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Football Odds: Mohamed Salah to score v Fulham; Coventry to score v Man Utd; Arsenal to keep clean sheet v Chelsea

With the FA Cup semi-finals taking place this weekend, the next round of Premier League fixtures are spread out over the course of next week, and as part of our weekly round-up, we delve into the stats from English football to see where the value can be found.

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Read more: What is xG? Expected Goals explained

Mohamed Salah to score against Fulham

Prior to the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, Mohamed Salah was in the form of his life, scoring 17 goals and laying on nine assists in his first 20 Premier League games. Liverpool were hot on Manchester City’s trail and went on to win the EFL Cup and FA Cup, chasing a historic quadruple.

And while the Reds won 16 and drew two of their final 18 games from the AFCON break, Salah’s form noticeably dipped, scoring seven goals and laying on four assists in the final 15 games of the season. Having scored or assisted in all bar three pre-AFCON games, Salah then blanked in eight of the final 15.

The drop-off this season has been similar, and it’s threatened to derail Liverpool’s campaign. In his 20 pre-AFCON appearances, Salah had 14 goals and eight assists (failing to score or assist in only five games), down to three goals and one assist in the six games since, blanking three times.

Salah was rested for the first half against Atalanta but was introduced at half-time with the Reds 1-0 down. In what was one of Liverpool’s worst performances under Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool lost 3-0 to leave their European hopes hanging by a thread.

Although Salah has struggled for fitness since AFCON, where he departed early through injury, most of Salah’s underlying numbers are actually at a similar level to what they were earlier in the season. His five-game average non-penalty xG and xA have hovered around 0.3 and 0.5 and 0.2 and 0.3 respectively throughout most of the season, and are currently at 0.54 (xG) and 0.3 (xA), suggesting we should still expect to see a goal or assist per game from Salah, and with the Egyptian registering just two goals and one assist in his last five games, it shouldn’t be long before we see Salah playing a more important role once again.

Mohamed Salah to score against Fulham – 20/21
Mohamed Salah to assist against Fulham – 9/4

Coventry to score against Manchester United

Manchester United’s defensive woes have been well documented in recent weeks, but the numbers they’re putting up are still the most remarkable in England if not in Europe.

Indeed, in Europe’s big five leagues, Manchester United have conceded the most shots per 90.

What might be most alarming of all is that manager Erik ten Hag is persisting with this chaotic style of play; this is how he actually wants his side to operate. It will almost certainly cost him his job in the summer, despite Gary Neville’s claim that the Dutchman can still be saved by the FA Cup.

Ten Hag’s reign is becoming increasingly reminiscent of his fellow countryman Louis van Gaal’s, who had a good first season to get United back on track, before an atrocious style of play led to United missing out on Champions League football, celebrating an FA Cup win at the end of the season.

Of Manchester United’s 44 games this season, they’ve allowed fewer than 10 shots in just five of them: twice against Nottingham Forest, twice against Crystal Palace and once against Wigan.

They’ve allowed 31 against Brentford, 24 against Everton, 23 against Wolves, 22 against Luton, and even 17 against Newport County.

It’s what must give Coventry hope of at least taking United to extra-time on Sunday, if not reaching the final. On paper, the idea of Coventry knocking Manchester United out of the FA Cup to reach the final looks impossible, but the odds of 11/4 suggest the Sky Blues have every chance.

What a story it would be for Mark Robins, the man credited with saving Alex Ferguson’s job in the FA Cup back in 1990, to lead Coventry to the final at United’s expense, and while City may come up short, they have to fancy their chances of at least getting on the scoresheet.

Both Teams to Score – Yes – 8/13

Arsenal to keep clean sheet against Chelsea

The Premier League’s man of the moment is most certainly Cole Palmer.

Back in the summer, a degree of scepticism was fair around the signing of Palmer, considering Pep Guardiola was happy to let the Manchester City academy graduate go, and more so considering Chelsea’s growing list of underwhelming signings.

But the 21-year-old has been the Blues’ shining light this season. Palmer has shot to the top of the Premier League’s top scorer standings alongside Erling Haaland with a remarkable 10 goals in his last five games at a rate that would even make the great Norwegian envious.

But how sustainable is Palmer’s goalscoring run?

In only two games has Palmer recorded a non-penalty xG tally of more than 1.0 (1.1 v Luton and 1.7 v Everton), and while seven of Palmer’s last 10 goals have been from open play, they’re coming from a relatively low non-penalty xG of 3.1.

Over the course of the season, it puts Palmers goals minus xG at +5.1 – the third best in the league behind Jarrod Bowen and the two-footed, xG-defying Son Heung-min, suggesting the run may be coming to an end before too long.

And if it does, it’s fair to wonder where Chelsea’s goals will come from. While the Blues have looked a much more potent attacking outfit in recent weeks, with 17 goals in five games, Palmer’s responsible for more than half of them, with the likes of Raheem Sterling, Mykhailo Mudryk and Nicolas Jackson contributing just two in that time.

Arsenal will be reeling from back-to-back defeats that have severely jeopardised their season. They lost 2-0 at home to Aston Villa and were knocked out of the Champions League by Bayern Munich, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Gunners have been the league’s best defensive outfit this season.

They’ve not allowed more than 1.0 xG in their last 12 Premier League games, allowing less than 0.5 in seven of those.

Sunday was a big blow for the Gunners, and Wednesday was no better, but with Chelsea in FA Cup action and their rivals given the weekend off, Arsenal can bounce back and keep the Blues at bay.

Arsenal to keep a clean sheet – 13/8

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