With the Premier League finally set to return this weekend, we here at news.bwin.com/en/ are taking a look at some of special markets on offer to punters and our attention now turns to the question of who will score more goals in their respective post-international break matches: Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal or Manchester City.
The Red Devils have a home game against Stoke City to look forward to and are priced as 9/4 favourites to outscore their three rivals, which is understandable considering the embarrassment of attacking riches available to boss Sir Alex Ferguson.
Liverpool take on Reading at Anfield and are 5/2 second favourites to rack up the most goals, with Arsenal next at 3/1 for their trip to Norwich and Man City rated as 333/100 outsiders, perhaps because a stiff test awaits the champions at in-form West Brom.
So which of the quartet offers the best value? Read on to find out as we look at the historical trends and this season’s data to decide where the smart money will be going in this market.
A cursory glance at the Premier League table reveals that United are the current top scorers with 17 goals in their seven games to date, while City have scored 15, Arsenal have plundered 13 and Liverpool have notched just nine.
Ferguson’s men are averaging three goals per game at Old Trafford, so it would be reasonable to expect their tally on Saturday to take some beating.
However, that could be viewed as disrespectful to Stoke, who have the joint second best defensive record in the Premier League and have shipped just four goals in their four away games thus far.
The Potters are renowned for their ability to frustrate the big sides and considering they held free-scoring Chelsea for 85 minutes at Stamford Bridge, perhaps another goal-laden afternoon for United is not as much of a formality as it appears on paper.
Liverpool will fancy their chances against a Reading defence which has conceded 13 goals in six league games already this term, but a look at their performances at Anfield thus far – no wins and just three goals mustered in four games – does not inspire confidence.
The same can be said for Man City, who have plenty of firepower with the likes of Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and Yaya Toure (to name just three) but have scored just five goals in three games on the road.
Roberto Mancini’s men appear to have turned a corner in the attacking sense in the past couple of weeks but they are set to face a West Brom side who have won all four home games, conceding just twice in the process.
The stats look much rosier for Arsenal, who have managed to score six goals in their last three away matches at some tough venues – West Ham, Man City and Liverpool have all been unable to resist the Gunners’ travelling goal threat.
Coming up against a Norwich team who have let in 17 goals already in their seven games and shipped five against Liverpool in their last Carrow Road outing, Santi Cazorla and company will surely be expecting to make hay in the Saturday evening kick-off.
So the early indications are that United and Arsenal look best placed to deliver the goods, but will this perception change when previous meetings are taken into account?
The immediate answer to that question in the case of United is certainly not. As the table below shows, the Red Devils have won nine of their last ten home games against Stoke, drawing the other, and scoring 26 goals in the process.
In four visits to Old Trafford since winning promotion to the Premier League in 2008, the Potters have conceded 13 goals, although it should be noted that nine of those were shipped in the first two of those matches – so Tony Pulis’ men are gradually improving on the road against United.
Liverpool catch the eye for their average home goals scored figure of 2.25 against Reading, but considering the Royals have only made four trips to Anfield in their entire history, this number should perhaps be treated with caution.
The same can be said for Man City’s fairly average record at the Hawthorns, as the majority of their ten most recent away games at West Brom came before Sheik Mansour’s millions transformed their fortunes.
Arsenal, while unbeaten in their last ten meetings with Norwich at Carrow Road, have generally struggled to turn on the style, being held to draws in six of those games and only managing 16 goals over the piece.
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*only four Liverpool v Reading matches ever played
From the figures and arguments considered so far, it would appear that backing United to outscore Liverpool, Man City and Arsenal this weekend is something of a no-brainer, particularly at a price of 9/4.
But as we have pointed out elsewhere on this site, Stoke are yet to be behind in any fixture at half-time and have conceded just twice before the interval in their seven games to date.
Factor in the game arriving just after the international break – when big teams often struggle to click back into top gear – and it’s not unreasonable to suggest that the Potters could keep the score down, especially if they get to half-time unscathed.
The same logic applies to City, who may rotate after seeing so many of their stars jet-setting across the world to play for their national teams and are also sweating on the fitness of chief creative influence David Silva, who was substituted early in Spain’s 1-1 draw with France on Tuesday.
West Brom will be keen to use the game as a barometer for their impressive progress under Steve Clarke and it would be a major surprise if they conceded any more than twice, which was City’s average scoring rate in away games last term.
Meanwhile, for all Reading’s defensive frailties, Liverpool simply make no real appeal as a result of their awful recent record at Anfield, where they have won just six of their last 23 league games and scored just 27 goals in that time.
Breaking down determined but supposedly inferior teams has become a real Achilles heel for the Reds and with Royals boss Brian McDermott already tasting victory at Anfield in an FA Cup tie in January 2010, it could be another tough afternoon for Liverpool.
That only leaves Arsenal and I have to say I think the Gunners offer decent value at 3/1 here. Norwich have conceded five goals on two separate occasions already this season and if they are on song, Arsene Wenger’s men are the type of side who can rack up a cricket score.
They always create plenty of chances and could have scored several more goals in their four away games thus far, particularly against City, when Gervinho spurned a couple of glorious opportunities.
Olivier Giroud has got the monkey off his back with his first Premier League goal for the club in the win at West Ham – not to mention a dramatic equaliser for France in midweek – and must now be full of confidence.
Lukas Podolski had just 20 minutes of pitch time during the international break and should be fresh, and with Cazorla pulling the strings in midfield, an early goal for Arsenal could see the floodgates open.
After all, no-one scored more goals in the first 15 minutes of games last season than the Gunners (ten) and Norwich have shipped nine goals in the first half of their games so far this term – only Southampton have a worse record.
Punters registering with bwin receive a free £20 bet and placing this on Arsenal to outscore the other three teams would return £80 if successful.
And while I certainly wouldn’t advise against siding with United in this market – the stats certainly favour them, for the most part – I will be taking the slightly longer odds on offer for Arsenal to secure a resounding win at Carrow Road.