The English Premier League comes back with a roar on Monday with seven matches, including a London Derby between West Ham and league-leaders Arsenal.
And even though the standings suggests there is an astronomical gap between these two teams — Arsenal is at the top of the table, while West Ham is sitting in 16th-place — there are some signals that suggest the Hammers are a live underdog on the road.
For one thing, this is the first match after a month-long World Cup hiatus. Both clubs had key players in Qatar, but more than anything the long pause should add some more variance into the first couple of matches back from the break and that is usually a good thing for underdogs.
But it’s not just the situational spot that makes West Ham dangerous on Boxing Day.
While the Hammers look like an also-ran on the surface, their underlying numbers show them to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. West Ham ranks fourth in the Premier League in expected goals allowed, fifth in big scoring chances allowed and is the second-best team at defending set pieces.
West Ham’s offensive numbers are not up to the standard of its defensive metrics, but the Hammers are due for some positive regression with 12 goals scored despite posting 18.6 expected goals.
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Arsenal were brilliant through the first portion of the season and look a legitimate title contender, but West Ham’s defensive prowess should give them a chance to pull off a Boxing Day upset.
The play: West Ham +525.
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