Chelsea’s Title Chase (and Where to Eat in London) with Graeme Le Saux

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He’s one of Jersey’s favorite sons. Not that Jersey. This one. Graeme Le Saux knows a little something about English football, making 327 Premier League appearances for Southampton, Chelsea and Blackburn, helping bring the latter a title in ‘94 – ’95. These days Graeme plays the Goose to Arlo White’s Maverick on NBC’s Premier League coverage (Sorry, Lee Dixon, you’re Merlin). We caught up with Graeme via phone this week to talk about Chelsea’s title chase, his favorite gantry in the Premier League, and his (very) short stint working in the kitchen of a high-end London eatery.

MiB: You’ve spoken with Antonio Conte since he took the Chelsea job, and have gotten a sense of the kind of person he is. How has he been able to adapt to the Premier League in a way that Pep Guardiola has not?

GLS: Antonio Conte gives me the impression that he’s a very honest, fair manager, who is happy to confront issues head on, confident in his own opinion. He’s very experienced in dealing with big players, and what he’s done brilliantly is treat everybody fairly. As Pep is finding out, you can have the most incredible CV and philosophy on the game, but ultimately you’ve still got to work with a group and be flexible with them, in terms of your own philosophy. That’s where Conte has been ahead of everyone else.

MiB: The Diego Costa situation. He’s injured. He’s had a bust up with Conte. He’s off to China. All these rumors, yet he’s back in the team and scoring on the weekend. How damaging can this be to team chemistry?

GLS: It can be very damaging. It really can. But I think Conte’s leadership has really helped. And Costa must’ve explained himself to the players, or they would have held him accountable for wanting to leave at such an important stage of the season, if it was true. When he scored against Hull, the whole team went over and celebrated with him. For me, that suggests they’ve accepted whatever he’s said behind closed doors.

MiB: If one of these teams in the chasing peloton were to challenge Chelsea, who do you think it could be?

GLS: Tottenham. Their fundamentals are so good and they came so close last year. That pain serves as good fuel for this season. When I look at Arsenal, I still think they’re not a team with the resilience to keep plowing through the football calendar and come out with more points than Chelsea. Liverpool gives us a lot of excitement, because they score a lot of goals, but there are defensive liabilities. To lose to Swansea the way they did last weekend, with the game tied at two and all of the momentum, that’s damaging for a title run. Manchester United have found some fantastic form, but they fell so far behind at the start of the season. To make up that deficit would be a miracle.

MiB: Now to the important stuff. What’s the best gantry in the Premier League and why?

GLS: Oh my word. Let’s be honest, it’s not like choosing between a Rolls Royce and a Bentley. They’re all quite rudimentary. I’m thinking, probably which ones are the least cold and best position. I know Spurs are redeveloping their ground, but I like their current gantry because you almost hang over the pitch. Everton’s is fantastic as well because you’re stuck out from the middle tier, so you’re connected to the pitch. Either of those would be my pick.

MiB: Best restaurant near Stamford Bridge. What are we ordering?

GLS: One of my favorite restaurants in London is The River Cafe. It’s run by a fantastic chef Ruthie Rodgers. It’s about 10 minutes by car from Stamford Bridge on the River Thames. I’ve actually done a shift in their kitchen when I was a player at Chelsea. I told them I was tired after a game and they said, “You don’t know what tired is. Come do a double-shift in the restaurant.” I took them up on it and worked in the restaurant one day. They had me doing all the dirty jobs. By the end I was exhausted and couldn’t wait to get my boots back on. For a dish, they do the most amazing beef with split olives and ragù lentil. It’s phenomenal.

Manchester United, Chelsea odds move in Premier League futures

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While one matchweek is the ultimate in small sample sizes, the outcomes have made oddsmakers adjust their prices in English Premier League futures significantly.

Manchester City remain at the top of the board, listed at +130 to be the EPL outright winner at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The big mover was their cross-town rival, as Manchester United have come down slightly to +275 after a four-goal victory in its opener, while Chelsea have doubled to +650 after an embarrassing stumble in their opener at Burnley.

Tottenham Hotspur (+800), which coincidentally will host Chelsea on Sunday, still have an attractive price for bettors looking for the higher-risk but higher-reward play; all the chatter about how they might be less offensively potent whilst displaced to Wembley Stadium overlooks their defense.

The board will be volatile early in the season, especially week to week. If one believes Man United and Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba are for real, now might be the best time for believers in Jose Mourinho’s men to get down since the Red Devils won’t face another big power until mid-October.

Conversely, a scan of the fixtures list shows Manchester City will have some big matches in September, including being home to Liverpool and a trip to Chelsea. A stumble might lead to an artificial price rise. Chelsea do present a buy-low opportunity, but they are working without their first-choice starting 11 and have some tough early-season tests.

Among this week’s Premier League fixtures, Manchester United (-275) face short-staffed Swansea (+900, +370 draw) on Saturday. The Red Devils are +105 on the goal line and winning by two should be doable.

Liverpool (-270) host Crystal Palace (+800, +400 draw) in a matchup of teams which each conceded three goals in their openers. The total is an even 3, which means playing the over offers a push as cushion.

On Sunday, Tottenham (+105) host Chelsea (+265, +245 draw). With suspended Gary Cahill off the back line, Chelsea might have trouble containing both Harry Kane and Dede Alli, but with their 0-1 record it will be desperate to batten down and try to get the draw and valuable (in the long run) point.

Newly promoted Huddersfield Town (+140) are still offering plus money for its home opener against Newcastle United (+210, +220 draw) on Sunday. Newcastle had a desultory opening loss, so riding with everyone’s new second-favorite team on sentiment makes some sense.

The matchweek wraps with Manchester City (-355) hosting Everton (+950, +450 draw) on Monday. Everton have won the last three matchups between the teams and offer some upset potential, especially if midfielder Idrissa Gueye contains playmaker Kevin de Bruyne.

Manchester City favored for title, Kane for top scorer on EPL odds

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Manchester City enters the English Premier League season as the favorite to top the table at the end of next May.

With the EPL season kicking off Friday, Man City is listed at +185 on the odds win the Premier League championship at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Defending champion Chelsea (+325) and Manchester United (+325) are the closest contenders, before a big drop-off to Tottenham Hotspur (+900).

Manchester City have made major roster upgrades and manager Pep Guardiola has had a full season to get a better read on his players’ capabilities. But what’s probably going to make or break the Sky Blues is the health of defender Vincent Kompany, who’s struggled to stay healthy for the last three seasons.

Chelsea remains a solid play, particularly after adding Alvaro Mota to their front line. Odds of greater than 3/1 on a defending champion are hard to pass up. The price on Manchester United, which was sixth last season, might stem from their popularity and the fact that manager Jose Mourinho delivered titles during his second season with each of the other four teams he’s guided (including twice with Chelsea).

Tottenham has been faded in the preseason prognostications, mostly on the assumption they will be thrown off due to using Wembley Stadium as a temporary home due to stadium construction. However, one of the league’s most explosive offenses will be moving to a bigger pitch, and they still have their airtight back line with Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen as centre-backs.

Tottenham’s Harry Kane (+275), the two-time reigning Golden Boot winner, is the chalk pick in top scorer futures. But it is possible the Spurs’ move will affect the volume the chances Kane gets in home games.

Man United’s Romelu Lukaku (+400) should have the supporting cast to have a big season. Man City’s Sergio Aguero (+550) and Gabriel Jesus (+800) could end up cancelling out each other. With Arsenal out of Champions League, Alexandre Lacazette (+1100) might have the extra energy to take a shot.

In first week matches of note, Arsenal (-210) faces Leicester (+550, draw +350) in the lone game on Friday. Arsenal has just one win in its last seven season openers, but it should be different this time since they had a confidence-builder in the Community Shield game against Chelsea last weekend.

Tottenham (-155) opens on the road against Newcastle United (+400, +290 for the tie). Newcastle added little during the transfer period and Tottenham should be capable of beating the 1.0-goal line, which pays +120.

Manchester City (-325) should have a full complement of talent when it takes on Brighton and Hove Albion (+900) on Saturday. City is -110 on the goal line.

Crystal Palace (-130) gets the privilege of welcoming Huddersfield Town (+380, +250 for the draw) to the top flight. This might be an instance where taking the newcomers Huddersfield to eke out a point pays out.

Man United opens at home against West Ham United on Sunday. The Reds are -110 on the goal line (1.5 goals) and will be looking to make a statement with a decisive victory.