Monday night game Everton are a best-priced 27/8 with Pinnacle, with Man United at 11/12 with the same firm. A correct score of 2-2 appeals to me at 16/1 with William Hill. Click here for more analysis and odds on Everton v Man United

Premier League Treble: Liverpool, QPR & Chelsea win treble £5 stake returns £32.30 with William Hill

Goalscorer Treble: Djibrill Cisse, Sergio Aguero & Fernando Torres all score anytime £5 treble returns £34,69 at Willie Hills

Best of the rest….

Warnock is well versed in escaping the Championship and his Leeds side are 6/4 (willie hills) to beat a far from united Wolves outfit who have one just twice  in 22 at Elland Road. Leicester and Forest also look good for opening day home wins on the coupon. Rotherham at home to Burton at 4/6  (Betfred) looks decent as the Millers kick off their promotion push at their new ground. Fellow promotion hopefuls Fleetwood are evens at home to beat Torquay and are worth laying. Port Vale had an excellent home record last season and at 10/11 at Willie Hills are decent odds against a poor Barnet side.

Dead Certs: Ipswich / Blackburn – Both teams to score (btts) 8/13 (Coral) /  AFC Wimbledon v Chesterfield 2.5 goals +  8/11 (Willie Hills)

Saturday treble: 2.5 goals plus West ham v Villa / afc Wmbledon v Chestefield / Crewe v Notts County £5 returns £31.86 with William Hill

Sunday double Wigan v Chelsea / Man city v Southampton – Btts double

Weekend Longshot:: 4 draws – Newcastle v Spurs /Reading v Stoke / Millwall v Blackpool /  Preston v Colchester

By Tom Clarke