Seven games unbeaten: that’s how Chelsea have fared under Guus Hiddink thus far. That kind of run shouldn’t be unexpected from the reigning Premier League champions, but given what has gone before in 2015/16 it is quite a turnaround for a side in the doldrums just prior to Christmas.
This renaissance has caused something of an about-face for punters too, who are now starting to look at options regarding an improved Chelsea finish to the season. They’re now 13th in the league table; just five points off the top ten and eight off the top six. Punters will be looking at the 4/11 on Hiddink’s henchmen to finish in the top half of the table as excellent value, while a top six place come May – at 7/2 – doesn’t seem so much of a leap of faith when you consider that each team can theoretically still win another 45 points this term.
Many eagle-eyed punters will know that Top Goalscorer punts at this time of the season pay out on the top three for each way bets. With four goals in five outings, Diego Costa is just starting to creep into the shake up. He’s eight beyond market leader Jamie Vardy, seven behind second-placed Romelu Lukaku and six behind the current bronze medallist, Odion Ighalo. With fifteen games to go there are still plenty of goals to be scored, and at a best price of 40/1 there are a lot more outlandish punts at this kind of price around than backing the powerful frontman to sneak into the top three by the end of the campaign.
Townsend on the Toon
Often in life we have to take a step backwards to ultimately move forwards, and while Andros Townsend’s £12 million move from Spurs to Newcastle might look like something of a career own goal for a player once touted as the brightest English prospect, it actually reflects the willingness ad desire to play first team football wherever it may be; not a route taken by two other English starlets, Fabian Delph and Scott Sinclair, upon joining Manchester City.
There is a sense amongst Spurs fans that they never got to see the best of Townsend in their classic white shirt, and that might be true: the 25-year-old offered an assist in every ten Premier League games and a goal in every twelve on average.
But he has turned in some fine performances for England in his short career to date, scoring some spectacular goals along the way, and this is an area of interest for punters. Roy Hodgson is clearly a fan – Townsend appeared in three Euro ’16 qualifiers despite not being in the Spurs team – and so an extended run in the Newcastle starting eleven could convince the England gaffer to pop him on the plane to France. Andros Townsend to make the squad for the European Championships is priced at 7/2; and that’s surely worth a look. His new Geordie teammate Jonjo Shelvey can be backed at 3/1 too.
Guidolin the Way
It’s hard to put your finger on exactly how, but it’s pretty clear that Swansea’s new head coach Francesco Guidolin has made an immediate impact at the Liberty Stadium.
Two wins on the spin – double their victory tally since November – has lifted the Swans out of the bottom three and taken them four points clear of Newcastle in 18th.
There is plenty of quality in that Swansea squad – the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson and Andre Ayew don’t become bad players overnight – and so perhaps the best thing that Guidolin has done is simply remind them of that fact.
The upshot is that the Swans are now as short as 1/4 to stay up, which places the spotlight of relegation firmly on their closest rivals. Despite an improvement of late we would have to consider Aston Villa to be doomed, while both Newcastle and Sunderland are struggling but boast the kind of quality to stay up. So for us, Norwich, at 17/10, look a long price for the dreaded drop. With four out of their next five matches being against Spurs, West Ham, Leicester and Chelsea, now looks as good a time as any for punters to get involved.