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

Leave a comment

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 Derby Might Trigger Shift In English Premier League Futures

Leave a comment

Manchester United offers value on the field and the futures board heading into a derby against suddenly human-looking Manchester City.

With the rivals set to meet at Old Trafford on Sunday, Man City is a -1000 favorite on the odds to win the English Premier League at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Man United (+1000), eight points adrift, and Chelsea (+2000) are within eyeballing distance of City, while Liverpool (+5000) and Arsenal (+10000) are the long shots.

The three-game ban to midfielder Paul Pogba for a studs-up tackle that resulted in a red card last weekend has led to sharps giving a big moneyline on Manchester United (+240) against Manchester City (+115, +245 draw) in their matchup. However, United, if midfielder Maroune Fellaini is fit to play, could keep Man City’s brilliant passing attack at bay long enough to create counter-attacks and chances for Romelu Lukaku to score.

Manchester City, which may not have David Silva in the lineup, has conceded goals in three league games in a row, so the over on the 2.5 total looks like an odds-on hit.

Burnley (+145) and Watford (+195, +215 draw) are both surprisingly in the top half of the standings, but the host Clarets have done so through defending. Watford has thrived by attacking, but a lengthy injury list could diminish its firepower. Even with a 2.0 total, the under offers value at +120.

Last-place Swansea City (+160) is on a seven-match winless skid in the league, but it has won its last three matchups against West Bromwich Albion (+195, also +195 draw). Swansea’s Wilfried Bony, who tends to score in bunches, tallied in his last game and might be due to score again.

Huddersfield Town (+160) faces Brighton & Hove Albion (+200, +195 draw) in Premiership play for the first time. Huddersfield has lost four in a row and scored only one goal in that time. Brighton, thanks in large part to Glenn Murray, has scored in seven of its last eight games, and it’s posted a draw or win in five of its last nine away games at Huddersfield.

Newcastle United (+155), which hosts Leicester City (+180, +220 draw), has been lost defensively without Jamaal Lascelles, who’s doubtful for this week. Leicester has come on with winger Demerai Gray complementing Jamie Vardy in the goal-scoring department, so it stands a chance of winning a game that goes over the 2.5 total.

Liverpool (-360) has not lost at home against rival Everton (+950, +475 draw) in 18 years, and have been consistently starting well. Liverpool, with Philippe Coutinho and Mo Salah both slated to start, offers better value at -135 for the over on the 3.0 total.

Those who believe Everton has truly turned a corner under new manager Sam Allardyce could back the Toffees for the draw, with the +105 at plus-1.5 goals as a cushion.

 

Premier League Heavy Favorite Manchester City Facing Hectic December

Leave a comment

Bettors hopeful of Manchester City coming back to earth can take some solace from the Sky Blues’ approaching schedule.

City is now a -1000 favorite on the English Premier League outright winner board according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Rival Manchester United (+1000) and Chelsea (+2000) are the only teams in contact.

But Manchester City has 10 matches between Saturday and January 2, which will likely force manager Pep Guardiola to hold back some first-choice starters at some point. A loss could pump some value back into City’s price.

Manchester City has been so dominant that bookmakers have taken it off the board for a Top 4 finish and Champions League qualification. With that prop, Arsenal (-110) might offer the best realistic value since its energy will not be siphoned by Champions League knockout ties, unlike Chelsea (-400), Liverpool (-150) and Tottenham Hotspur (+125).

Liverpool also offers value since manager Jurgen Klopp is looking to upgrade his roster big-time during the January transfer window.

On the pitch, Arsenal (+150) takes a 12-match home win streak in EPL play into a feature matchup against Manchester United (+190, +230 draw). Man United looks depleted in the central midfield with Marouane Fellaini (knee) doubtful, so its best prospect might be getting a draw.

Stoke (-115) is leaking oil with 19 goals against over its last seven games, but Swansea City (+350, +235 draw) and bright young striker Tammy Abraham went 0-for-November in the goals department. A low-scoring game is likely in the offing, so the under on the 2.5 total at -145 is the percentage play.

Watford (+400) has lost its last four games against Tottenham (-145, +290 draw), but it is looking for a bounce-back at home and has finishers Troy Deeney and Abdoulaye Doucoure together again. Tottenham’s propensity for slow starts – it’s trailed at some point in each of its last four games – suggests there is upset potential.

Leicester City (-130) has been something less than airtight defensively at home, while Burnley (+385, +255 draw) has four away wins in seven starts. Burnley, with forward Chris Wood facing his former team, is a good bet to get a result. Both teams will likely push forward in a way that makes both likely to score, so the +115 for the over to hit on the 2.5 total is enticing.

Super Sunday concludes with a super mismatch as Manchester City (-1100) hosts West Ham United (+2300, +1000 draw). Manchester City looks eminently capable of winning by a multi-goal margin and covering the minus-2.5 goals spread, which offers -130 with West Ham coming back at +110 to cover