Previews of upcoming games
Brighton Hove & Albion vs. Manchester United
Erik ten Hag’s first game as manager of Manchester United takes place at Old Trafford against the Brighton Seagulls. To put it mildly, the Red Devils’ campaign in 2021-2022 was subpar by their standards. They finished ninth in NPxGD, which is somewhat perplexing.
This is a team with a large wage bill and a long history. They should be a lock for the top six, if not the top four. They slipped into sixth, but they shouldn’t have. Now, I would probably disregard this data for the most part, as ten Hag represents a significant upgrade at the helm.
I don’t think the transfer window was particularly impressive, and if they make the UCL, it will be entirely on the shoulders of the new manager. Long-term, I’m interested in him, but I’m not sure about his first season.
The locker room appears to be in disarray, and this is a significant step up from the Eredivisie. The team still has a lot of talent, but it needs to work on being a more balanced XI. He is aware that the midfield needs to be addressed. That is why he is so desperate for Frenkie De Jong. I also dislike the defense. Lisandro Martinez was brought in from Ajax, but it’s a big step up in class for him.
The attack is effective, and this is where they will make their money. This season, I have United finishing sixth in the league, but there may be ups and downs as the new manager implements his new system and some bad attitudes in the locker room.
Brighton is one of the teams I am optimistic about this season. In the Premier League, this is your analytics darling. This has been the case for the last two seasons, and I expect it to continue. The Seagulls are most likely England’s 10th-11th best team. Safely in the middle of the table, but a long way from the top spots in Europe.
Brighton finished 9th in the table and 10th in NPxGD last season, placing them directly below their opponents on Sunday. And, to be honest, that’s about right. Graham Potter, their manager, is a very smart man. Tactically, he is one of the world’s most promising young managers. I expect him to move on to bigger and better things, but until then, I’ll bet on Brighton.
They did lose two top-tier players in Yves Bissouma and Marc Cucurella, and they have yet to sign anyone significant. They’ve borrowed Levi Colwill, but he’s young and unproven. We’ll see if they bring anyone in because the window isn’t closed. With that said, I believe Potter’s system is what propels them to tenth place, and they should be able to cope. I rate these teams higher than the market, so I’ll bet Brighton +1 on Sunday.
Brentford vs. Leicester City
The Foxes kick off their 2022-2023 season against the Bees at King Power Stadium. Leicester had a disappointing season last year, finishing eighth with 52 points. They actually outperformed their metrics, ranking 12th in NPxGD. Injuries played a significant role in this.
It’s just difficult for a club like Leicester to sustain that with their limited squad depth. Vardy’s absence hampered their offense slightly, but they remained solid at 9th in NPxGD. The real problem was on defense, where they finished 15th in NPxGA.
When Wesley Fofana and Jonny Evans were injured, that was a huge part of it for me. I like both of them a lot, and their backups were just awful. The concern for this season is that several of their top players are on the market, and they are the only EPL team that has not signed anyone in the transfer market. I still believe Tielemans will leave, but it appears that Maddison and Fofana are not for sale, which is huge.
The loss of goalkeeper and captain Kasper Schmeicel is also significant. The offense will be strong once again, but the main question is whether they can improve at the back this season. In that regard, Fofana has the potential to be a game changer.
Brentford were one of the promoted sides from last season, and they were the only ones who had a particularly strong campaign. The Bees finished 13th overall with 46 points, but 7th in NPxGD. So, theoretically, they underperformed their numbers significantly.
The question for this season is whether they can do it again. Is it long-term? Christian Eriksen, who was excellent for Brentford last season, was sold to Manchester United. On the other hand, they have not instilled confidence in anyone. The other narrative is that staying up in your second season is more difficult than staying up in your first for promoted sides.
See the recent history of Sheffield United. Brentford should stay up, but I’m concerned they didn’t improve the squad at all. I believe the 13th-15th would be a good time for them. Goals are the game here for me. I enjoy Brentford’s attack and particularly enjoy Leicester’s attack, especially at home. With Kasper out, I still need proof that the Foxes can keep clean sheets. So BTTS and more than 2.5 is a good bet for me.
Manchester City vs. West Ham United
This was most likely my favorite game of the weekend. This one has a ton of attacking talent on both sides of the ball. The Hammers are at home and are managed by David Moyes, who is a league above-average manager. Transfer-wise, they didn’t lose anyone and added some nice depth pieces in Gianluca Scamacca and Maxwell Cornet.
They’ve been consistently in the top eight for the last few seasons, and I don’t see why that should change now. Cornet is a quick and athletic fullback, and Scamacca is a 6’5 physical Italian striker who should complement Michail Antonio in attack.
They came in seventh in the table with 56 points and eighth in NPxGD. That’s exactly where they belong, as the best team outside of the big six. I enjoy playing them as a dog against bigger teams, and they should be available for City at home.
What can I say about Manchester City? On paper, they should be able to win it all this season. Bringing in Erling Haaland, as well as Kalvin Phillips and Julian Alvarez, is the summer transfer. They also lost Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling, and Oleksandr Zinchenko, so the defending champions have had a lot of turnover.
I am concerned about their midfield depth, but that is really their only concern. They are also more reliant on Jack Grealish, who had a strong first season on the wing. The absence of Sterling and Jesus makes them a little more vulnerable, but we’ll see. They won the league and outscored everyone on NPxGD by +62.0 points. If you watched the Community Shield match against Liverpool, it appeared that the Cityzens were in preseason form.
This attack could take a few weeks to gel with the addition of Haaland, and that is what I am betting on. City is still finding their feet on the road, facing a quality opponent in West Ham. Give me the underdog at +1.5.
+1 -128 Brighton
BTTS Leicester City / Brentford Parlay Yes / Over 2.5 -103
West Ham United +1.5 -116