Monthly Archives: July 2014

Van Gaal alone can’t mend Manchester United

Footballers should love and fear their manager in equal measure.

If that same boss is also able to earn respect with firm but fair discipline, as well as wowing his players with a dose of tactical genius, the team is usually onto a winner.

Ticking all of those boxes with a gold, bold and permanent marker, there is precious little the ‘Iron Tulip’ doesn’t know about extracting the very best from a group of top class footballers. On paper, the Dutchman appears to be the ideal guy to lead this season’s much-needed Old Trafford revolution.

The task in hand is troublesome, though.

He may be in charge of one of the world’s biggest clubs, but the uncompromising 62-year-old also inherits a team that lost the same number of home matches as relegated Norwich City last term (7), shipping three more goals than the Canaries in the process.

As reigning champions, their awkward slide down to seventh place, ending up 22 points behind raucous neighbours, City, was an abject humiliation. One heck of a repair job is required.

So, what’s it going to take to turn a shambles into a stellar cast of title contenders?

First, Van Gaal must solve the needlessly puzzling Van Persie/Rooney/Mata conundrum. Unless they’re injured or woefully out of form, it’s criminal not to play all three in the positions they revel in most. This means tweaking the system to suit his superstars. Manchester United, famed for their flying wingers and 4-4-2 under Sir Alex Ferguson, must try something new.

Playing Rooney or Mata out wide isn’t just a waste of their talent; it makes the team a defensive liability on the flanks too.

Whether the forever-tweaking ex-Holland coach opts for a 4-3-1-2 or a more radical 3-4-2-1 remains to be seen (he’ll likely try both), but if all three are picked, they should play in the positions they’re most effective in.

If the Iron Tulip doesn’t shape his side so that they can all flower, I’ll be astonished. You didn’t need to be an expert to note they were porous down their spine last season. Opponents exposed United’s soft centre over and over again, and the Dutch master won’t tolerate a repeat.

While the acquisition of talented playmaker Ander Herrera is a promising start, the Red Devils still desperately need a strong box-to-box midfield man (Arturo Vidal?) plus a physical enforcer to firm up the engine room. Behind them, with Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand now gone, two quality new centre-backs (one with bags of leadership skills) are also a must.

They can’t rely on what they have.

Failure to beef up these crucial central areas with the class of player that fans have come to expect, will dramatically restrict their new managers’ ability to make an impact.

With no Champions League football on offer, enticing the very best won’t be as easy as they imagine. There will be knockbacks. For this reason, the board has little option but to offer mindboggling sums by way of compensation. Providing they live up to their promise of supporting their boss with financial muscle, United will no doubt attract takers.

In Louis van Gaal, Manchester United has certainly employed a man that will supply his players with the right mental fortitude, tactical nous, and burning desire to bring back the good old days.

He’s excellent. They’ll be much, much better in 2014/15.

Good enough to win the Barclays Premier League? That, I wouldn’t put any football bets on. The gap they need to close is possibly too big.

Mind you, should the new gaffer get his ‘Fab Three’ firing, as well as significantly reinforcing his central midfield and defence, Manchester United will be extremely hard to keep out of the top four. And that, given last season’s horror show, should be seen as a significant and successful work in progress.

Weekend Betting Preview: World Matchplay Darts & The German F1 Grand Prix

First of all, let me introduce myself: I’m Jonathan Cordingley – former radio pundit, Content Editor and current freelance sports writer. I’m an all round sports fan that carries a sizable Twitter following through my betting expertise and, through this column, aim to preview and suggest bets on any given weekend’s biggest and best sporting events.

This weekend there are two events which should garner the most attention amongst bettors – the World Matchplay Darts and German Formula 1 Grand Prix.

World Matchplay Darts

Held at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens and screened on Sky Sports, the 2014 World Matchplay Darts tournament begins on Saturday 19th July and concludes on Sunday 27th July. Not surprisingly, 16-time world champion Phil Taylor is the defending champion, winning for the last six years in a row.

Given his will to win and record at proving the doubters wrong, you can argue that only a brave man would oppose Taylor making it seven World Matchplay titles in a row. But then the man nicknamed ‘The Power’ looked uncharacteristically nervous in this season’s Premier League of darts, losing his first few matches before eventually succumbing to Raymond van Barneveld – a man he usually beats with ease – in the semi-finals.

World number one Michael van Gerwen is the betting favourite at 2/1 and has obvious merit, but the Dutchman has been in poor form recently, losing to the much lower ranked Jamie Caven in Dusseldorf only days before the 2014 World Matchplay is set to start. With its long, drawn out format, questions about his health and a history of under-performing at the event, reigning Premier League champion Raymond van Barneveld may not be as good a bet as he looks at 16/1.

However, ‘Barney’ will certainly have increased confidence after defeating his old nemesis Taylor in the pre-mentioned Premier League and cannot be ruled out. Adrian Lewis and James Wade cannot be ruled out either. Priced at 9/1 and 16/1 respectively, both are great finishers when it comes to hitting doubles and the tournament format suits that.

In conclusion, Phil Taylor is a determined sportsman who even skipped the lower ranked European Open in order to practise further and fully concentrate on the 2014 World Matchplay Darts recently, and with his pre-mentioned record of proving critics wrong, ‘The Power’ looks like the best bet to take at an attractive 7/2 market price.

Should you prefer a longshot, James Wade is a former winner of the World Matchplay tournament, will be full of confidence after winning the recent Gibraltar Open and is generously priced for an each-way bet at 16/1.

German Formula One Grand Prix

Also worth watching is, of course, the German Formula One Grand Prix. Split between the notorious Nurburgring in the Eifel Mountain region of western Germany and Baden-Wuttemberg’s Hockenheimring over alternate years, the 2014 German Grand Prix takes place on Sunday 20th July in Hockenheim and is screened on Sky Sports F1.

Crucially, the 2014 F1 season introduced a raft of rule changes, with the most notable being the introduction of 1.6 litre turbocharged V6 engines which incorporate energy recovery systems (ERS).

Mercedes were the first to start work on the new engines – termed power units – and pre-season testing suggested that they had the best package in terms of pace.

Early race results have since proved this to be the case, with the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver combination of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg winning seven out of eight races between them, usually in first and second place.

The previously dominant Red Bull Racing and their top driver, four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, are continuing to use Renault engines this season, and the big rule change has vastly reduced their chances of winning and, to a large extent, reset the grid.

You see, whilst Mercedes are a world-renowned motor vehicle manufacturer and also a works (engine manufacturer) Formula One team, most of the other teams on the grid aren’t and therefore need engine suppliers. So, thanks to a Mercedes engine supply in 2014, a team like Williams, who were uncompetitive in 2013, now have a potential race-winning car that’s faster in a straight line than 2010,11,12 and 13 champions Red Bull!

However, given their superior financial budget, the Mercedes works team (or Mercedes AMG Petronas) have developed their engine to be faster than their customers – Williams, McClaren and Force India – and that meant betting on the race winner quickly become a two horse race between Hamilton and Rosberg.

Betting without Mercedes?

As such, when I worked for large bookmaker and was asked to liaise with a trader in order to spice-up Formula One betting a few months ago, I asked for and got a betting without Mercedes (works) market. This market, which incorporates each-way betting at 1/5 odds and three places with most bookmakers, means that if Hamilton and Rosberg finish first and second in any order, you’re effectively betting on who finishes third.

Add the each-way part, however, which includes fourth and fifth place, and there’s more than a handful of drivers that can finish in the top five, making this, in my eyes, the most interesting market to bet on in F1, certainly from an each-way perspective.

Regular contenders in the betting without Mercedes market are not just Mercedes customer powered cars either. In stark contrast to his Ferrari team mate, Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso – arguably the best driver in F1 – has outperformed his car’s capability by finishing third once and in the top five several times in 2014. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo –who managed to win the 2014 Canadian GP after both Mercedes works cars suffered power failures – and, to a lesser extent, defending world champion Sebastian Vettel are in the same category.

McLaren’s Jenson Button did manage to finish fourth at the British GP recently, but he and teammate Magnusson, despite having a Mercedes engine in their car, have failed to better or match their double podium finish behind Rosberg in the season-opening Australian GP. In short, for whatever reason, McClaren have a bad car.

As mentioned earlier, the Mercedes powered Williams car is very fast in a straight line, so their drivers – Valterri Bottas and Felipe Masa – are always in with shout of yielding profit. Out of the two, Bottas – who’s finished second and third in the last two races – is the better bet compared to his older, crash-prone colleague.

The best of the rest

The final contenders in what is effectively a best of the rest category are the Mercedes powered Force India cars. Expected to suit the fast Hockenheimring track, Nico Rosberg and Sergio Perez are worth contemplating as each-way bets.

The bad news about the betting without Mercedes market is that bookmakers have become slower and slower at releasing the market as the season’s progressed, and their prices are not available at the time of going to press. Why? Well, my guess is that they want to see how well the contenders run in the first practice session before setting the prices. But don’t worry, this can also give the bettor an advantage as waiting to see what happens in practice and qualifying can also reveal some brilliant bets.

For example, after the previously wet track conditions became much dryer at the end of Silverstone’s first qualifying session a few weeks ago, most of the runners quickly switched to tyres that suited a dry surface and would give them quicker lap times than they’d already set in the wet.

There were literally a couple of minutes left until the session ended at this point and two of the bigger teams – Ferrari and Williams – reacted too slowly to the weather change, saw their previous lap times easily toppled by much slower cars and weren’t able to complete a new lap on the faster tyre before qualification ended.

Therefore, the Ferrari and Williams teams started the actual race from the back of the grid. Now, I knew that Williams had the second fastest car on the grid and that their best driver, Bottas, is a great overtaker, so the chances of him finishing in the top five were strong. Priced at 28/1, I then proceeded to bet on Bottas each-way in the betting without Mercedes market. Also, although the Ferrari car is not as quick as the Williams, I wagered on Alonso overachieving and finishing in the top six at 5/2.

Within a few laps of the race both drivers had overtaken a plethora of cars and were in the top five, with Bottas eventually finishing second and Alonso sixth. It’s not that rewarding every weekend, and an unusual scenario in qualifying, but planning and winning such bets gives me great pleasure and I can’t wait for the German Grand Prix to look for something similar – be it after the first practice session or qualifying.

It’s still worth betting on the race winner market, though, and if you fancy a punt, put simply, Lewis Hamilton is the fastest driver in the fastest car, has regained momentum over his teammate Rosberg by winning at Silverstone recently and is a two-time winner of the German GP.

However, currently priced at an industry best of 8/13, the Brit is too short priced to back in my eyes and it might be better to wait and see how well he qualifies, hope that he’s not on pole position and then bet at a more reasonable evens or above price, or just bet on Rosberg now.

Sure, you can say it’s advantage Hamilton and a crucial time for the Brit to fully regain control of the 2014 drivers title race by winning in Germany this weekend, but it’s also Rosberg’s home GP and you can argue that since the German has won three out of the last four races and has the same car, Rosberg is the best value bet to win the 2014 German Grand Prix at a 2/1 price. After all, in sports betting you’re supposed to bet on the value.

Enjoy the weekend’s sport!

All in all, whether you do or don’t bet on the darts and F1, both events are worth watching and I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading my first-ever weekend preview.

Also, should you want some guidance on the betting without Mercedes market once the prices have been released and we’ve seen the first practice session, please don’t hesitate to contact me on Twitter (@JCLaLiga) and I’ll be more than happy to oblige.

Finally, please remember to gamble responsibly and have a great weekend! Until the next time, JC.