Premier League Talking Points & Punting Pointers: Mo Salah, Wilfried Zaha, Willian, Liverpool, Everton and Leeds all featureby Sporting Life
Our football team has the main takeways from the opening weekend of the Premier League and some betting pointers that emerged from the action.
Carlo's culture club at Everton
Tottenham 0-1 Everton
After Everton slumped down the stretch with just one win in six and serious questions about their mentality raised, Carlo Ancelotti showed exactly why the Toffess hired him as all three of his summer signings made an immediate impact in their win at Tottenham.
And even in the very first game of the season, the significance of Everton winning away at a top six side for the first time in 40 attempts cannot be underestimated.
While Spurs were poor, they weren't allowed to be much better as James Rodriguez, Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure all impressed in dominating the middle of the park and looking a class above Tottenham technically.
We wondered whether Rodriguez in particular was brought in more for his 90 million-odd social media followers than his footballing skills, but from the very start he showed what a quality player he is - it's probably the most assured debut I've seen since Bruno Fernandes.
Much like Fernandes, Rodriguez displayed the quality first touch world class players always have, killing awkward balls instantly and making close control look easy - the first instinct was also almost always to look forward.
Cutting in off the right of a front three looks the ideal slot for him, and he showed a sign of things to come with both a whipped shot that whistled past the post and a deft chip into Richarlison that both oozed class and gave a glimpse of just how he'll be dangerous this season.
Rodriguez had three shots on his debut, none hitting the target, but he's only going to start firing more in once he gets comfortable in the Premier League - his five key passes suggest that an assist may not be too far away and that's definitely a bet to put in the notebook.
Those five chances he created, by the way, were the most by an Everton player for just over two years - since Gylfi Sigurdsson created six against Southampton - the Iceland international may struggle to get back into this team now.
The only worry for those looking at possible Rodriguez assists from free kicks is that Lucas Digne seemed to take most of the left-footed set pieces. Rodriguez may well pull rank if it's a free kick within shooting range though.
Everton just so happen to have a home game against West Brom next up, who allowed Leicester to have 13 shots and with the majority of the attacks from the Foxes coming down their right hand side Rodriguez will be an interesting play in both the scoring and player shots markets. They're also 7/4 to get another win to nil.
Interestingly from that game, Harvey Barnes ran riot down Leicester's left, with five shots (two on target) and regularly getting in down that channel - step forward Richarlison who should certainly be in your thinking in the shots and even scoring markets against the Baggies.
The Brazilian could have scored against Spurs, and should have set up a goal at the least. He had seven shots, nine touches in the Spurs box and 10 dribbles - in short he was a constant threat - if he sharpens up he could well open his scoring account at Goodison on Saturday, but should certainly be good for a few efforts on goal at the very least.
Looking long term, and although instant reactions can be dangerous and foolish in equal measure, it's interesting to still see Everton as 3/1 shots in the Premier League 'without top six' betting market when you consider not just the victory but the manner of it.
They're behind Leciester (5/2), who played well against lesser opposition, and Wolves (11/4), who haven't kicked a ball yet, in the betting but the Toffees will be at least as good as both of those sides on this evidence.
A cheeky one to finish, and it's a long old season but Jose Mourinho will already be under fire after that performance, and with a lack of signings and Europa League football to contend with this season, the 6/5 on Everton finishing above Spurs this season may look a gift in the weeks and months to come.
Leeds lose but light it up
Wow, what a return Leeds United made to the Premier League after 16 years away.
There have probably been fewer more gallant defeats since the competition's 1992 inception, such was the vigour Marcelo Bielsa's side showed in taking on a Liverpool side who are not only champions, but have collected a fraction under 200 points over the past two seasons.
While it's incredibly difficult to know how much should be read into the defensive frailties that both teams displayed in what was more basketball game than a football match, Leeds did exactly what their legendary coach had promised - they went for it.
I hate to be that person who rains on the parade, but someone has to be. Don't start rushing to the over goals market when both these teams are in action on the basis of one fixture; this was a perfect match-up in terms of styles and not always will the the formula so obviously add up to goals.
For Leeds though, the both teams to score market could be a strong option for as long as they continue this handbrake-off approach.
Situations combined to produce a Premier League classic, and for the Reds I would be shocked if there aren't some serious conversations had which will then see their defence tightened up.
While not as porous as this, Jurgen Klopp's team struggled at the back in the early part of last season only to eventually iron those issues out. For Leeds, there could be a far greater problem.
None of Liverpool's goals were scored in open play, with the Whites looking all at sea every time the ball was fired into their box from a set-piece. Captain Liam Cooper was injured and Ben White has returned to Brighton, meaning neither centre-back from their title-winning team was on show.
Leeds conceded just five goals in their final 13 Championship games but that looks like ancient history now, especially against higher quality opposition. Next week they play Fulham, so maybe they'll get away with it then. Longer term, it is a worry.
As for Liverpool, I wouldn't be surprised to see another end-to-end encounter when they travel to Stamford Bridge next weekend to face BTTS kings Chelsea, even if their aim is to defend much better than this.
The Sky Bet market isn't yet available, but when it is it's worth considering a number of shots punt on Mo Salah and possibly a combined one with Sadio Mane.
Salah had nine attempts on goal against Leeds, and is likely to face laissez faire full-back Marcos Alonso in west London with Ben Chilwell injured. Mane managed five.
I wouldn't even say either had a particularly good game, and yet they had 14 shots between them.
Roberto Firmino was lagging behind with two. Rubbish.
Arsenal's incomings a huge positive
The odds may not have suggested it before the season got under way at Craven Cottage but big things are expected of this Arsenal side under Mikel Arteta.
Granted, it was against a newly-promoted team, but the Gunners' performance in a comfortable 3-0 victory over Fulham is a good indicator of where this team is heading.
We saw how quickly Arteta had revolutionised Arsenal last season, but the displays from the new recruits in their opening day victory suggests they've got it right in terms of recruitment, too.
It's early days of course. It would be far from wise to judge their summer activity based on one result but both Gabriel Magalhaes and Willian played important parts as they picked up the three points.
They will be tested much more on the defensive side of things in other games this season but Gabriel's attitude when Arsenal are in possession shows that he already looks like the right fit for the way they want to play. He's determined to play on the front foot and the goal, in his first competitive showing in an Arsenal shirt, is a bonus.
There were some nervy moments early on. Arsenal nearly conceded a goal due to a defensive mix-up in the opening minutes. However, Gabriel settled into the team so quickly and that had a major part in why they won.
And of course there was also Willian. No stranger to the Premier League after his seven years with Chelsea but there are always going to be questions surrounding how he will slot into a new system. Across the 76 minutes he was involved for, Willian looked as if he'd played under Arteta for years.
He grabbed official assists on both of Arsenal's second-half goals and played a significant part in this first. Repeat performances in future weeks will surely keep record signing Nicolas Pepe on the bench.
More good news for Arsenal is that they host West Ham next weekend; it's worth looking at Willian grabbing an assist there when the market becomes available.
VAR the star at Selhurst
The key talking point to come out of Crystal Palace's win over Southampton was referee Jon Moss's use of the monitor to overturn his own decision after Kyle Walker-Peters was sent off for a high-footed challenge on Palace youngster Tyrick Mitchell.
It took little over a minute for Moss to scuttle pitch-side, after a brief chat with VAR Craig Pawson, and rightly downgrade Walker-Peters' card to yellow.
Officials have been encouraged to use the monitors more this season and it's too early to say how this could affect any betting, but it's certainly worth keeping an eye on if you're someone who likes the booking points market as while last season provided a false dawn in terms of eradicating refereeing howlers, it looks like we could finally be getting there.
Be careful not to start stretching things to the over goals market though, as there's been no change to the offside rules that saw so many ruled out by marginal VAR calls last season.
Again, there is a watching brief element though as the t-shirt line rule that has been brought in to determine handball decisions should lead to fewer goals being controversially ruled out for that reason.
New season, same Palace
While any VAR impact isn't something to immediately act upon, what we saw from Palace is.
There were plenty keen to write off the Eagles in their ante-post relegation predictions, not our preview by the way, and while we shouldn't read too much into the opening game of a season there was plenty to like from Roy Hodgson's side.
Aside from the early stages of each half, Saints were kept at arm's length using the tried and trusted formula that has seen Palace rarely feature in the relegation shake-up since Hodgson arrived exactly three years ago. But there was a slight tweak.
Palace lost seven and drew one of their final eight matches last term, and star man Wilfried Zaha endured a terrible 2019/20 - he mustered only three assists and four goals in the Premier League.
Something had to change, and while Hodgson will hope the summer arrivals of Ebere Eze and Michy Batshuayi provide that, he seems to have come up with his own solution. Whether by design or forced upon them by unavailability, the former England boss switched from his usually predictable 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 with Zaha playing in a free role behind Jordan Ayew.
Its dual impact, despite a makeshift defence and countless absentees, was to make Palace assured defensively and Zaha a constant threat on the counter, no longer restricted to the left wing.
Even considering their late-season collapse, under 2.5 goals in a Palace game was as close to a sure thing as you were likely to get in the Premier League last season - it happened in a league high 27 of their 38 fixtures.
This performance should be enough on its own to dispel fears that Hodgson's team are sleepwalking towards the drop, with under 2.5 goals a market to consistently consider, even next week.
Manchester United's goals dried up at the end of last term - they failed to score more than twice in any of their final eight fixtures - but the fixture is a shade under 2/1 for under 2.5 goals in some places.
Under-estimate Palace at your peril.
As for Zaha, that showing could be the nudge that was needed for someone to come in for him - Everton are now as short as 11/10 to sign him before the end of the transfer window.
Good luck finding a fix...
And finally for Saturday, West Ham fans look away now.
It's been well talked about that the Hammers' fixture list is not especially appetising, with one exception: their home starter against Newcastle. West Ham lost it 2-0.
Now, they face Arsenal, Wolves, Leicester, Tottenham, Man City, and Liverpool. That Wolves is a home game means they won't perhaps be odds-on to lose all six of these, but it's not a stretch to imagine that happening.
We will be in deep, dark November (deep and dark now applies to basically anything not bright and sunny, because 2020) by the time West Ham start a Premier League game as favourites - not that doing so helped them here.
That will be against Fulham, and come with certain pressures regardless. If they are bottom of the table on one or two or three points, that will be intensified. It's this reality which brought pressure to Newcastle's visit, and they failed to rise to the challenge.
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