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Odds and Ends

PL Best Bets: Leeds looks to corner Arsenal

by Brad Thomas
Updated On: November 21, 2020, 1:06 pm ET

Timo Werner and the German national team looked sharp last week against Ukraine, defeating them 3-1, only to be out-classed by Spain a few days later to the tune of 6-0. The Spaniards played a tough road game against Switzerland but didn't offer much quality in the final third, as the Nati tried their best to gift Spain all three points but the match ended in a 1-1 draw after Spanish captain Sergio Ramos missed not one but two penalty kicks.

Are Joachim Low's days as the German coach numbered? Is Father Time creeping up on the 34-year-old Ramos? These are questions that will play out in the coming weeks and months, but with the international break over we turn our attention back to the English Premier League.

Each week I break down select games from a betting perspective, digging through information pertinent to bettors and offering my take and plays. This week there are three games that have my attention, with odds via PointsBet Sportsbook:

Brighton & Hove Albion at Aston Villa (Saturday)

Line: Aston Villa (+115), Brighton & Hove Albion (+220), Draw (+260)

It wasn't that long ago that Aston Villa was an automatic fade, but this season is a different story. Villa has been playing rather well, frequently finding the net while they previously struggled to protect their own. But this season they seem to have found the correct defensive formula, leading the EPL in clean sheet percentage at 57 percent.

If you haven't conceded double-digit goals by this point of the season, you're doing something right defensively. The Villains have only allowed nine goals on the season while scoring 18, which is good for third-best offensive output in the league, and have surpassed the two-goal mark in four of their last six EPL matches. They are a dangerous team now that they can both score and defend.

With players like Ollie Watkins and Jack Grealish, Villa has been able to find offensive production and quality in the final third. Both Watkins and Grealish boast a shot accuracy percentage above 68 percent. Villa has been very competitive this season, with five wins and two losses in seven fixtures. Only once did it seem as if Villa was lost on the pitch, a 3-0 loss to Leeds last month.

On the other hand, Brighton has consistently struggled defensively. They are coming into this match with a -3 goal differential, having allowed 14 while scoring only 11. Brighton has yet to in in their last six league fixtures, and confidence is not exactly on their side coming into this match. In fact, Brighton has lost all five EPL matches on the road against Aston Villa.

With Brighton's recent struggles and Villa's improved defense, it's easy to back the Villains in this match. I'll gladly take Aston Villa (+118) at plus money as they look to make it six straight home victories against Brighton.

Manchester City at Tottenham Hotspur (Saturday)

Line: Both Teams to Score (BTTS): Yes -185, No +138

Many Premier League clubs give their top players a much-deserved rest the weekend after international break, but this weekend's fixture between Manchester City and Tottenham should still feature goals despite a few key players likely sitting. The visitors will likely be without their top two goal scorers, as Raheem (calf injury) and Sergio Agüero (thigh injury) are both doubtful.

Despite both Sterling and Aguero likely sitting, CIty still has plenty of firepower to find the back of the net. As long as vice captain Kevin De Bruyne is on the pitch, Manchester City can score at any time. De Bruyne is a skilled midfielder with a knack for finding the open player, and he leads the team with seven assists. Younger players like Ferran Torres and Phil Foden have both been wonderful in the final third, scoring a combined seven goals.

Manchester City has scored at least one goal in every fixture this season, and they come into this game averaging 1.71 goals per contest. Much to Pep Guardiola's dismay, their defense has struggled to keep a clean sheet while allowing at least one goal in 71 percent of their fixtures.

Second-place Tottenham has been on a tear this season. Harry Kane and company have been scoring goals almost at will, averaging 2.13 goals per game. Luckily for José Mourinho's squad, his key players logged very few minutes during the international break. Kane, Heung-Min Son and Gareth Bale should all be at his disposal for this match, and with few injury concerns to the core group of starters, scoring should not be an issue. Much like City, Tottenham has conceded in nearly every game, only keeping a clean sheet in 25 percent of fixtures.

Both Teams to Score is a popular prop when either of these clubs are set to play. Tottenham has seen both teams score in 63 percent of their matches, which is saying a lot considering they have only conceded nine goals this season. Manchester City has only scored 10 times but has had both teams score in 71 percent of their fixtures.

I tend to stay away from plays with heavy juice, but this is one I love. I'll lay the chalk and take Both Teams to Score (BTTS) (-185).

Arsenal at Leeds United (Sunday)

Line: Total Corners: Leeds United (-106), Arsenal (+125), Draw (+600)

When dabbling in prop bets like total corners, there are a few things to look for. Formation tops that list for me: if you have a team with a compact formation, they'll likely play from the inside out. If you have a team with a wide formation, they'll likely play from the outside in.

Start with the 4-3-3, which is one of the most common formations in soccer and one that allows teams to change shape frequently and easily. A 4-3-3 team is likely to bring one of the wing backs up and push from the outside. This provides plenty of opportunities for corner kicks. Should they decide to play defensively, they'll drop a midfielder back and possess the ball more than they attack - not good for a high corner number.

Arsenal often plays some version of the 4-3-3. Whether they start the game with it or the 3-4-3, they generally find themselves back in the traditional 4-3-3 before too long. Arsenal is not necessarily a defensive team who drops a midfielder back into defense, but their play style is unique. With Willian and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, they often bring the ball up and want the ball to be at the feet of either of those two, leading to fewer long balls in or wing backs being drawn into the boundary by defenders.

It's common for Arsenal to lose the corner battle. Through eight fixtures, they've lost it in all but two. They are near the bottom of the table in terms of road corners, averaging 3.75 per match which is three kicks fewer per match than the top team, Manchester City.

Meanwhile, Leeds United lines up in a 4-1-4-1, which allows for quick switches from defense to offense while still providing a fluid attack. Although sometimes struggling to maintain possession, they often leave wingers in more of an attacking role. For a team near the bottom of the table, they have no struggles with scoring and always remain aggressive. That's the key in this match: aggression and play style will dictate who is getting balls forward and earning corners.

Through eight fixtures this season, Leeds United has won the corner battle in all but three. The three they lost were to three of the top four teams in terms of corners per game: Liverpool, Manchester City and Aston Vila, all of whom are among the league leaders in terms of fewest corners against.

Teams who have speed up front and possess the ball very well generally will give the 4-1-4-1 formation trouble throughout the game. Luckily for Leeds, Arsenal is in the bottom half for average time of possession. They are conceding over 5.25 corners per contest and are in the bottom half of the league for corners won on the road. While Leeds concedes a fair amount of corners per home fixture at 4.75, they earn them at a very high clip (7.5 per home match) which leads the league.

With Arsenal only averaging 4.5 corners won per match and Leeds enjoying success with corners at home, I'll take Leeds United (-106) to have the most corners in the match.

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Brad Thomas

Brad is a sports handicapper who is lucky enough to write about his true love; sports. "We may all root for different teams, but our objective remains the same… Beat the books! Remember, it’s a marathon not a sprint." Follow Brad on Twitter @MrBradThomas.