Down by the mouth of the players’ tunnel at Upton Park lies a little carpet with a West Ham crest and ‘The Academy of Football’ written by the side. Rumours that Sam Allardyce has tried to sell the carpet because of its lack of height and physicality may be false but if Big Sam does want rid, he could take it along to the Liberty Stadium on the team bus this Saturday and present it to Swansea City boss Michael Laudrup before kick-off.
Laudrup and Allardyce are just two of the many contrasts in the Premier League but their conflicting ideas and ideologies have had their own relative degrees of success over the past couple of years.
Of course, the elegant Dane took over from Brendan Rodgers in South Wales but the modus operandi of pass and move – the ball rarely leaving the dancefloor – still remains.
On the other hand, Allardyce has long had his blueprint for achieving what he sets out to achieve and should the Irons remain in the Premier League for a second term come May, then it will have been job done.
The Swans’ 5-0 mauling of QPR highlighted their penchant for quick, slick football which can cause trouble for any defence, while the simplicity of set-pieces delivered well is an equally useful way to skin a cat. But which will prevail this weekend?
Bwin’s 3Way football betting market has Swansea as well-priced evens favourites for the three points, with West Ham out at 11/4 and the draw at 23/10 and as you can probably tell from my opening gambit, I’m leaning towards the Welshmen to pick up the maximum haul.
Aside from the aesthetics of their play, Swansea had a very strong home record in their debut season in the top flight and I reckon similar form this time around will guarantee another similar mid-table finish.
Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal perished at the Liberty last year and Chelsea were only a last-minute equaliser from doing likewise. On their own turf, the Jacks only conceded 18 goals – less than Manchester United and Chelsea shipped at home – and even if their pretty patterns sometimes lack an end product, they should have too much for West Ham.
Last weekend’s win over a weak Aston Villa courtesy of an offside goal does little to enhance my evaluation that the east Londoners will struggle to take much from the principality, but like all Allardyce productions, they will come with a plan to be obdurate and effective and that could mean a tight affair.
Breaking West Ham down will be a battle of attrition and one bet which caught my eye was the half-time draw followed by the Swansea win at 4/1 and that’s my punt of the weekend.
New customers registering with bwin can claim a free £20 bet and sticking that on a second-half home win after a drawn opening period could pocket you £120 if successful.
Elsewhere, a Swansea win with under 3.5 goals in the game is decent value at 33/20, or if you think it’ll be tighter than that, Swansea with under 2.5 goals is at 333/100.
On the goalscorers front, the hero of Loftus Road, Michu, is a strangely long 2/1 to score at any time along with Carlton Cole, Jamie Proctor, Itay Schechter, Stephen Dobbie, Leroy Lita, Luke Moore and Ricardo Vaz Te.
However, the best value in this market could be Nathan Dyer (scorer of two goals against QPR) or Wayne Routledge to open the scoring – both are priced at a massive 12/1 to do so.
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