This article is part of our Betting on Soccer series.
Hopefully, the international break will help bettors (me) realize where they went wrong. The Premier League is on a torrid pace for goal production. Following the record-breaking 44 goals scored in Gameweek 2, 36 and 41 goals were scored in the following gameweeks, respectively. The average for goals per match through four gameweeks is 3.79, which dwarfs the record of 2.65 in the 1992/93 season.
While that pace may not continue, there's a decent chance the record is broken. High-scoring matches are happening for a reason and a lot of that can be due to COVID-19. Most teams only had a couple weeks of complete rest between seasons, and even those who got more weren't able to fully implement new tactics or new signings.
And while Manchester United and Liverpool losing by huge margins stole recent headlines, the inconsistencies from week-to-week also stand out. West Ham opened the season with two losses, falling 2-0 to Newcastle in the opener while managing three shots on target. They've won their last two matches by a combined 7-0 score line against teams that finished top seven in the league last season. Similar cases can be found around the league, and with European competition set to pick up, things may not change in the near future.
Unfortunately, I'm not sure where that leaves sports bettors.
It's been a tough few weeks for this article with the lone winner last gameweek being an Arsenal and Wolves moneyline parlay. Even when I bet on goals, Man City failed me and Southampton decided they could play defense. Instead of stepping out of the box, my goal in the next month is to play things a little safer. Sure, being safe in sports betting isn't fun, but it's often better for your wallet.
THE WEEK AHEAD
It doesn't help that this week's schedule features a lot of intriguing matchups that could go either way. That's highlighted in the odds because Manchester City are the biggest favorite of the gameweek despite playing Arsenal. Chelsea are projected to score the second-most goals against a side on back-to-back clean sheets (Southampton) and Tottenham are the third-biggest favorite, but they play West Ham. There may not even be a viable moneyline parlay on this slate, if that's your brand of betting.
Similar to prior weeks, I'm attacking the slate with a play on the first match, the Merseyside derby. Conveniently, the odds are in our favor. Everton to win or draw is -103, a draw no bet is +195 and their moneyline is +285. Take your pick. The odds weren't much different when they met in June with Everton +480 to win. That match finished 0-0. In two derbies with Carlo Ancelotti as head coach, the combined score is 1-0 from Liverpool winning an FA Cup matchup on Jan. 5. Everton may have some injuries, but Liverpool have a lot of questions because of positive COVID-19 results, and Alisson Becker is a definite absence. Everton have nine goals in two home matches this season, and while I think they can win, I'll take the other two bets to guarantee I don't lose money in case of a draw. Liverpool are the better overall team, but they aren't the same without Alisson and Everton's form needs to be given more credit, as well.
The rest of Saturday's slate is a toss up. In a normal gameweek, recovery from bad losses is a bit easier. Over an international break when most players from teams like Manchester City and United are away, that may not be the case. Of course, there is the other side to that with a team like Aston Villa, who could lose their form after a great start.
Fortunately, form isn't a worry between two teams at the bottom of the table. Sheffield United have scored one goal in four matches, while Fulham have scored three. Neither team is playing well, but they've looked better in recent contests. Sheffield United let in a late goal in a 1-0 loss to Leeds United and only gave up six shots to Arsenal in their 2-1 loss. Fulham won the possession battle against Wolves and the lone goal allowed came after a few unlucky bounces in the box.
I'd take the under 2.5 goals, but at -148 odds, there's better value in this matchup. Not to mention, I think both teams will be pushing because the loser of this match will be bottom of the table by themselves. Instead, I'll take Fulham -127 to win or draw. Sheffield United haven't shown enough that they deserve to be a +106 favorite against anyone, and they return from the break with COVID-19 issues and an injury to David McGoldrick. They're playing the same style as last season, but they aren't getting breaks and don't have a reliable attack. I also think Fulham's work in the transfer market could pay immediate dividends, with Joachim Andersen, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ademola Lookman all options to receive their first league starts.
In contrast with how the league is going, I'm going to take an under. Feel free to skip this bet since it doesn't make sense to take unders in maybe the highest-scoring season ever. You can get +104 odds for under 3.5 goals between Manchester City and Arsenal. When these teams met in June, the implied goal total was 3.32 goals and it finished 3-0. Despite City not having Sergio Aguero nor Gabriel Jesus and Arsenal having a more competent back line, the implied goal total is above 3.5 for this one. Man City won both of last season's meetings 3-0, while Arsenal took the FA Cup semi-final in July 2-0. While City have mostly dominated this matchup, none of the results have surpassed four goals with Pep Guardiola in charge. Sure, City could win 3-1 and this bet loses, but I'd rather take the plus odds on a wider range of results, especially since City don't have their full attacking core.
The matchup between Tottenham and West Ham may be the hardest to figure out. Tottenham at -180 (it opened -155) seems like a lot, but they were -170 in the same contest in June and won 2-0 with 65 percent possession. On one hand, the Hammers are playing well, but they were playing well prior to that June meeting. Plus, Tottenham have been rolling since the opening loss to Everton. I considered a play on West Ham, but there's a decent chance that would blow up in my face. And instead of taking Son Heung-Min to score the first goal at +380, I'm going to pass.
If anything, you could parlay Tottenham moneyline with something involving the early Sunday matches. The problem with Crystal Palace-Brighton is that they've had arguably the two most-difficult schedules in the league. Brighton have impressed at times and they beat Newcastle 3-0 in their lone match not against a big club. However, the same could be said for Palace, who won at Manchester United. I have a hunch over 2.5 goals at +120 will hit, but none of their prior matchups point to goals (three combined goals in their last two meetings). Brighton have been in full attack-mode through four matches and at least three goals have been scored in all of them.
Everton win or draw +103
Manchester City/Arsenal under 3.5 goals +104
Fulham win or draw -127
Parlay: Newcastle/Man Utd over 2.5 goals (-137), Crystal Palace/Brighton over 1.5 goals (-265), Tottenham/West Ham over 2.5 goals (-159) = +289