This article is part of our Betting on Soccer series.
It's time to assess where the Premier League is after the first four gameweeks. The international break comes at a perfect time because things were getting out of hand, highlighted by Aston Villa's 7-2 drubbing of Liverpool.
Maybe the most relevant thing the first month revealed is that nothing is guaranteed in the times of COVID-19. Yes, Liverpool will be fine and are favored to win the Premier League, but recent positive COVID-19 tests and Alisson Becker's injury put some doubt into that projection. So much that getting them at +130 to win the league compared to +150 for Manchester City seems like a good deal. Man City also have injuries and haven't looked like an elite team, with their best win coming against Wolves, another side battling a lack of form.
Instead of looking at the two favorites, I think there are some favorable numbers for the other 18 teams. For starters, Everton are +250 to finish top four and -118 to finish top six. You could've gotten much better odds a month ago, but it's still almost even money if they finish top six.
Given the early form of Chelsea and Man United, two teams who finished top four last season, it only makes sense to look at the only team with more than nine points. The big question for Everton is what happens if James Rodriguez picks up a knock. Sure, there is new talent around that will help, but it's easy to forget last season's finale when the Toffees fell 3-1 to Bournemouth. Maybe they didn't have anything to play for, but it was the last time Gylfi Sigurdsson was the main play-maker in the squad, and that may have to be the case if James goes down injured.
However, I don't like projecting injuries. I like this bet because Everton as a team are more familiar with manager Carlo Ancelotti, who signed in late-December. The addition of talent and familiarity with the system only helps. I'm also not sure teams like Tottenham (-200) and Manchester United (-139) should have better odds to finish in the top six. Those teams are deeper, but they also have European competition to take part in, something Everton don't have to worry about.
Elsewhere, it only feels right to make a play on Aston Villa at +1000 to finish in the top six. They're not going to win every match, but Ollie Watkins is better than any forward they had last season and Ross Barkley may already be their best midfielder. While some will look to last season and point to how they were almost relegated, that doesn't matter now.
It took them almost a full season to figure out their defense, which now features Ezri Konsa at center-back and newcomer Matty Cash at right-back. Once Tom Heaton returns, they'll have two legitimate goalkeepers (including Emiliano Martinez) after going a short period with Orjan Nyland in net last season. Then there's John McGinn, who missed the second half of the season and when he returned, he wasn't right. If you still aren't confident in the attack, Bertrand Traore will likely take over for the inconsistent Trezeguet in the coming months, in addition to a return from injury for Wesley Moraes. Villa have similar pieces to last season, but if you look closer, they're different and much better. At the least, you can get Villa at +125 odds to finish in the top 10, which feels like great value. I know Leeds United just drew Man City, but I'm not sure why they have better odds than Villa at -112. Leeds already have two wins, but they came against struggling Fulham and Sheffield United. I'd rather take Southampton (+200), West Ham (+325), Brighton (+450) or Newcastle (+650) to finish top 10 above Leeds.
For a head-to-head bet, Southampton are +120 to finish higher in the table than Leeds United. I know Marcelo Bielsa is great, but I'm not sold on their back line just yet.
I wrote about Fulham to finish bottom of the table before the season and the odds have only increased. They opened +100 to be relegated and +325 to finish bottom, and are now at -335 to be relegated and +120 to finish bottom.
GOLDEN BOOT ODDS
In terms of the Golden Boot, our weekly projections have you covered. I like Son Heung-Min (+900), but Harry Kane (+700) takes penalties for Spurs and the addition of Gareth Bale will only put more pressure on opposing back lines. The main reason I wouldn't back Dominic Calvert-Lewin (+650) is because he doesn't take penalties for Everton. While every team doesn't draw the same number of penalties, it usually adds at least five goals (probably more) for top teams (Jamie Vardy already has four successful spot kicks) and it's why Mohamed Salah (+350) remains with the best odds to win the Golden Boot.
That being the case, Bruno Fernandes (+4000) still has the best value, mainly because he could score 10 goals from penalties alone. Obviously, he doesn't get as many opportunities as true forwards, but it's not like he doesn't get looks on net in open play.