The Premier League Tactical Forecast

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Who will claim 4th place and Champions League qualification – Arsenal or Tottenham? What sort of resistance will West Brom offer in Sir Alex Ferguson's last match as manager of Man United? With the final weekend of the Premier League season ahead of us, today on the blog Matt Wallace offers his Premier League tactical forecast.

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Newcastle vs Arsenal

A must win game for Arsenal, but the first that Newcastle have been able to relax in all season. This can only bode well for the Gunners but they will have to make sure they’re professional in their task and don’t take a result for granted.

Signs of how Arsenal will be set up were there to see in the win over Wigan, with Podolski putting in an excellent performance as a central striker. With his ability to play as a wide forward, this gives Arsenal a certain flexibility and fluidity in the final third, something they will look to exploit by pulling wide-men, such as Theo Walcott, into central positions and attacking defenders who aren’t expecting it, or pulling fullbacks inside to offer up space for overlapping fullbacks. Aaron Ramsey was the beneficiary of this midweek, cutting in from the left to fire inside the far post – expect Arsenal to use this tactic again to punish an occasionally lapse David Santon.

The Odds

The charts below display the implied probabilities for the key betting markets based on average bookmaker odds. Click on the charts to visit bettingexpert Clash for more betting data.

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Tottenham vs Sunderland

Spurs find themselves in a similar situation, up against a team finally able to relax. Unfortunately, they need Arsenal to slip up in order to gatecrash the top three. Knowing that getting the win here is only half the job, you can be sure they’ll do their half properly against a team missing all of its goalscorers.

The central figure in all of Tottenham’s attacking is, as always, Gareth Bale, and he will look to use the absence of Lee Cattermole (and any other capable anchorman) in attacking the Sunderland defence with pace through the middle. But behind the Bale headline, the key strength in Spurs in recent weeks has been Tom Huddlestone. At this stage he’s become a better Scott Parker – able to provide a physical presence while being a good distributor of the ball. His accurate passing has seen Dempsey and Lennon get into extremely threatening positions out wide, and Spurs will aim to pounce on this, especially with the absence of Phil Bardsley.

The Odds

The charts below display the implied probabilities for the key betting markets based on average bookmaker odds. Click on the charts to visit bettingexpert Clash for more betting data.

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Chelsea vs Everton

The final match for two managers who depart with very different legacies. Rafa, for all the criticism by Chelsea fans, has delivered silverware and barring something unusual this weekend, a top three finish. Moyes goes out after more than a decade, and leaves Everton higher than Liverpool – something they will always enjoy.

The key battle in this match could well be the battle of the hair – Luiz vs Fellaini. With the return to fitness of Cahill, Luiz has been pushed back into that defensive midfielder role he’s done so well under Benitez. But he hasn’t come up with many advanced midfielders with Fellaini’s combination of strength, technique and elbows. Luiz has proved capable as a ball playing midfielder, but he doesn’t have the physical presence of Mikel in that role, and with both players occasionally red-card inducing style of play, this could become a bit of a scrap. Fellaini has all the tools to get the better of the Brazilian, and will hope to end his season in style – and potentially force a move with his manager.

The Odds

The charts below display the implied probabilities for the key betting markets based on average bookmaker odds. Click on the charts to visit bettingexpert Clash for more betting data.

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West Brom vs Manchester United

The end of an era for Man Utd fans – a game with nothing riding on it except the desire of United players to send off their boss with a performance to remember. WBA had a performance to forget last week against Norwich, and just look like a team desperate for the season to end.

The optimist in me hopes that West Brom will put up a fight to give their fans a good show on the final day of the season, but recent performances suggest otherwise. They’ve struggled in 2013, and the visit of United looks set to continue that. United are a happy camp (except one rotund scouser), and will look to exploit WBA’s relative weaknesses down the flanks. WBA are strong in the centre, especially in the way they protect their back two, but do become vulnerable to crosses – especially when their wide forwards aren’t doing their share of defensive work, as has been the case. Therefore the likes of Nani, Valencia and Young will be looking to have big games and any of them could find their name on the scoresheet.

The Odds

The charts below display the implied probabilities for the key betting markets based on average bookmaker odds. Click on the charts to visit bettingexpert Clash for more betting data.

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Manchester City vs Norwich

A dull end-of-season affair suddenly became interesting for the blue half of Manchester when Mancini got sacked earlier in the week, and was soon followed out by David Platt. With the team under the control of … someone (is anyone sure who?), and Norwich’s resurgent confidence, this match looks capable of upsetting the form book.

Earlier in the season these two teams fought to an exciting 4-3 win for the Citizens and could easily have ended up a draw. Norwich have a particular weakness against tricky, technically gifted players with the likes of Silva and Aguero always likely to upset them, but with City’s poor form and clear desire to get the season over, the opportunity is there for Norwich to nick something and potentially finish as high as 10th. In Robert Snodgrass they have a winger comfortable on both feet and able to turn Clichy both ways in the same way that Callum McManaman did in the FA Cup final, and his delivery has been excellent all season, boasting one of the highest chances created stats in the country. While a win may be out of their reach, a goal certainly isn’t, so an end of season entertainer for the neutrals with both teams looking to get on the scoresheet is a safe bet.

The Odds

The charts below display the implied probabilities for the key betting markets based on average bookmaker odds. Click on the charts to visit bettingexpert Clash for more betting data.

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To read more of Matt's work, visit his blog Holtamania.com

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Blogger, philosopher, lifelong mate, never wants a passer-by to pass him by. Blogging at www.holtamania.com on all things Norwich and here with monthly Story of a Match pieces, breaking down the interesting games to see exactly what made them tick. I also bet, but with unreliable outcomes.