With West Brom extending their winless run to five, and Brentford extending theirs to seven, we’re looking at this week’s biggest Market Movers.
Are Brentford being dragged into a relegation battle? Thomas Frank’s men were 11/8 for relegation pre-season, out to 9/4 having beaten a Covid-hit Arsenal on the opening night.
By the October international break, they had drifted to 8/1 having drawn 3-3 with Liverpool and won at West Ham with Yoane Wissa scoring important goals in both games. People were rightly talking glowingly about the Brentford model, with their approach to recruitment and focus on analytics, and were 2/1 for a fairy-tale top-half finish.
The approach sees them focus as much if not more on the underlying numbers and performances rather than just their results, and it’s lucky for Frank that they do.
After the West Ham win they went on to lose the next four and shortened back into 10/3 before drawing with Newcastle.
Bryan Mbeumo kept his nerve from the spot in their final game before Christmas as a late turnaround against Watford with goals from captain Pontus Jansson in the 84th minute and then Frenchman Mbeumo in injury time from 12 yards meant Brentford were back out to double figures for relegation.
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Another late winner, this time against Villa, had the Bees pushing for top half but their odds for the drop have plummeted since, with the West London club into 3/1 having taken one point from their last seven with Arsenal the latest club to beat them, taking revenge for the opening night defeat with Frank’s side having played more than their relegation rivals.
Where they will take solace is that in this run of seven without a win, they’ve played Liverpool, Manchester United (where they were much the better side in the first half), Wolves, Manchester City and most recently Arsenal.
On top of that, their goal difference in that period is -14, but their xGD is only -5.3, and with fixtures and Newcastle, Norwich and Burnley next, they may well turn things around quickly.
Talk of a title challenge at the start of season feels a distant memory for West Brom.
Many fans were embracing Val-ball after hammering promotion rivals Sheffield United 4-0 in front of the TV cameras under the lights at the Hawthorns in their third game of the season. Bookmakers agreed, with the Baggies ending August at 9/4 to win the league and into 7/4 after a nervy win over West Midlands rival Birmingham City in mid-October.
However, there was a concern amongst the fanbase that the football was poor and results weren’t sustainable and unfortunately for Valerian Ismael, those doubts proved to be correct despite Albion being 8/11 for promotion & 1/16 for Top 6 at Christmas. But four points from the next six games saw the axe fall, as Val was replaced by Steve Bruce.
If the former Birmingham and Aston Villa manager didn’t know the size of the task before he took the job then he does now.
He’s been unable to stop the rot with him already apologising the fans after a limp showing, this time at Luton. It’s now 451 minutes without an away goal, with much, unfairly, resting on the rather large shoulders of Andy Carroll, with new boy Daryl Dike recovering from an injury – even more pressure will be heaped on the 21-year-old American when he does return.
This is a side desperately low on confidence with mid-table mediocrity now looking a possibility, out to 6/4 for a top-six finish. Such notion would’ve been laughed at just a few months ago, but Bruce has a huge job on his hands with just the small matter of Middlesbrough away in midweek.
Stuttgart were dealt a hammer blow in their hopes for survival at the weekend, conceding a 94th-minute penalty at home to Bochum.
Despite losing goalkeeper George Kobel to Dortmund, who was excellent last season, as well as forward Nicolas Fernandez, they got off to a respectable start to the season, taking 10 points from their opening nine games.
They were 10/1 to be relegated when Wahid Faghir equalised against Union Berlin with the last kick of the game having played the last 30 minutes with 10 men, preserving their four-match unbeaten run.
But they’ve only won two games since, losing nine, and with the longest winless run of anyone in Bundesliga, are now odds-on for relegation at 8/13.
What a turnaround it’s been for Elche in La Liga. The side who just four years ago were in Spain’s third tier were odds-on for relegation before a ball was kicked and remained that way at the Christmas break (10/11), going down to an agonising late defeat to Barcelona.
Maybe scoring at Camp Nou for the first time in 43 years gave them hope of survival, because they’ve returned from the break rejuvenated and sit top of La Liga’s form table having suffered just one defeat – and there’s no disgrace in losing to Sevilla, a side who are flying high and undefeated at home.
They then gave Real Madrid a huge scare by taking a 2-0 lead, triggering bet365’s Early Payout Offer, before late goals from Luka Modric and Eder Militao rescued a 2-2 draw for Carlo Ancelotti’s side, having taken them to extra time in the Copa del Rey just days before.
Friday’s 2-1 victory over Rayo Vallecano sees them pushed out to 12/1 for the drop.
By Steve Freeth
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