Chance of a goalfest may be exaggerated
Majority of Celtic games contain under four goals
There were nine goals in Motherwell’s game on Wednesday. They came in a 7-2 defeat at Aberdeen, who may be the second best team in Scotland. Today, Saturday, Motherwell play at Celtic, who unquestionably are the best team in Scotland.
Only a fool would bet against goals in these circumstances, you might think. And you might be right. But if a fool is offered generous odds perhaps, unwittingly, he becomes less foolish.
It is possible BetBright, Betfair and Coral have overestimated the prospect of a high score at Parkhead by offering 5-4 for under 3.5 goals.
The best odds shortened on Friday, perhaps because some others thought the market had overreacted to Motherwell’s midweek mauling, but there may be some value left.
Normally a team who have conceded a large number of goals in a game concede a lot fewer in their next game. Normally, though, such teams in the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership do not play their next game away to Celtic.
We know from his days at Liverpool how much manager Brendan Rodgers likes his teams to attack and score goals.
Celtic are unbeaten after 24 games, 23 of which they won. And they have scored the overwhelming majority of goals in their games.
There were totals of seven goals in three games, six in two, five in another two and four in a further three. But that still leaves 14 games – the majority – in which there were three goals or fewer.
There were seven goals in Motherwell’s last Premiership game against Celtic – they lost 4-3 at Fir Park – but before that there were usually three goals or fewer.
Motherwell manager Mark McGhee’s focus on the training ground since Wednesday presumably has been on trying to avoid another high number of goals against.
There is a difference between asking players to do something and them being able to do it, especially when that something involves trying to stop Celtic scoring.
But it is possible that the chance of a comparatively low score at Parkhead is higher than the odds acknowledge.
Under 3.5 goals in Celtic v Motherwell
0.5pt 5-4 BetBright, Betfair, Coral
Realistic Wenger expectations required
Thought for the day
One day Arsene Wenger will not be manager of Arsenal. I hope that day is still some way off, but it will come.
Arsenal have not won the Premier League since 2004, although they have won the FA Cup three times, reached a Champions League final and two League Cup finals.
On Wednesday they were thrashed 5-1 in the Champions League by Bayern Munich.
For most of the last 13 seasons no reasonable person should have expected Arsenal to win the Premier League or Champions League.
Their player budget was lower than for every Premier League winner except Leicester.
Wenger might not add to his three Premier League titles. But trophies should not be the only measurement that counts.
Cesar Luis Menotti won the World Cup in 1978 as manager of Argentina.
He said: “And to those who say that all that matters is winning, I want to warn them that someone always wins.
“Therefore, in a 30-team championship, there are 29 who must ask themselves: What did I leave at this club, what did I bring to my players, what possibility of growth did I give to my footballers?”
For Wenger, the answers should be glowing.
Free-kicks present great opportunities
Another thought for the day
Perhaps Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp reads Racing Post editor Bruce Millington, who complained recently about the lack of creativity in football at set-pieces.
Last Saturday Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho knelt behind a wall of team-mates for a Tottenham free kick, presumably so the wall could jump and he could try to stop a shot if it came underneath.
Arguably Coutinho could have blocked even more space by lying on his side with his arms behind him.
But it is true any spark of imagination is rare.
I recall a free kick taken by Deportivo La Coruna in the early years of the millennium. There was a blur of quick passes before the ball was stroked into the goal. Juan Carlos Valeron was probably the instigator.
When the team taking a free kick face a wall, there must be opportunities either side to develop situations in which attackers outnumber defenders.
Why are they not explored?