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Mark Langdon's Premier League antepost tips part one

The wait is almost over with the Premier League on the brink of returning and the Racing Post's head of sport content Mark Langdon runs the rule over the markets in search of value.

Premier League outright winner

Original article published 22 August 2022

The best just got better with Erling Haaland signing for Manchester City and there does not appear to be many grounds to oppose the champions at odds of 8/13.

Pep Guardiola's side have won the Premier League in four of the last five seasons, averaging more than 90 points in the process, and that was before the arrival of Haaland.

The Norwegian cannot be considered an absolute guarantee of goals as he needs to prove he can work in Guardiola's system, however, City were able to win last season's title without ever really having a focal point to the attack anyway.

Bringing in Haaland and Argentinian sensation Julian Alvarez to replace Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling seems fair enough and Kalvin Phillips coming in at the expense of veteran Fernandinho improves City's midfield at this stage of the Brazilian's career.

Liverpool, one point short last term, will have their backers at 5/2.

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Alisson, Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho provide a strong defensive backbone and Klopp's attacking full-backs - Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson - cause carnage on the flanks.

Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota, Luiz Diaz and Roberto Firmino are proven Premier League performers, unlike a certain Norwegian in Manchester, but the decision to sell Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich might hurt the Reds in the short term despite the arrival of Darwin Nunez.

The City first-Liverpool second forecast at 7/4 looks a rock-solid wager.

Chelsea trailed City by 19 points last term and don't appear to have made enough moves in the transfer market.

Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly provide quality in both boxes although given Chelsea have lost Romelu Lukaku, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen among others, Thomas Tuchel's team could find themselves under more pressure to secure a top-four finish.

Tottenham, at 12/1 for the title, appeal more than 16/1 Chelsea, but Spurs are unlikely to close the gap entirely on the big two despite the presence of Antonio Conte on the touchline.

Conte's six new arrivals all make sense and improve the squad depth, but the jump is likely too significant, something you could say too about north London rivals Arsenal.

Gabriel Jesus could be a difference-maker, but their squad came up short again and the young Gunners could be another couple of years away from truly challenging.

Manchester United, 28/1 shots, make even less appeal.

A goal difference of zero - worse than the likes of West Ham, Leicester and Crystal Palace - shows just how bang average United were last term when sixth spot flattered them. New manager Erik ten Hag will surely need more than 10 months to whip this squad into shape.

Without the Big Six

The tag of being best of the rest is a fascinating market with Newcastle 2/1 in the Premier League betting without the Big Six.

Eddie Howe's team improved plenty in the second half of last season, but won't find it easy to jump above 4/1 West Ham and 11/2 Leicester. The Hammers have Europe to contend with so go on an each-way hunt to back the Foxes.

There is a lot of unfair negativity around Leicester this term after last season's eighth-place finish and a lack of signings, but this is not far short of the same squad that claimed successive fifth places and lifted the FA Cup under Brendan Rodgers.

Last season was a painful one for Leicester, who suffered injuries to key players such as Wesley Fofana, Jonny Evans, James Justin, Wilfred Ndidi and Jamie Vardy, but they still managed to reach a European semi-final.

Now, free from midweek commitments, key players back and James Maddison in outstanding form, expect Rodgers to return Leicester to at least the best of the rest.

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Relegation

What goes up must come down and newly-promoted Bournemouth deserve to be 4/9 for an immediate return to the Championship.

However, for a better bet, consider Everton at 10/3. The grand old Merseysiders have a wonderful history but football is played on grass and the Toffees only just avoided a sticky situation last season, eventually finishing four points above relegated Burnley.

Frank Lampard has since seen star man Richarlison depart for Spurs and replacing his 10 goals and five assists - both top of the Everton charts last season - is not proving easy.

Fulham have become a yo-yo club and could take another trip down with Bournemouth.

Top newcomer

One issue for Everton, and the other established top-flight clubs, is the spending of Nottingham Forest and they look worth backing to be the top newcomer at the expense of Bournemouth and Fulham at odds of 13/10.

Bournemouth have made few moves in the transfer market and Fulham relied so much on Aleksandar Mitrovic (43 goals) and Harry Wilson (19 assists) last term, both of whom need to prove they are Premier League standard having not made an impact previously.

Forest, who went from last to promotion under Steve Cooper, are not messing around and the signings of Jesse Lingard and Dean Henderson highlight their ambition. Omar Richards and Neco Williams should be perfectly suited to the wing-back roles and Taiwo Awoniyi and Moussa Niakhate starred in the Bundesliga.

Awoniyi scored 15 times in the Bundesliga for Union Berlin and should provide a lively front duo alongside the classy Brennan Johnson.

Season match bets

The pick of the season match bets is to take Arsenal at 10/11 to finish above United just like they did last season.

Arsenal's late-season collapse cost them a Champions League return, however, with Jesus replacing Alexandre Lacazette in attack there is more to like about the Gunners this term.

They are a young side with scope to improve and it's possible United are going to struggle to keep tabs on Arsenal, who finished 11 points superior in 2021/22.

Handicap

The main concern with Arsenal is whether Mikel Arteta is good enough but across north London that is not an issue. Conte is one of the very best and the Italian could lead Tottenham to the season handicap win in receipt of a 14-point start at 15/1.

Spurs were third in the calendar year table for 2022 as Conte really made his mark, thanks in part to the January arrivals of Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur.

Kulusevski had eight assists - the same amount as Kevin De Bruyne - despite not arriving until January and is part of a thrilling front three alongside Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane.

By Mark Langdon

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