BetMGM UK Golden Goals: Matchday 9

Another international break down, another round of Premier League fixtures to go. After all the continental craziness, English football is back with a bang – including a pair of delicious derbies for fans to enjoy.

The standout contest pits title challengers Arsenal, high off their victory against champions and treble-winners Manchester City, against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

At the bottom end of the table, there are plenty of proverbial six-pointers available in our Golden Goals fixture list this week. Wolves visit a struggling Bournemouth after seemingly turning their own season around, while Nottingham Forest will hope to turn one point into three against Luton after three draws in the last four.

It’s a tough round of fixtures to predict but it’s worth a go as we are offering you the chance to win up to £2 million by predicting six correct scores with Golden Goals, our free-to-play football predictor game. Read more about Golden Goals here.

Last week, we got three correct results, one of which was a correct score. As for our players, 38 of them correctly predicted three scores to split the £5k prizepool that we offer if the jackpot is not won.

Will you be next? Let’s take a closer look at matchday nine

Bournemouth vs Wolves

Form (all competitions) Bournemouth: LLWLD Wolves: DWLDL

We kick-start our Golden Goals predictions with the Gary O’Neil Derby. Heads were turned on the south coast when Bournemouth parted ways with the 40-year-old after the conclusion of last season – a decision which has so far not proven to be a fruitful one.

Andoni Iraola, the new man at the helm at the Vitality, is yet to oversee a Premier League victory. What makes for even worse reading? The Cherries look completely abject in front of goal. They are the lowest scorers in the league with five goals – significantly underperforming their xG of 8.8 on the season so far.

Much of the goalscoring burden falls on the shoulders of Dominic Solanke but, it must be said, the Englishman is doing his best with the opportunities he’s given.

Bournemouth’s number nine is level with his xG on the season (three goals from exactly three xG) while also leading the team in chances created and touches in the penalty area. If Solanke isn’t involved at the top end, Bournemouth are unlikely to find the net in this one.

Premier League assists

As for O’Neil’s Wolves, they continue to shock and surprise this Premier League season. Following up a historic win over Manchester City with a point against Midlands rivals Aston Villa, the Molineux men have doubled their points total from the first six games.

One player that epitomises their upturn in form is Pedro Neto. The Portuguese winger has been scintillating in recent weeks, with six goal contributions in his last six games. His five assists is also tied for the league lead alongside Kieran Trippier and James Maddison.

It does seem a little early for genuine talk of six-pointers – but both teams are very much in need of three points in this one. We reckon they’ll share the spoils though.

Prediction: Bournemouth 1-1 Wolves

Manchester City vs Brighton

Form (all competitions) Manchester City: LWLLW Brighton: DDLWL

Are we finally seeing Pep Guardiola’s side falter? A defeat to Arsenal before the international break made it three losses in four games for the Citizens, who also lost their grip on Premier League top spot as a result.

Manchester City’s downturn in recent times has coincided with the absence of midfield linchpin Rodri due to suspension.

When the Spaniard doesn’t play, City are not quite the untouchable outfit they sometimes feel like when at their dominating best; they lose more than 30% of their games when Rodri isn’t available compared to only around 13% when he features.

Indeed, he leads the team in ball recoveries per 90 minutes (9.10), passes per 90 (133) and sits second in ball carries per 90 (29) too. It truly can’t be overstated how integral Rodri is to the blue side of Manchester.

It can be argued he’s more important to Guardiola’s style of play than striker Erling Haaland – so City fans can rejoice at the fact Rodri returns this weekend for the visit of Brighton.

Speaking of Haaland, though, it is undeniable the Norwegian has not appeared his usual self for the last few weeks. While he has eight goals in eight league games this season he has failed to find the net in his last four matches across all competitions for the club.

Match momentum

Yet his affinity for goals has shone against Brighton in the past, especially at the Etihad. In last season’s fixture, Haaland scored twice in the opening half of the game, leading City to a 3-1 win.

Roberto De Zerbi’s Brighton are a very different side now though. They are, don’t forget, a team which Guardiola himself has shown quite the admiration for, even describing the Seagulls boss as “one of the most influential managers in the last 20 years” a few months ago.

It’s praise that certainly has substance. Brighton's possession-heavy style sees them rank second in pass completion percentage in the Premier League, behind only Guardiola’s men. They also rank inside the top six for passes into the penalty area, progressive passes and crosses into the box while entering the top four in xG total for the season to date.

De Zerbi’s style has, though, become football’s version of boom or bust this season. For 3-1 victories over Newcastle, Manchester United and Bournemouth in the bank, see 3-1 and 6-1 defeats to West Ham and Aston Villa respectively.

For all the praise the Seagulls receive – and deservedly so – their defensive fragility is on display for all to see too. Ten of their 11 matches in all competitions have featured over 3.5 goals and they are yet to register a single clean sheet this campaign.

In the league, they have an xGA (expected goals against) tally of 12.2 in only eight games. That is a dangerous game to play against one of the league's most potent attacks.

Brighton are certainly to be admired – but it’s hard not to see them falling to defeat here.

Prediction: Manchester City 3-1 Brighton

Brentford vs Burnley

Form (all competitions) Brentford: LDLLL Burnley: LWLWL

It’s a battle of two disappointing starters as Brentford meet Burnley at the Gtech Community Stadium.

Thomas Frank’s side, in particular, have struggled to find consistency and have failed to register a victory in the league since the second game of the campaign. It has certainly become a cause for concern among the Brentford faithful – especially when they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against Manchester United when conceding two goals in added time from Scott McTominay.

All in all, the Bees have certainly lost their sting since the beginning of the league season. Bryan Mbeumo has tried his best to fill the large gap left by Ivan Toney up front, notching four goals and ranking the fourth-highest league-wide in xG into the bargain.

The options after Mbeumo leave a lot to be desired. Besides Yoanne Wissa (3.25) no other member of the Brentford team has mustered an xG above 2.0 throughout their eight games.

At the back, clean sheets have been hard to come by as well; a far cry from last season when David Raya ranked fourth-highest in the whole division with 11 shut-outs. New goalkeeping recruit Mark Flekken has come under scrutiny since his arrival but a 66.7% save percentage ranks puts him only slightly below average.

Brentford XG

While the man between the sticks hasn’t been in top form, the defence isn’t exactly throwing itself in front of the ball to prevent goals from being conceded. The Bees backline has the fourth-fewest amount of shots blocked in the league this season. A worrying statistic considering their opponents haven’t been shot-shy when facing Frank’s men. They’ve conceded the eighth most shots in the league overall and per 90 so far.

Burnley can have similar complaints about their defensive unit. With the second-highest number of goals conceded in the division, the highest average goals conceded per shot and the highest number of actual goals conceded over expected (4.3), it’s all trending in the wrong direction for Vincent Kompany’s Clarets.

The Turf Moor men have outscored the other members of the bottom four, marginally outperforming their xG by 0.5, so it does look slightly better for them at the top end of the pitch – but not by much.

Despite this Burnley have suffered just one defeat on the road in three outings. Contrastingly, home fans at Brentford are yet to see a win from their side at the Gtech this season.

We think this weekend bucks that trend and gets the West London side back to winning ways.

Prediction: Brentford 3-1 Burnley

Newcastle vs Crystal Palace

Form (all competitions) Newcastle: DWWWW Crystal Palace: DWLDL

Newcastle fans probably would have rejected the international break if they could have.

The Magpies are in insatiable form, knocking off Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain in cup competitions while enjoying a four-game unbeaten run in the Premier League.

Many of the plaudits are falling on striker Alexander Isak, who has found the net in three consecutive league matches. It’s hard to argue considering the Swedes accuracy within the six-yard box: he is the second-highest scorer in the league with six as well as carrying the second-highest expected goals per shot taken (excluding penalties).

It isn’t just Isak that has lifted Newcastle to lofty league heights and memorable European nights, the defence has played its part too. Even without the unflappable Sven Botman, Newcastle have proven to be unwavering in their pursuit of clean sheets.

Eddie Howe’s side have forced a blank from the opposition in three of the last four league games, which included the 8-0 drubbing of Sheffield United. These shining defensive statistics are unsurprising considering they hold the fourth-lowest xGA in the division and they face the third-fewest shots per 90 minutes.

Isak shot map

But we can’t talk about stubborn defences and not talk about Crystal Palace. Roy Hodgson’s men are astute defensively and produce just enough going forward to get results in big games.

Palace’s backline has conceded the second-fewest goals in the entire league – behind only Manchester City and Arsenal – but they lead the league in clean sheets with four (or, to put it another way, in exactly 50% of the games they have played).

Their forward line, despite getting results for now, does remain a slight worry though. They have only scored seven goals in those eight matches, placing them only one goal ahead of surely-relegation-threatened Sheffield United and Luton Town.

These struggles align with the absence of Michael Olise who led the team in chances created per 90 and expected assists per 90 last campaign. His mantle was picked up by Eberechi Eze – who leads the team in those categories this season – but he also missed the last game due to injury and looks set for a spell on the sidelines.

With the absence of their dynamic wingers, it is unlikely Crystal Palace will offer enough going forward to trouble Newcastle at St James’ Park. However, they’ll still be hard to beat so we’re opting for a safe 2-0 home win here.

Prediction: Newcastle 2-0 Crystal Palace

Nottingham Forest vs Luton Town

Form (all competitions) Nottingham Forest: DDLDW Luton Town: LLWLD

No, really, it is too early in the season for six-pointers. That said, Nottingham Forest vs Luton Town is a prime example of a match both sides would have circled on the calendar before the campaign began.

Forest have mastered the art of the draw in recent weeks. Steve Cooper’s men have three of those in their last four games, failing to convert their performances into three points since facing Chelsea back in September.

It’s hard to create chances when you don’t have the ball – and Forest spend a lot of time without possession. Cooper’s side are one of only four teams in the division that average less than 40% per game and 18th in touches in the opposing penalty area. They also rank 18th in xG in the Premier League, behind both Sheffield United and Burnley.

TOTW Matchday 8

Fortunately for Forest, possession is a luxury they may well have this weekend when facing Luton, the side that ranks dead last in possession in the Premier League (37.3% on average this season).

So it appears to be counter-attacks, set-pieces or crosses into the box that will be the best recipe for Luton’s survival. The Hatters are the bottom-dwellers for live passes so far this season but have managed to create the fourth-most shot-creating actions from dead balls.

Only Brentford, Liverpool, and Everton have topped Luton in that metric – but no one has in crosses attempted per 90 minutes. That seems to make it fairly obvious where they will be most likely to find success against Forest who have conceded the fifth-most crosses so far this season.

While we don’t think that success will come in the form of a win, a point is within the realms of possibility. It’ll be a third successive draw at the City Ground.

Prediction: Nottingham Forest 1-1 Luton Town

Chelsea vs Arsenal

Form (all competitions) Chelsea: WWWLD Arsenal: WLWWD

And so we reach the marquee bout of the weekend; a battle of red vs blue, North London vs South London. You couldn’t ask for much more from a Golden Goals headliner.

If this game had come a couple of weeks earlier, it is likely we would have Arsenal breezing past this Chelsea team. But, the Blues have slowly cultivated some form in recent outings. Since a winless run against Forest, Bournemouth and Aston Villa, they have dispatched both Fulham and Burnley with relative ease.

Given the opposition it’s true they can’t afford to get ahead of themselves – but it’s a positive sign for Mauricio Pochettino’s men nonetheless.

Profligacy is still the Achilles heel of this Chelsea team though. Both Nicolas Jackson and Enzo Fernandez ‘lead’ the league in terms of underperforming their xG to date. Fernandez with 2.2 goals fewer than expected and Jackson with 2.1.

The Blues have been able to depend on their rearguard to keep them in matches so far this season. They have not conceded more than once this entire campaign and have racked up two clean sheets in their last three games across all competitions.

Whether it’s been Conor Gallagher’s industrious work in the midfield – ranking top five in both tackles and interceptions – or Thiago Silva’s leadership in defence, Chelsea have become a tougher group to breach this season than they were last.

Still, they will have to be at their very best to stop a Gunners side which has been firing on all cylinders so far this campaign.

Chelsea Arsenal momentum

A point against Tottenham in the North London Derby was followed up by back-to-back wins in the league against Bournemouth and defending champions City, leaving Arsenal as one of the two unbeaten sides left in the Premier League alongside their great rivals.

Mikel Arteta’s men got the victory over City without talismanic winger Bukayo Saka – the team’s leading goalscorer (four) and assister (two). His absence was certainly felt but both Gabriel Martinelli and Leandro Trossard filled the void dutifully, the former ultimately scoring the winner against City on the day.

Another integral part of Arsenal’s victory over Manchester City was their ability to win the midfield battle in the absence of Rodri. A factor that is now possible in most games thanks to Declan Rice’s arrival from West Ham.

Arsenal win the most tackles in the middle third of the pitch, with Rice’s 10 in that area ranking as the second-most among Arsenal players. Much like Gallagher for Chelsea, Rice has been the Gunners’ hard-working midfield anchor and leads his team in combined tackles and interceptions per 90 minutes (minimum 100 minutes played).

Battles all across the pitch to look out for; Chelsea’s wasteful attack against Arsenal’s solid defence; two midfield trios trying to out-work and out-pass one another; the Blues’ back three trying to shackle Arsenal’s attacking quartet.

So much can decide this game – and we think it’ll be closer than expected – but it’s Arsenal who get the nod.

Prediction: Chelsea 0-1 Arsenal

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Take Time to Think | | 18+

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