Tactical Review of Liverpool’s 2013/14 Season Under Brendan Rodgers

Liverpool v Manchester United - Premier League

(Written for and featured on Tactical Manager Live)

At the start of the season, Liverpool were seen as outsiders to even grab 4th place and the final Champions League spot.  Even the most optimistic of Liverpudlians did not envisage that with one game to go, The Reds could end their 24-year wait to get their hands on the League trophy.  Advantage is obviously with Man City in the hunt for the title as they have a two point lead over Brendan Rodgers’ men, but the progress made under the former Swansea boss is close to miraculous.

After a disappointing few years – in which Liverpool have finished 7th, 8th, 6th and 7th – the Northern Irish Manager has taken Liverpool to the brink of glory.  Not only has Rodgers transformed Liverpool into one of the most fluid, exciting and entertaining teams to watch, but he has also closed a huge deficit between the Anfield outfit and those teams at the top of the Premier League.  Last season, Liverpool finished with 61 points – 28 short of Champions Man Utd – but this time around they have accumulated an additional 20 points when compared to last.

Liverpool’s progress has not been in isolation though.  A number of factors have all come together to provide Gerrard and co with an unexpected title opportunity.  In addition to The Reds not being distracted by European football, Champions Man United struggled without the stewardship of Sir Alex, Arsenal suffered their usual capitulation despite leading for so long, Mourinho’s Chelsea failed to grasp the concept of beating weaker teams and Man City’s early away form hampered their progress.

Rodgers has provided Liverpool with much needed stability and a clear tactical identify which has been so destructive during the campaign.  This is built on pace, creativity, technique, slick passing, killer final balls, exceptional finishing and the occasional moment of pure genius.  We take a closer look at Liverpool’s tactics, style and progression through the season below.

Passing & Possession

One of the areas which Rodgers’ has improved during his Liverpool stint is around passing and possession.  Similar to Arsenal or Swansea, Rodgers has been criticised for overplaying and focussing too much on keeping the ball.  This season though, we have seen a more clinical Liverpool side.  They still like to keep the ball – they average an 83.4% pass success rate – with technically adept players such as Coutinho or Joe Allen, but are also not scared of playing a quick through ball or a long range pass when the time is right rather than just moving the ball sideways.

Liverpool are not afraid to go direct if required, with Gerrard in particular hitting long balls out wide or over the top to utilise the pace of Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling.  In fact, Gerrard averages 7.5 accurate long balls per game which puts him 3rd highest in the entire Premier League.  These long balls have helped Liverpool on the counter attack and made them a dangerous proposition when defending a set piece or once they’ve broken down an opposition attack.  In fact, Liverpool have scored nine goals on the counter this season which is more than any other club.

On average, Liverpool make 464 short passes per game – the 4th highest in the League – and 56 long balls per game – the 18th highest in the League.  In addition, 5 through balls are made per game which is a Premier League high, and with just 17 crosses per game, no other club crosses the ball less often than Liverpool.

Surprisingly, this season, Liverpool have averaged 55.5% possession which puts them 7th highest behind the likes of Southampton and Swansea.  This has dropped from 57.2% possession on average last campaign.  When compared to Barcelona’s 67.8% possession, it is quite clear that Rodgers’ does not model Liverpool on Barca’s tiki-taka approach as some people claim.

Offensive

Liverpool have been a joy to watch on the attack this season, with arguably one of Europe’s best attacking duo in Sturridge and Suarez at their disposal.  Only Man City have scored more goals than the Merseyside club this season who are just one shy of 100 League goals.  In addition, Liverpool failed to score in just three games and have scored over two goals in a whopping 21 of their fixtures.

Pace, trickery, directness and sublime individual skill are all factors which have made Rodgers’ side so potent.  The reds average 17.2 shots per game (3rd highest) and are the most accurate in the entire League with an average 6.9 of these shots hitting the target.  With players like Suarez (5.6 shots per game), Sturridge (3.4 shots per game) and Coutinho (2.9 shots per game) in the side, Liverpool are never going to be scared of having a crack no matter where on the pitch – just look at some of Liverpool’s goal of the season contenders!

Liverpool have also made their chances count from set pieces.  34 of Liverpool’s 99 goals have come from dead ball situations – nine more than any other club.  Of these, six have come from direct free-kicks, ten from the penalty spot, and although not regarded as one of the tallest sides, 12 goals have come from corners– all of which are League highs.

Defensive

Liverpool’s defensive problems look likely to have cost them the title.  The Reds have shipped 49 goals this campaign – the same number as West Ham and more than Crystal Palace and Southampton.  With a leaky backline and indecisiveness over the best defence – Rodgers has used 11 different defenders this season – it is not surprising that Liverpool have adopted the old school ground mentality of ‘we’ll score one more goal than you’.  Attack is supposedly the best form of defence, but when you’re 3-0 up against Crystal Palace with 11 minutes to go, Rodgers would have been forgiven for shutting up shop to ensure the three points return to Anfield.

The backline is susceptible to individual errors on a frequent basis, just take Gerrard’s slip, Glen Johnson’s positioning or any of Kolo Toure’s loose passes as an example.  However, the problematic defence runs deeper than this.  Rodgers’ philosophy often means that the fullbacks are more focussed on attacking rather than defending.  As the likes of Johnson or Flanagan go forwards, space is often left open at the back for the opposition to counter attack against Toure and co who aren’t the paciest of defenders.  Other players – namely Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and Coutinho – also aren’t well known for their defensive contributions, which can leave the team overloaded in other areas of the pitch.

Surprisingly, despite averaging a League high 22.5 tackles per game – perhaps as a result of Liverpool’s high pressing game in which they give the opposition little time on the ball – The Reds allow their opponents to have an average 12.9 shots on goal per game.  This is the 9th highest in the League and significantly more than the likes of Southampton (9.6), Man City (9.6) or Chelsea (10.4).

Formations & Players

Rodgers has utilised a number of different formations throughout the season including 433, 4231, 41212, 3412, 352, 442 and 4321.  He has been accused of only knowing how to play in one way and having no plan B, but as the season progressed, so did Rodgers tactics, philosophy and style.  The former Swansea boss successfully coped with the early absence of Suarez by adopting a 4231 formation, switched to a back three to accommodate the return of the Uruguyan, moved to a back four with different midfield permutations as he lost Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge to injury, before settling on a 433 / 4312 with Stevie G in an Andrea Pirlo-esque deep-lying playmaker role and Sterling either playing at the top of the midfield diamond or alongside Suarez and Sturridge.

Opening Fixtures Without Suarez

Games Played = 5

Games Won = 3

Games Drawn = 1

Games Lost = 1

Points = 10 (2.00 points per game)

Goals Scored = 5 (1.00 goals per game)

Goals Conceded = 3 (0.60 goals per game)

Clean Sheets = 3

Liverpool started the season without star man Suarez due to his suspension following ‘bite-gate’.  This forced Rodgers to rethink his formation from the end of last season as he was unable to pair Suarez with Sturridge up front.

A 4231 formation was utilised for the opening five games in Suarez’s absence.  Sturridge played up top on his own, with support from 3 attacking midfielders, Gerrard and Leiva in holding midfield positions and a back four which often changed.  During this period, The Reds claimed nine points from a possible 15 but weren’t the free-scoring side that we came to know and love as the season progressed.

1 4231

Next 5 Games With The Return Of The Uruguayan

Games Played = 5

Games Won = 3

Games Drawn = 1

Games Lost = 1

Points = 10 (2.00 points per game)

Goals Scored = 12 (2.40 goals per game)

Goals Conceded = 7 (1.40 goals per game)

Clean Sheets = 0

To accommodate the return of Suarez, Rodgers experimented with a back three for five games.  He deployed both a 3412 formation and 352 formation in order to attempt to accommodate the creativity he had at the club.  In the 3412, the two wingbacks would push up alongside Leiva / Henderson and Gerrard, whist loanee Moses sat behind the front two.  With the 352, the position behind the strikers would play slightly deeper in order to form a midfield five.  In both formations, the two wing backs were expected to play a role both offensively and defensively, both giving width to the team in addition to tracking back when the opposition attacks.

During this period, Liverpool averaged the same points per game and both scored and conceded over double the amount of goals as they did for the opening five fixtures.

2 3412

Xmas Run In With Key Injuries

Games Played = 12

Games Won = 7

Games Drawn = 2

Games Lost = 3

Points = 23 (1.91 points per game)

Goals Scored = 36 (3.00 goals per game)

Goals Conceded = 18 (1.50 goals per game)

Clean Sheets = 3

During the next twelve games – spanning from early November to mid-January – Liverpool adopted 442, 433 and 4231 formations as Rodgers decided to ditch the idea of a back three and revert to a back four.  This period saw Liverpool average 3 goals per game and hammer Fulham, Norwich, West Ham, Spurs and Stoke.  Leaking goals continued to be a problem though as an average 1.5 goals per game were conceded during this period which contributed to defeats to Hull, Man City and Chelsea as well as a 3-3 draw with Everton.

In an effort to decide on his favoured back four, Rodgers partnered Mamadou Sakho, Daniel Agger and Kolo Toure all with Martin Skrtel as well as played either Aly Cissokho or Jon Flanagan on the left in the absence of Jose Enrique.  This did little to stem the tide though and perhaps caused more problems than solved as a central partnership was not developed.

d

After getting Suarez back from suspension, the SAS partnership was again split up due to an injury to Sturridge which kept him out for 1.5 months from the end of November.  This was soon followed by an injury to Captain Gerrard at the beginning of December which meant he was not in contention for a month.  To cope with these key absences, Rodgers mainly used a 433 formation which saw Allen, Leiva and Henderson in midfield, with Suarez partnered with Coutinho and Sterling up front.  This was the first time both Sterling and Allen had really been involved in the starting eleven this season.  The 433 was the formation that saw Liverpool suffer back to back defeats to title rivals Chelsea and Man City – perhaps things would have been different if Sturridge and Gerrard were available.

cGerrard and Sturridge both returned for the home game against Aston Villa.  This match saw Villa take a 0-2 lead only for Liverpool to score twice and claim a point.  It was also a game in which Rodgers was criticised for getting his tactics wrong.  Liverpool started with a 442 which saw them outnumbered as Gerrard – playing as the only defensive midfielder – looked a shadow of his former self.  Lucas was brought on at half time for Coutinho and Gerrard was pushed into a more familiar role higher up the pitch.  The ‘turn Gerrard into Pirlo’ experiment was over.  Or was it.

Unbeaten Streak With A (Near) Full Strength Squad

Games Played = 12

Games Won = 11

Games Drawn = 1

Games Lost = 0

Points = 34 (2.83 points per game)

Goals Scored = 40 (3.33 goals per game)

Goals Conceded = 14 (1.17 goals per game)

Clean Sheets = 4

After having half a season to tinker with his tactics and formation, Rodgers settled on the 433 or 4312.  The main difference between the two formations being that the 3rd attacker – often Sterling – would move from the wing to the top of the midfield diamond, whilst Sturridge was pushed more centrally to create two up front.  Sometimes the formation would even switch between the two during games.  This allowed Sterling / Coutinho to find the pocket of space behind the front two and occupy the opposition’s defensive midfielder, or isolate the opposition’s fullback by hugging the touchline to create additional space for his teammates.

With Gerrard continuing in his new deep-lying playmaker role, Liverpool possessed the ability to either pass their way through teams or hit a long ball over the top for the pacey attackers to run on to.  This meant that opposition defences were never quite sure how to line-up against the Anfield outfit.  Playing Gerrard in a Pirlo-esque role also allowed Jordan Henderson, in particular, to flourish.  The dynamic former Sunderland youngster was able to occupy more of a box-to-box midfielder role in which he provided cover, if required, as well as an attacking threat by breaking from midfield – a role that saw a return of three goals and one assist in seven fixtures.

With the return of Sturridge and Gerrard, Rodgers was able to continually play his chosen first eleven – bar 1 or 2 rotations – to a devestating end.  This helped put Liverpool on a 16 game unbeaten streak and 11 game winning streak which surpassed anything achieved by any other side in the League this season.  In front of goal, Liverpool scored in all 12 games and found the back of the net two or more times in an incredible 11 of these 12 fixtures.  The defence continued to be a problem though, particularly against weaker opposition, as Liverpool shipped two at Fulham, three to Swansea and three at Cardiff.

6 4337 41212

The Final Stretch Without Henderson

Liverpool secured a massive 3-2 victory over Man City which put them in pole position to lift the title.  That win came at a huge cost however.  Deep into stoppage time, Henderson had a rush of blood to the head and lunged into a challenge on Samir Nasri which resulted in a straight red card and subsequent three match ban.  Henderson’s suspension and an injury to Sturridge meant that Rodgers was forced to change his formation once more for the trip to Norwich and went with a 4321 for the first time this season.  Coutinho and Sterling slotted in behind Surarez whilst Allen replaced Henderson.

Despite a 3-2 win, Henderson’s dynamism was missed and Liverpool could easily have drawn the game.  Henderson’s absence was further compounded in the following two games when Chelsea beat Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield and in the incredible game at Crystal Palace in which Liverpool lost a 3-0 lead.

It is unfair to blame Henderson for Liverpool’s final capitulation as his enthusiasm, drive and energy has been so pivotal to the team this year, however one can’t help but think that things could have been different had he not been sent off and missed the tie against Chelsea and Palace – a midfield of Gerrard, Allen and Leiva is not to the same standard as Gerrard, Henderson and Coutinho.

Conclusion

Should Liverpool fail to win the title – and it does look very likely that they will miss out – there is a danger that the team’s achievements could be tainted with disappointment.  Most fans, the players and Rodgers would have taken a top four finish at the start of the season, but being so close to the title raised expectations as the season progressed.  Rather than Gerrard’s tears of joy after the Man City game, images of Suarez bawling his eyes out into his shirt after the draw with Crystal Palace may be remembered instead.

Liverpool have come on considerably under Rodgers and all of the plaudits received are deserved.  They have entertained each and every week and have brought through a core of English talent which could see as many as five Liverpool players start for England in the World Cup.  There is still work to do – particularly the defence – but should Rodgers bring in the right men and keep the core of his squad together, that elusive title might not be too far away.

Source: Stats from WhoScored.com and Squawka.com

Stat Attack: Berko’s Season In Number

With just one game remaining of the season, Berko sit in 5th place just one point behind St Margaretsbury.  After an eventful season in which Berko have challenged for promotion, reached 2 cup semi-finals and 1 final, we take a look back at some of the key stats and facts from the 2013/14 SSMFL season. 

PERFORMANCE

Overall

  • 61% – Percentage of League games won (5th highest in League)
  • 12.5% – Percentage of League games lost (5th lowest in League)
  • 2.66 – Average goals scored per game (3rd highest in League)
  • 1.39 – Average goals conceded per game (5th lowest in League)
  • 1.98 – Average points per game (5th highest in League)
  • 66% – Percentage of available points collected (5th highest in League)

 

 

 

At Broadwater

  • 75% – Percentage of League games won (3rd highest in League)
  • 20% – Percentage of League games lost (5th lowest in League)
  • 2.90- Average goals scored per game (3rd highest in League)
  • 1.15 – Average goals conceded per game (5th lowest in League)
  • 2.30 – Average points per game (3rd highest in League)
  • 77% – Percentage of available points collected (3rd highest in League)

 

 

 

 

On The Road

  • 47.6% – Percentage of League games won (6th highest in League)
  • 28.6% – Percentage of League games lost (5th lowest in League)
  • 2.43 – Average goals scored per game (4th highest in League)
  • 1.62 – Average goals conceded per game (8th lowest in League)
  • 1.67 – Average points per game (6th highest in League)
  • 56% – Percentage of available points collected (6th highest in League)

 

 

 

STREAKS

  • 6 – Longest win sequence (Tue 13th Aug to Tue 17th Sep)
  • 2 – Longest losing sequence (Sat 19th Apr to present)
  • 9 – Longest unbeaten sequence (Tue 13th Aug to Sat 5th Oct)
  • 3 – Longest winless streak (Tue 25th Feb to Sat 8th Mar, Sat 22th Mar to Sat 29th Mar, Tue 15th Apr to present)
  • 24 – Longest scoring streak (Tue 13th Aug to Sat 18th Jan)
  • 1 – Longest fail to score streak (Sat 10th Aug, Tue 21st Jan, Tue 25th Feb, Sat 8th Mar, Sat 22nd Mar, Tue 22nd Apr)
  • 11-0 – Biggest win (Hatfield Town Sat 12th Apr)
  • 3-0 – Biggest defeat (Hanwell Town Sat 10th Aug, Colney Heath Sat 8th Mar, Hillingdon Borough Sat 22nd Mar, Holmer Green Tue 22 Apr)
  • 11 – Most goals in a game (Hatfield Town Sat 12th Apr)
  • 7 – Games won by 1 goal
  • 9 – Games won by 2 goals
  • 1 – Games won by 3 goals
  • 4 – Games won by 4 goals
  • 4 – Games won by 5+ goals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ATTENDANCE

  • 58 – Lowest attendance at Broadwater (1st highest in League)
  • 248 – Highest attendance at Broadwater (2nd highest in League)
  • 96 – Average attendance at Broadwater (2nd highest in League)
  • 965 – Total miles travelled to and from away games
  • 46 – Furthest distance travelled (Biggleswade United, Sat 7th Dec)
  • 4.6 – Shortest distance travelled (Tring Athletic, Sat 19th Apr)

 

 

 

 

PLAYERS

  • 31 – Total players used in League
  • 39 – Most League appearances (Tasker)
  • 39 – Most League starts (Tasker)
  • 18 – Most substitute appearances in League (Morrissey)
  • 18 – Total players scored in League
  • 22 – Most League goals (Calcutt, Chamberlain)
  • 18 – Most League games scored in (Calcutt)
  • 4 – Most League braces (Calcutt)
  • 3 – Most League hat-tricks (Chamberlain)
  • 4 – Most goals in a League match (Canham)

 

 

 

 

 

Best Football Betting Apps Review

Android-Betting-Apps

Betting has always been big business, however the rise of smartphones and tablets has meant an explosion in the sports betting market.  Whereas gambling was once mainly carried out in a betting shop, then complimented by online activities, the increase in mobile devices has created a shift in the market which gives punters the ability to place a bet wherever and whenever they choose.  Within just a few taps of a screen, it is both easy and convenient to find any football match, identify a market and to have placed a bet – whether you’re waiting for a bus, stuck shopping with the missus or sat on the toilet.

Now for some numbers.  In an article by The Guardian last summer, it was reported that 4.3% of UK iPhone owners use at least one sports betting app, with most using a number of different apps rather than just staying faithful to one.  For instance, of the punters that use Bet365, 17% also use Betfred and 10% also use Paddy Power.  William Hill’s app was found to be most popular – being used by 38% of users – followed by Paddy Power (32%) and Bet365 (24%).

In addition, some interesting points were raised at the Mobile Gaming & Gambling Summit last September, where attendees were told that 30% of mobile gamblers in the UK access betting sites at least once a day, while 54% do so at least once a month.  Smartphones also reportedly now account for 11% of pageviews, with 6% coming from tablets.  In addition, nearly half of the UK’s total mobile betting audience – around £2.2m – bet exclusively from their mobile device.

What’s clear is that these numbers are going to continue to grow as more people buy mobile devices and additional bookies launch their apps with the help of huge advertising budgets – when was the last time you didn’t see a Bet365, William Hill or Ladbrokes advert during the footy, for instance?  Coupled with the various free bets and incentives that the bookies offer, if you’ve not got betting apps on your smartphone or tablet, then you’re missing out.

But which football betting apps are best to use?  Below, we take a look at the top 5 football betting apps currently on the market.  As so eloquently put by Ray Winstone in his Bet365 adverts – go on, have a bang on these:

#1 Paddy Power

Paddy Power’s app tops the list for best football app.  Not only is it easy to navigate and simple to use, it comes with some nice features specifically for the football fan which separates it from the rest.  In particular, you can set your favourite team which allows you to see club specific markets such as relegation odds or the price to be the outright winners of the League.  You can also get exclusive betting specials for your team which PP says rewards you for supporting your team.

The app from the Irish bookie also allows you to delve a little deeper into the stats and form of different clubs so you can do a bit of research before placing your bet – for instance, you can look at home form v away form, as well as head-to-head and the League table, which is all nicely laid out and visually appealing with the use of icons.

A simple feature, which isn’t on many other apps, is the ability to add favourites on the bottom bar, so you can have quick links to your most commonly bet on markets.  This helps you to quickly get where you want without having to spend time navigating.

All in all, a simple to use app with a huge range of markets, which is all neatly designed around the football fan.

For new customers, if you download the App and place £/€10 on your first bet, you receive a free £/€20 bet.

#2 Bet365

Although being VERY green, the Bet365 is one of the simplest and most logical to use.  It is very simple to pick a football game, find your preferred market and place a bet.  In-play is where Bet365 excel, with a wide range of in-play markets, live stats, commentary and a pitch graphic showing which team is attacking – you will spend hours watching the arrows change direction as you will your team to score the goal that will win you your bet!

One of the huge benefits of the Bet365 app is the ability to watch a whole host of live sports which are streamed exclusively to the site and app.  You can take your pick from football, tennis, basketball, horseracing and more.  From a footy perspective, you can watch the action for free from some of the top leagues including Italian Serie A, German Bundesliga, French Ligue 1 and Dutch Eredivisie – all you need is a few pennies credit in your account.

Bet365 also provide a ‘Quick Bet’ option which allows you to set a preferred stake, and as the name suggests, quickly place bet you like the look of at the set stake amount.  This can help save time when you’re looking to bet at short notice.  Recently, Bet365 have introduced a ‘Cash Out’ feature which allows you to close the bet early for a reduced return than if you let the bet run to the end.

For new customers, open an account and deposit between £10 and £200 and you’ll be entitled to a 100% bonus of your qualifying deposit.  In addition, you can get an ‘On the Move’ bonus which gives you a 100% bonus when placing your first bet on mobile or tablet between £1 and £50.

#3 William Hill

The app from Will Hill is hugely popular and it’s easy to see why!  There are hundreds of markets, both pre-match and in-play, with a very visually appealing display which uses simple colours and icons.  The app is very easy to navigate, with the ability to change sports particularly simple.  A nice feature is the ‘Top Bets’ which show the betting markets that are trending so you can see what everyone else is backing without needing to delve deep into the app.

The app can sometimes be a bit slow, but this is made up by the fact that William Hill provide some exclusive offers for the footy fan, which helps to make the app stand out from the crowd.  For instance, you get ‘acca insurance’ where your stake is refunded if you place a six team accumulator and one team lets you down, you can get ‘goal scorer 2nd chance’ where your stake is returned if you bet on a 1st goal scorer but they score 2nd not 1st, and ‘bore draw’ where you get a refund on Correct Score and Double Result bets if the game ends 0-0.

For new customers, place your first bet of £5 or more and you’ll get a free bet of the same value up to a maximum of £25

#4 SkyBet

As you’d expect from Sky, the SkyBet app oozes class, is easy to use and has one of the quickest loading times.  The main menu is a little hidden (you need to tap the word ‘SkyBet’), but once you find it, you can easily look past one of the few minor irritants.  Being a global broadcasting and media company, the app looks to bring together betting and opinion, with a nice addition of written previews of the big games available to help you identify bets.

SkyBet also provides ‘Price Boosts’ on a number of popular bets which ensure that you are getting the best possible price, in addition to ‘Coupons’ and ‘Specials’ which give extra options for fun bets if you have a few quid you want to throw on the next manager of a club or what if scenarios.

Similar to Bet365, SkyBet has a nice in-play section which uses fancy graphics to set themselves apart.  You can get all the live commentary and in-play stats you want, as well as follow a football as it is kicked around on a pitch which resembles earlier versions of Championship Manager!

New SkyBet customers get a free matched bet up to £30, plus all new and existing customers can join the ‘Free Bet Club’ and earn a £5 free bet every week if you place a £5 accumulator.

#5 Betfair

Betfair is primarily a betting exchange where users back or lay bets against each other rather than against the bookies like a standard sportsbook.  This means that if you’re not used to dealing with an exchange, then the Betfair app might not be for you.

However, if you’re comfortable with using Betfair, then their app doesn’t disappoint!  The app is simple to navigate with the bottom menu bar being very useful for navigating to your account, your betslip or different sports.  You have the majority of the functionality that the website provides including pre-match and in-play bets, multiple bets, ability to view live scores and the ever popular, and original, ‘Cash Out’ function.

A recent addition to the ‘Cash Out’ option is a 50% bonus on your winnings up to £25 when you take your first cash out.  Betfair also provides a couple of football specific offers including Both Teams To Score acca insurance and acca insurance where you get your full stake back if one leg lets you down.

New customers can get a free £20 Exchange bet when you join Betfair, plus can earn up to £1,000 Cashback.

Premier Betting Weekly Insider: Wolfsburg v Frankfurt & West Brom v Cardiff

(Written for and featured in Premier Betting’s The Weekly Insider Newsletter Vol 3, Issue 27)

Wolfsburg v Eintracht Frankfurt and West Brom v Cardiff – Saturday at 2.30pm and 3pm

The first bet this weekend is a home win as 5th place Wolfsburg welcome the visit of 11th place Eintracht Frankfurt. The Wolves got back to winning ways midweek after four games without victory to ensure there push for a Champions League place is still a possibility. By contrast, Eintracht Frankfurt have had a somewhat injury hit season and struggled with the pressures of domestic and European action, although they have managed back-to-back wins for the first time this season in the previous two games. My model gives a 66% chance of a Wolfsburg win, meaning that I’d be looking for odds over 1.6 to provide value – with BetVictor offering a price as high as 1.91, I think this looks a pretty decent option

The second bet is Under 2.5 goals as a struggling West Brom side entertain relegation-threatened Cardiff. A win for the visitors would see them go level on points with the Baggies, although Cardiff have played one more game than some of their relegation rivals. Without on-loan Romelu Lukaku, and after the strange decision to sell Shane Long, West Brom are struggling in front of goal and have managed just one win under new manager Pepe Mel. Similarly, the decision to replace Malky Mackay with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has not paid off with the Norwegian manager collecting just seven points from a possible 33 since being in charge. My model suggests that there is value in Unders with a 70% chance of two or less goals. With odds available as high as 1.91, and my model identifying anything above 1.6 as value, I think Unders looks a decent option.

The following stats help support the suggested bets:

  • At home, Wolfsburg have won 62%, drawn 15% and lost 23% of games to collect 67% of
  • available points. The Wolves have scored in 92% and conceded in 69% of home games, to average 2.00 goals For and 1.31 goals Against. On the road, Eintracht Frankfurt have won 31%, drawn 23% and lost 46% of games, in which they’ve scored in 69% and conceded in 77% of away games whilst averaging 1.23 goals scored and 2.08 goals conceded.
  • West Brom have scored in 73% and conceded in 80% of home games, averaged 1.07 goals For and 1.27 goals Against, and had Under 2.5 Goals in 73% of games on home soil. Cardiff have scored in 40% and conceded in 87% of games on the road, averaged 0.53 goals For and 1.93 goals Against, and had Under 2.5 goals in 60% of away games.

Suggested Bets:
Wolfsburg Win at 1.91 (BetVictor)  [WON]
West Brom v Cardiff Under 2.5 Goals at 1.91 (Various, including Coral and William Hill)  [LOSS]

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Premier Betting Weekly Insider: Sociedad v Valencia & Elche v Betis

(Written for and featured in Premier Betting’s The Weekly Insider Newsletter Vol 3, Issue 25)

Real Sociedad v Valencia and Elche v Real Betis – Sunday 11am and 8pm

My first bet of the weekend is in the early Sunday kick-off in La Liga between Elche and Real Betis. Considering Real Betis’ poor form on the road – they’ve picked up just 3 points away all season and have failed to win at all – I quite like the look of Elche on the Asian Handicap, particularly -0.25 AH which is available at 2.08 with Bet365. My betting model gives a 56% chance of an Elche win, which increases to 63% when looking at -0.25 AH, meaning anything above 1.6 is value in my books. Add to the mix the fact that Real Betis may be suffering a European hangover after playing in the Europa League on Thursday, I can’t see Betis getting a win so am happy to risk half the stake if the game ends in a draw.

The second bet of the weekend stays in Spain and is an outright victory for Real Sociedad in their game against Valencia. Despite just 2 League positions separating the teams – the home side are 6th whilst the away side sit in 8th – my betting model makes Sociedad very strong favourites with a 78% chance of victory. With odds as high as 2.15 with PaddyPower for a home win and my model highlighting anything above 1.4 as value, I’m hoping that the bookies have gone wrong in their pricing for this game. On League position, there is not much in it between the teams, however looking at Sociedad at home and Valencia away provides a very one-sided picture – Sociedad have the 5th best home record in La Liga whereas Valencia’s record on the road is a lowly 14th best in the League. A Sociedad win at 2.15 feels to be pretty high and is worth going for.

The suggested bets are backed up by the following stats:

  • At home, Real Sociedad have won 61.5%, drawn 30.8% and lost 7.7% of games, collecting 71.8% of available points and averaging 2.31 goals For and 0.62 goals Against. Away from home, Valencia have won 23.1%, drawn 23.1% and lost 53.8% of games, collecting 30.8% of available points and averaging 0.85 goals For and 1.62 goals Against.
  • At home, Elche have won 35.7%, drawn 28.6% and lost 35.7% of games, collecting 45.2% of available points and averaging 0.79 goals For and 0.79 goals Against. Away from home, Real Betis have won 0.0%, drawn 23.1% and lost 76.9% of games, collecting 7.7% of available points and averaging 0.69 goals For and 2.69 goals Against.
  • On -0.25 AH at home, Elche have had 5 win, 4 ½ losses and 5 losses. On +0.25 AH the road, Real Betis have had 0 wins, 3 ½ wins and 10 losses.

Suggested Bets:
Real Sociedad Win at 2.15 (PaddyPower)  [WON]
Elche -0.25 Asian Handicap at 2.08 (Bet365)  [HALF LOSS / HALF VOID]

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Premier Betting Weekly Insider: M’Gladbach v Augsburg & Norwich v Stoke

(Written for and featured in Premier Betting’s The Weekly Insider Newsletter Vol 3, Issue 24)

Borussia M’Gladbach v Augsburg and Norwich v Stoke – Saturday 2.30pm and 3.00pm

My first bet of the weekend takes us to Borussia-Park as 7th place M’Gladbach entertain 9th place Augsburg. After an impressive start, in which they won 67% of games to put them in with a shot of Champions League football, M’Gladbach haven’t been victorious in their last eight – a stretch running back to 14th December. The visitors have performed better than expected this season and already find themselves with more points (35) than they managed to accumulate in the entire of 2012/13 (33).  Despite Die Fohlen’s recent troubles – particularly since the second half of the season started – my betting model indicates that M’Gladbach have a decent chance of picking up the 3 points. A home win is available as high as 2.38, however I like the slightly safer option of M’Gladbach -0.25 on the Asian Handicap at evens. With my model suggesting anything above 1.57 is value, this bet looks to offer a decent amount of value.

The second bet I like the look of is Both Teams To Score No as 13th place Stoke visit 15th place Norwich. In recent weeks, the Canaries have managed a win over Tottenham and draw with Man City, whilst Stoke have beaten Arsenal and Man Utd, however both teams have struggled against teams around them in the table. With just 10 points separating the bottom 11 places in the Premier League, both teams will be looking for a favourable result against one of their relegation rivals. As the hosts and visitors sit near the bottom of
the goals scored table, it is not surprising that my model likes the look of BTTS No and gives a 74% chance of happening. With Ladbrokes offering BTTS No at 1.85 and my model highlighting anything above 1.48 as value, this looks to be a pretty good option.
The suggested bets are backed up by the following stats:

  • At home, M’Gladbach have won 67%, drawn 17% and lost 17% of games, collecting 72% of available points and averaging 2.25 goals For and 1.00 goals Against. Away from home, Augsburg have won 33%, drawn 25% and lost 42% of games, picking up 42% of points on offer and scoring an average of 1.33 goals whilst conceding an average 1.50 goals.
  • On the -0.25 AH, M’Gladbach have had 8 wins, 2 half losses and 2 losses at home. On the +0.25 AH, Augsburg have had 5 losses, 3 half wins and 4 wins on the road.
  • Norwich have scored in 64% and conceded in 50% of home games with BBTS No in 64%. On the road, Stoke have scored in 43% and conceded in 86% of fixtures, with BTTS No in 64%.

Suggested Bets:
Norwich v Stoke: BTTS No at 1.85 (Ladbrokes)  [WON]
Borussia M’Gladbach v Augsburg: M’Gladbach -0.25 AH at 2.0 (Bet365 and Winner)  [LOSS]

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The Most Injury-Prone Premier League Stars

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(Written for and featured on Football Found Out)

Injuries are unfortunately one of the occupational hazards for any professional footballer.  A mistimed tackle, a 50-50 challenge or a rogue blade of grass could swiftly consign a player to a prolonged spell on the sidelines.

Research from PhysioRoom.com, indicates that most injuries to footballers are as a result of trauma – such as a collision with another player or from landing awkwardly following a jump.Due to the nature of the game, it is not surprising to discover that most injuries to players affect the lower extremities - groin, pelvis, hip, thigh, knee, calf, foot and ankle. Research also suggests that there are between 9 and 35 injuries per 1000 hours of football played and as high as a third of injuries are caused by overuse and develop over a long period.

It is therefore remarkable that a greater number of footballers don’t find themselves permanently on the operating table, in the physio room or required to make the difficult decision to retire from the Beautiful Game. Perhaps this is down to the technology and equipment utilised as well as a feat of the finely tuned athletes that adorn the playing field.

Despite this, there are a number of players who don’t quite go on to achieve the success that their talents deserve as a result of continued injuries.  Not those players who suffer career threatening injuries of Eduardo, David Busst or Alf Inge Haaland proportions, but those footballers who are given the unfortunate ‘injury-prone’ title due to their continued absence. The news that Bolton Wanderers and USMNT star Stuart Holden was substituted after just 23 minutes in his first game following his return from injury is a prime example.

We therefore compile a list of some of the injury-prone English Premier League footballers who were destined for greater things if their continued injury set-backs had not occurred.

Michael Bridges – Best remembered for his days at Sunderland and Leeds, the young striker looked set to have a prolonged career in the top flight of English football.  After helping Sunderland return to the Premier League in an impressive partnership with Kevin Phillips, Bridges was signed by Leeds as a 21-year old for £5mil.  In his first season in the famous white shirt, the striker scored 19 League goals to help his club finish 3rd and reach the UEFA Cup Semi Finals. However, Bridges suffered a season-ending injury against Besiktas in the Champions League the following season and never managed to get back to his best.

A series of injuries meant that the frontman made just 15 subsequent League appearances for Leeds – as well as six appearances on loan to Newcastle – before leaving the club in 2003/04. Bridges became somewhat of a nomad as further injuries and a loss of form saw him feature in the Championship, League One and League Two for Sunderland, Bristol City, Carlisle, Hull and MK Dons before he decided to emigrate to Australia to play for Newcastle Jets. Once destined to lead England’s frontline, the man from South Shields saw his promising career severely affected by injuries.

Jonathan Woodgate – Despite featuring for England, winning the League Cup and playing for the mighty Real Madrid, Woodgate’s career could, and should, have been so much more. The defender became a key figure for Leeds during the early 2000′s, helping the club compete for the Premier League and feature in the Champions League. Several injuries prevented Woodgate featuring more regularly for Leeds, however despite this, Newcastle paid £9mil for the centre-back in 2003. Impressive performances and frequent injuries was the story of Woodgate’s time in the North East before Real Madrid made a surprise move for the defender.

Woodgate’s time in Spain did not go to plan as injuries consigned him to just 14 appearances in 32 months, including a forgettable debut in which he scored an own goal and was sent off. The defender looked to have got his career back on track after a loan move to Middlesbrough was made permanent before a transfer to Tottenham was completed. However, further thigh and hamstring injuries limited him to just three appearances for Spurs from 2009 to 2011.

Woodgate them moved to Stoke on a pay-as-you-play deal, before moving back to Middlesbrough for a third time. Without injuries, the defender would surely have been a key player for Real Madrid and England throughout the 2000′s.

Kieron Dyer – What list of injured stars would be complete without Kieron Dyer. Seen as one of the most promising youngsters outside of the Premier League whilst at Ipswich, Newcastle parted with £6mil in 1999 to secure his services.  Despite a few niggling injuries, the midfielder featured regularly for the Toon Army up to the end of the 2003/04 season. He made a further 56 League appearances for Newcastle from 2004/05 through to 2007/08 although was regularly out injured, before moving to West Ham. Dyer suffered a horrendous fractured leg which kept him out of action for 17 months which was followed by a fractured foot and further hamstring problems.

In total, Dyer made just 30 appearances in four seasons for the Hammers. The midfielder moved to QPR where injury hit again – just a few minutes into his debut, Dyer picked up a foot injury and ligament damage which ruled him out for the season. After only 5 appearances for QPR, Dyer moved to Middlesbrough before calling an end to his playing days last Summer. It is somewhat telling that despite picking up 33 caps for England – yes, 33 – Dyer is probably best remembered for his injury nightmare, off-field antics and getting into a fight with teammate Lee Bower whilst at Newcastle.

Ledley King – The commanding centre-back is a true Tottenham legend, having made 268 League appearances, captained the team to the League Cup in 2008 and won 21 caps for England, including featuring at Euro 2004 and World Cup 2010. However, injury blighted his career as he often went on a run in the first team before breaking down with further injuries.The commanding defender – who only played for one club – missed large parts of Spurs’ seasons during his career, including the end of 2001/02, start of 2002/03, second half of 2006/07, majority of 2007/08 and most of the 2010/11 season as a result of groin strains, hamstring tears and a chronic knee problem.

At just 25, King developed a knee problem which made it difficult to bend and stretch at the joint, something that it required daily of a professional footballer. This eventually resulted in the defender being unable to play multiple games in a week – for both Spurs and England – and meant he had to shun training with the first team in favour of his own fitness exercises.

Michael Owen – Despite playing for some of the top teams in world football – Liverpool, Real Madrid and Man Utd – and winning club and individual silverware, Owen’s career is tinged with a ‘what if’.  After making his debut as a 17-year old for Liverpool, Owen went on to score 118 League goals for the Reds before moving to Real Madrid during the galacticos era. Subsequent moves to Newcastle then Man Utd followed, before Owen was forced to retire in 2013 whilst playing for Stoke.

The pacey youngster broke onto the International scene with his solo goal for England against Argentina, however hamstring injuries took away the blistering speed that made him so dangerous. It is probably this pace and overuse as a youngster – Owen had played 316 first team games before for club and country before his 24th birthday – which had such a negative impact on his body, particularly his hamstrings. Owen first snapped his hamstring in 1999 before being ruled out with recurring injuries during the next few seasons. On his return to the Premier League with Newcastle, Owen’s injury nightmare accelerated -  a metatarsal bone break, knee injuries, thigh injuries, groin problems, an abductor muscle tear and cracked ankle bone restricted him to 71 appearances in four seasons for the Toon Army.

Despite making the surprise move to Man Utd in 2009, Owen yet again was plagued by injuries and scored just five League goals in three seasons for the Red Devils. No doubt one of the best strikers of our generation, Owen’s talent and goalscoring instinct should have made him one of the world’s best players rather than a wonderkid whose injuries and name defined the rest of his career.

Darren Anderton – The England midfielder was affectionately named ‘sicknote’ due to his perceived time out injured, however Anderton still managed to accumulate over 500 first team appearances and play until the age of 36. During his career, Anderton played for Portsmouth, Tottenham, Birmingham, Wolves and Bournemouth as well as won 30 caps for the England National team.

The midfielder’s list of injuries are impressive though – hernia operations, torn groin muscles, hamstring injuries and knee injuries blighted his career, particularly between 1995 and 1998 when he made just 39 appearances. Although often cited as injury-prone, Anderton made at least 20 League appearances in all but one season from 1998/1999 through to his retirement in 2008/09.

Jack Rodwell – The Man City midfielder is still just 22-years old, however his career is already starting to look somewhat injury-stricken. Rodwell made his debut as a fresh faced 16-year old for Everton and went on to make 85 League appearances for the Toffees before transferring to Man City in 2012 for £15mil. Since then though, Rodwell has featured in just 14 League games for Man City, meaning he has missed more games through injury than games he’s been available for.

Achilles tendon and hamstring injuries – as well as competition from world-class talent – have been recurring themes for the youngster. Without doubt, Rodwell’s attributes mean that he has the potential to be a star for club and country for years to come, however recurring injuries have a way of draining player ability and confidence, meaning that he could suffer the same misfortune as some of the other names above.

Other notable mentions include Jamie Redknapp, Owen Hargreaves, Wes Brown, Chris Kirkland and Dean Ashton.

Premier Betting Weekly Insider: Tottenham v Cardiff

(Written for and featured in Premier Betting’s The Weekly Insider Newsletter Vol 3, Issue 23)

Tottenham v Cardiff – Sunday 4.30pm

Just the one bet from me this weekend as I’ve struggled to find anything that I really like the
look of. The one bet that ticks my boxes however is Under 2.5 Goals as 5th place Spurs
entertain 19th place Cardiff. Much has been made about Tottenham’s inconsistent form
following their European exploits – five of their seven League defeats have come after
playing in the Europa League on a Thursday – and I’m looking for this to continue against the Welsh side who have the joint worst away record having managed just one win, six points and seven goals so far this season. My betting model indicates that there is a 63% chance of there being no more than two goals in the match, so with BetVictor offering odds as high as 2.15, this is above my target odds of 1.74 and looks to be a decent value bet.

The suggested bets are backed up by the following stats:

  • At White Hart Lane, Tottenham have averaged 1.15 goals For and 1.38 goals Against, scoring in 77% and conceding in 54% of home games. Away from home, Cardiff have scored an average 0.54 goals and conceded an average 2.00 goals, whilst scoring in 39% and conceding in 85% of away games.
  • There has been Under 2.5 Goals in 61% of Tottenham home games and 61% of Cardiff away games.

I also like the look of Cardiff on the Asian Handicap, particularly around the 1.5 AH mark,
however at the time of writing the odds have fallen lower than I’d like. Should the odds
increase back up to the evens mark, then this could be another option.

Suggested Bet:
Tottenham v Cardiff Under 2.5 Goals 2.15 at BetVictor  [WON]

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Premier Betting Weekly Insider: Arsenal v Sunderland & Celta Vigo v Getafe

(Written for and featured in Premier Betting’s The Weekly Insider Newsletter Vol 3, Issue 22)

Arsenal v Sunderland and Celta Vigo v Getafe – Saturday at 3pm and 5pm

The first bet is at the Emirates for Sunderland’s visit to Arsenal. 2nd place Arsenal sit just 1 point off leaders Chelsea, however have failed to win in their last 2 games. By contrast, 18th place lost last time out, however prior to this, were on a 4 game unbeaten streak, and despite their lowly position, are on a 6 game unbeaten run on the road. My model indicates that Arsenal are favourites for the game, however there is no value here. My model indicates that Under 2.5 goals is likely, giving a 68% chance of there being less than 3
goals. With numerous bookies offering Under 2.5 Goals as high as 2.1 – anything above 1.62 is value for me – I feel that backing Unders offers good value, particularly considering that the Arsenal players may still be lethargic after Wednesday’s workout against Bayern.

The second bet I like the look of is also Under 2.5 goals in La Liga as 11th place Celta Vigo entertain 16th place Getafe. The home side are on a good run of form with 4 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss in their last 6 fixtures. At home, this extends to 5 games unbeaten and 11 points collected from a possible 15. By contrast, Getafe’s last League win was back in December – a run of 9 games – which has seen them lose 7 and draw 2. Away from home paints a similar picture with 5 straight defeats. My model indicates a 70% chance of there being no more than 2 goals in this fixture, meaning anything above 1.56 is value. With BetVictor offering Unders at 1.83, I feel this provides decent value.

The suggested bets are backed up by the following stats:

  • At the Emirates, Arsenal have scored in 84.6% and conceded in 30.8% of games, whilst averaging 1.69 goals For and 0.46 goals Against. On the road, Sunderland have scored in 50.0% and conceded in 66.7% of away games, scoring an average 1.00 goal whilst conceding an average 1.42 goals per game.
  • There has been Under 2.5 Goals in 76.9% of Arsenal home games and 50.0% of Sunderland away games. Interestingly, Arsenal’s last 9 consecutive home have failed to have 3 goals or more – the last time Overs landed in an Arsenal home match was against Norwich on 19th October.
  • At home, Celta Vigo have averaged 1.08 goals For and 1.25 goals Against, and have managed to score in 50.0% and concede in 83.3% of home games. Away from home, Getafe have scored an average 0.64 goals whilst conceding an average 1.91 goals. The visitors have scored in 36.4% and conceded in 72.7% of away games, however have failed to find the back of the net in the last 5 consecutive away games.
  • There has been Under 2.5 Goals in 58.3% of Celta Vigo home games and 72.7% of Getafe away games this season.

Suggested Bets:
Arsenal v Sunderland Under 2.5 Goals at 2.1 (Various, inc SkyBet and Ladbrokes)  [LOSS]
Celta Vigo v Getafe Under 2.5 Goals at 1.83 (BetVictor)  [WON]

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Premier League Preview: Liverpool v Swansea

Liverpool v Swansea – Sunday 23rd February at 1.30pm

A late winner against Fulham in the last game kept alive Liverpool’s ambitions of lifting their first League title since 1989/90 as they sit just four points off leaders Chelsea.  With three more points in sight, the Reds’ Manager Brendan Rodgers welcomes former club Swansea to Anfield, with the Swans sitting in 10th place, but only four points off the relegation zone.  Both teams had disappointing weekends last week as Liverpool suffered a 2-1 defeat to Arsenal and Swansea lost 3-1 to Everton to end any hopes of lifting the FA Cup this season.

The story has been rosier for Liverpool in the League this season, however.  The Reds currently occupy fourth spot and are on a seven-game unbeaten streak, whilst collecting nine wins in their last 13 League games.  This has included big wins over Tottenham, Everton and Arsenal.  Liverpool’s attacking, flowing football has seen them net an average 3.2 goals in the last 13 games and a whopping 4.4 goals per game during their unbeaten run.  Furthermore, at Anfield, Liverpool have only dropped points on two occasions this season – the defeat to Southampton and draw with Aston Villa – meaning that the Reds have collected 87% of the available points.  Liverpool have also averaged just under three goals per home game whilst conceding just 0.69 goals per game.  This includes scoring at least two goals in all of their last ten games on home soil.

By contrast, Swansea’s season has been up and down as the Swans have struggled to balance the League, European and domestic cup competitions.  This has recently resulted in the sacking of Michael Laudrup after a poor run of form which saw the Welsh outfit fail to win in eight League games and not manage a back-to-back win all season.  Although a surprise sacking from an outsider perspective, the majority of Swansea fans have felt that Laudrup’s heart was no longer in the job and something needed to be done.  Away from home this season, Swansea have collected 31% of the points on offer whilst scoring an average 0.69 goals and conceding an average 1.23 goals per away game.

Rodgers is expected to name the same Liverpool team beaten by Arsenal, with the exception of Simon Mignolet replacing Brad Jones in goal and Jordan Henderson coming into midfield for Joe Allen.  Lucas and Glen Johnson are close to returning from injury, but this game is likely to come too soon for them to feature.  As usual, all eyes will be on the deadly SAS partnership of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge who have scored 39 goals and contributed 12 assists for Liverpool this season.  Steven Gerrard – who is playing in a deeper role than the one we are accustomed to seeing him in – continues to be the heartbeat of the Liverpool side after contributing four goals and three assists in his last six games, including a late penalty against Fulham.

Interim Swansea player-manager Garry Monk looks likely to make a number of changes to the team that lost to Everton in the FA Cup.  Michel Vorm should replace Gerhard Tremmel in goal, Angel Rangel, Ashley Williams and Chico are likely to come back into defence, whilst top goal scorer Wilfried Bony – who has eight League goals this season, including strikes against Man Utd, Man City and Spurs – will lead the line upfront.  Alejandro Pozuelo and Jonjo Shelvey are close to returning from injury and could be included in the match day squad.  Michu is also close to returning from injury after not featuring for the club since late December, yet the Liverpool game will come too soon for the Spaniard.

Prediction: Assuming the SAS partnership is at its best, Swansea will be little match for Liverpool.  Liverpool 3-1 Swansea.