BILLY BUNTER

Weblog: The football punter

Goals may be scarce despite Carroll return

Sky Sports Premier League, 5.30pm Saturday

Monday night’s showdown between Villa and West Ham produced the third goalless draw of the Premier League season and long odds aren't available on the fourth unfolding at St James’ Park.

The 0-0 draw is a 7-1 chance in the correct-score betting – the same outcome is 40-1 in Manchester City's clash with Watford – and it’s easy to understand why.

Newcastle have scored four goals in their five games and average just 2.8 shots on target per game, the fewest of any top-flight side.

They line up in a 5-4-1 formation where the transformation into a 3-4-3 unit is less obvious than with some other teams who adopt similar tactics. Steve Bruce likes his five to be solid as they were when winning 1-0 at Tottenham, their one and only success of the campaign and a hugely impressive backs-to-the-wall effort.

They endeavoured to frustrate Liverpool at Anfield last week in much the same way and at 1-0 up with almost half an hour on the clock everything was going to plan. Liverpool pretty much over-ran them for the last hour, although clearly Brighton’s front three isn’t in the same class as Liverpool’s.

Conclusions to be drawn after five matches are that Joelinton is isolated for long periods and Miguel Almiron doesn’t look like he’ll be chipping in with many goals. Nor does Christian Atsu for that matter.

No wonder Bruce is so thrilled to have both Allan Saint-Maximin and Andy Carroll available again, though it’s anyone’s guess what level of contribution they will have, or whether Carroll will stay fit.

So that’s Newcastle. Brighton are going through a transformation under Graham Potter with a switch from something fairly rustic to a passing game which yielded an instant direct hit when they won 3-0 at Watford on the opening weekend. Since then it has been a struggle.

They have only scored two goals in the subsequent four matches but are short of options up front, where 35-year-old Glenn Murray continues to be an influential figure, though he hasn’t found the net in the league yet.

With Newcastle looking to stay compact and disciplined and Brighton struggling to pass their way through them, this doesn’t have the makings of a spellbinder. With a draw price as short as 2-1 in places, the layers share that thinking.

Set-pieces will be important and both sides have centre-backs who can score goals. Fabian Schar and Shane Duffy have each netted five times in the league since the start of last season.

At the start of the season many punters had these teams down as strugglers and are unlikely to have changed their views. If one of them wins it is likely to be by the odd goal, maybe even the only goal. Under 1.5 goals at 2-1 could prove the best bet.

Best bet
Under 1.5 goals

The Football Site

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