Tottenaham play Man City at 8.00 pm on Thursday evening in Premier League, with City hot favourites at 1.38 for a home win. I want to explore here the case for why City are over-rated, why Spurs are positioned to surprise them and what bets I am placing to profit from this if this scenario pans out.
City’s Status Belies Their Current Form, Chance Creation
The Haaland fear factor is real, but the truth is Manchester City are creating fewer chances than last season, and this is starting to catch up with them. Analysis by City_Tactics highlights that Man City’s expected goals is down 22% on last season, from 2.54 to 1.97. And in goals so far this season in the league they are over-performing by 5 goals, scoring 45, expecting to score 40. It just so happens that Haalands xG is also over-performing by five goals. So you can put this down to exceptional finishing but Haaland is also third in big chances missed this season so he is human, albeit a touch superhuman in his form this season.
City’s style the writer argues with supporting data hasn’t changed as they still take a very slow and careful approach to build up attacks. However, in past seasons they used Jesus or Sterling or Foden as a False 9, meaning they would not play up front against the central defenders, but would come deep into midfield. This extra player in midfield meant City can control the opponent more, as they can keep the ball by using the extra person.
This season Haaland has been playing as a 9 and hasn’t been dropping into midfield. This change and Haaland being the focal point or star man, seems to have put a few noses out of joint within the squad. There is little to base this on apart from the form of some of City’s other players. Foden is a huge talent but has been dropped by Pep in the past few months, after starting the season on fire. Foden did look a little put out by Haaland in the first few games, choosing to shot rather than pass, something Haaland wasn’t happy about. Foden then had a relatively poor World Cup and he might lay a portion of this blame at Pep for not playing him consistently. When Foden has played in the past two games he hasn’t made an impact and was subbed.
Julien Alvarez is a second player who can’t be happy. He is a very different player to Haaland but Pep doesn’t seem to want to play them together. Alvarez has just won the World Cup with Argentina and has to be pushing Pep to see why he is not starting games regularly. It often takes players at least one season to learn Guardiola’s methods so it there might not be a short term fix here.
There was speculation that Bernardo Silva wanted to move to Barcalona during the summer, which didn’t materialise, but it was suggested that it was Silva’s desire to play for Barca, although he is a complete professional and would still give 100% at City if the transfer didn’t happen. His numbers are down too this season with his xA per 90 at 0.14 compared to 0.21 last year.
Kevin DeBruyne’s numbers are fantastic so far this season and he has been the main player feeding Haaland for his goals. However, his form has dipped since the World Cup although his numbers are still good. I can imagine he might have some post World Cup hangover after Belgium didn’t perform and he didn’t perform for them either. It was also confirmed by Guardiola that DeBruyne took Tuesday off this week for personal reasons. He is available for the game: it’ll be interesting to see how his mood is.
City’s defence conceded 26 goals last season or 0.68 per game, this has risen to a goal a game so far this year and this is inline with their expected goals against, so they are playing to their form. They have had injuries in defence but I was amazed at how Akanji switched off for Manchester United’s second goal in their derby defeat last weekend. That is not the kind of defence that gives you trust. They have also conceded in eight of their last eleven games.
The Manchestere City captain, Ilkay Gundogan, numbers are also back on last season, averaging 0.47 xG last season, compared with 0.36 xG this season. Gundogan was also quoted recently as saying that “something feels off” about the team this season.
City’s form is unusually bad for them. This time last year they were in a run of 12 consecutive league wins. Now they have lost two in their last five and three in their last seven including the league cup game. In the past two games they have also registered one shot on target. Crazy for City.
Guardiola mentioned that complacency can be part of the problem saying that bad performances can happen. This can happen but are some of the players becoming a bit tired of Pep and his obsessive need for control, when some of them, just want to play, like Grealish? Grealish has also stated that adapting to City’s requirements has been harder than he thought.
Teams like Newcastle, Arsenal and to a lesser extent Man United are enjoying upward momentum and this can be bring many unexpected positives when morale is high. Likewise when things are not going well and more issues arise and you fall into negative momentum. Liverpool, Chelsea are examples of this this year and I am wondering if there is some negativity behind the scenes at City?
Can Spurs Take Their Chance?
Antonio Conte got the better of Pep last season, beating City twice and scoring four goals in total against them.
Spurs own form has been very strange this season with their style of football not yet working for them. Many supporters find it a very hard watch and the mood seems to be changing around support for Conte.
Kane’s role in the team has changed – opposite to City and Haaland – Conte is now using Kane more as a forward and less so in dropping deep to get attacking going. Kane has been scoring goals so he hasn’t suffered. Other players around him in particular Son, seem to be struggling to adapt to this change. There is also some sugguestion that he doesn’t play well with some of the wingbacks like Perisic, as they can crowd each other out.
Richarlison has been used on the right when his best position might be on the left and his form has been patchy and he has also been injured, along with Kulusevski.
Spurs form against the teams above them this season has been poor, however looking at the xG of those games, they were all closer than the scoreline suggested. Against Arsenal at the weekend where they lost 2-0 it was 1.71 to 2.04, in favour of Arsenal; they were also the better team against Newcastle and Liverpool on xG.
Spurs are overperforming their xG this season by three goals it must be said with Kane overperforming the most. This is a concern.
It is likely that if these City problems are substantive, they will still churn out a credible performance. It is unlikely that they would collapse, however it can be small mistakes that can be punished very severely in the Premier League, so I will be speculating on a Spurs win and a win by more than one goal.
The majority of Spurs goals come in the second half, so a bet that stands out is City HT Spurs FT at 80.0, particularly as the majority of City’s goals conceded have come in the second half (6 vs 12).
I feel there is an opportunity here for Spurs to get a win and perhaps comfortably, but that is based on them capitalising on City mistakes, rather than their own brilliance. Given the odds available on Spurs at 9.2 on Betfair for an away win I think this is worth attacking as a large stake bet.
It is a touch speculative but often with these kinds of bets you do not have a lot to work on and have to be able to trust your judgment.
I am setting aside 12% of the bankroll (€75) for this bet.
City Half Time Spurs Full Time, 80.0 – Stake €20
Any Other Away Win, 120.0, Stake €8
2-0 HT, 55.0, Stake €4
Spurs -1, 28.0, €13
Spurs to Win, 9.2, Stake €20