The start of a new football season is a fabulous time when anything seems tantalisingly possible for your team. Take West Ham. With Manuel Pellegrini having had a year to get his team sorted, they were well fancied (7/1) for a top-six finish. Everything was looking rosy.
And then Manchester City turned up at the London Stadium, won 5-0, and things have gone from bad to worse ever since.
They now find themselves in the bottom three and managed by David Moyes. “That’s what I do, I win,” said the Scot when he was appointed, but his record of one win in six league games since taking charge – and just 26 wins from 109 league games for various clubs since leaving Manchester United – suggests otherwise.
West Ham’s manager also has a famously abysmal record in tough away games. His last league victory against any of the current big six occurred at Manchester City in 2010, before there even was a big six as we now know it.
Since then Moyes has accrued 10 draws and 21 defeats, including five matches while in charge of Manchester United. With five of their remaining seven away games against the big clubs, West Ham’s odds of 13/10 to go down look tempting.
The Hammers won this fixture in 2015/16 (under Slaven Bilic) and drew the return match at Upton Park, but since then they have been brutalised by City. The Citizens have won all eight meetings in all competitions, by an aggregate scoreline of 28-3. Even if the visitors were somehow able to take the lead here, they’ve dropped a league-high 19 points from winning positions in 2019/20.
When a 5-0 home win is priced at 12/1 but any away win is 20/1, you know which way to bet. But at 1/12, there’s little value in a straight wager on a home win.
Despite their hugely dominant record over the Hammers in recent times, City’s big wins have come in east London. The last three Etihad meetings have ended 1-0, 2-1 and 3-1. But with the champions looking to bounce back from their loss at Spurs ahead of their winter break, City should win even with a handicap.
By that logic, we can assume there will be plenty of goals in the game. History suggests it too – since the start of 2017/18, 27 of Manchester City’s 50 home league matches have paid out on over 3.5 goals, the most of any team in the division.
But can we expect West Ham to contribute anything to the scoreline beyond a nil? On the face of it, probably not, as only Norwich City, with six, have scored fewer away goals than the Hammers’ tally of 10 this season.
However, they won 1-0 at Chelsea earlier in this campaign and found the net in eight of their 12 away matches against the top six clubs across the previous two seasons. Admittedly they scored no more than once in any of them, but it’s a start.
And I think they might score here.
City have only kept one clean sheet in their last seven league games at the Etihad, and that needed Sheffield United to miss three clear-cut chances. West Ham have been averaging two big chances per game under Moyes, so should get opportunities to score.
It’s a shame Raheem Sterling looks likely to miss this match. He has an excellent record against the Hammers – he scored a hat trick when they last met – so he might’ve played himself back into form. Assuming he misses out, Gabriel Jesus might be the man to back. He has six goals in his last seven league starts, and actually has a better pro-rata record versus West Ham than Sergio Aguero, scoring or assisting a goal every 49 minutes against them.
Four of West Ham’s six league goals against the top clubs this season have been scored by defenders, with Aaron Cresswell and Angelo Ogbonna bagging two apiece. Funnily enough, those players were responsible for the Hammers’ last two goals against City too. They’re 14/1 and 19/1 to score respectively if you think they’ll carry on here.
A better choice might be Michail Antonio, even if his record of one league goal this season suggests otherwise. He has taken 13 shots in the last four match weeks without scoring, the most of any goalless player in the Premier League in that period. Another Antonio goal will be due soon.
Bet: Manchester City -2 @ 5/6
Bet: Over 3.5 goals at 4/7
Bet: Both teams to score at 10/11
Bet: Gabriel Jesus to score at 1/2
Bet: Michail Antonio to score at 5/1
*Prices correct at time of posting