Top 5 Premier League Unsung Heroes of 14/15

It is all too often in football that we see headlines awash with credit or criticism for the same players week in week out. At Europe’s Elite we’ve decided to take a slightly different angle. Here’s our list of the top 5 unsung heroes from The Barclays Premier League in 2014/2015, the same motley crew that you wish you had in your fantasy team right from the get-go!

By Jaleh Shoghi (follow @JalehLShoghi on Twitter)

Fraser FORSTER – Southampton (Goalkeeper)

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Despite Southampton deciding to cash in on the defensive talents of Dejan Lovren, Luke Shaw and Callum Chambers pre-season for a combined £68m it was no fluke that they ended the campaign having conceded just 33 goals with Forster between the sticks. The 6ft7 man mountain amassed a bundle of clean sheets having made the move from Celtic for an estimated £10 million in the summer of 2014, where he held the Scottish League record for not conceding, a marathon 1,256 minute stint! Success for Forster was halted when he was ruled out for the season in March with a fractured knee cap, however, if his form can emulate that of recent seasons I would imagine he will be in the driving seat for the Three Lions’ number 1 jersey at the 2016 European Championships.

Charlie AUSTIN – QPR (Striker)

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Scoring 18 goals in a Premier League season is some feat, but scoring 18 goals for the team that finishes rock bottom requires an immense goal scoring ability. At 25 years old Charlie Austin has exactly that; the hunger for goals and knack of being in the right place at the right time that simply cannot be taught. With QPR playing the upcoming season in The Championship it would seem an injustice to not see Austin given another chance to prove his worth at the top of the game, his £15 million asking price blocking this from happening for the time being.

Gylfi SIGURDSSON – Swansea (Midfielder)

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Icelandic football’s poster boy and talented in every department, Gylfi Sigurósson is a true catalyst that still looks to have his best years ahead of him. Sigurósson first set his sights on Swansea City in 2012 when he joined on loan from German side 1899 Hoffenheim. He quickly settled in to the Welsh side’s squad and his fine form earned him rave reviews, player of the month awards and the summer would bring a move in excess of £8 million to Premiership rivals Tottenham. The Icelandic international was to have a successful two seasons at White Hart Lane before a deal that would see Sigurosson move back to the Liberty Stadium. Sigurosson was to have a mixed season, but has always been at the heart of the Swansea team. Somewhat an underdog compared to other Premiership heavyweights such as Juan Mata and Alexis Sanchez, the Swansea midfielder looks to have been the cement in the brickwork which saw the Swans finish 8th in The Premier League table and the 2015/2016 season could turn out to be Tottenham’s loss and Swansea’s gain for the former Reading youngster.

Aaron CRESWELL- West Ham (Defender)

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Ipswich Town were gutted to lose their star left back in the summer of 2014 to West Ham United and he quickly showed why the Hammers spent close to £4million on the defender. Creswell picked up numerous awards including the prestigious Players’ Player, showing the level of respect he has earned from his peers during a campaign of solid performances. However the noise surrounding Creswell hasn’t been so loud outside of Upton Park, yet to be awarded a first international cap for England despite statistics showing him in the Premier League’s top five for defenders with assists (4), chances created (33), passes in the final third (502) and crosses (110).

Jose FONTE – Southampton (Defender)

Jose-Fonte-Southampton

If you want a player who’s been through it all it is Southampton’s Jose Fonte, right at the heart of the Saints’ meteoric rise through the ranks of English football from League One to back to back promotions to the Premier League. Fonte is an absolute main stay under Ronald Koeman having excellently filled the shoes of Dejan Lovren to spearhead his side’s extremely compact and organised back line to an impressive 14 clean sheets over the course of the season. His efforts earned him a stellar man of the match performance at Old Trafford in January as well as a first cap for his home nation Portugal but it will be a career defining choice over the summer for the 31 year old, who must decide to continue his journey or move onto the allure of a bigger club.

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5 of the Best Players Out Of Contract

A common theme of any pre season is always transfer activity and the cut-throat decision making regarding the renewal of player contracts. Should a player’s attributes no longer fit into the framework for the upcoming season or their wage demands can no longer be met we often see a wealth of talent made available to other clubs as free agents. Europe’s Elite staff writer Ellis Brown has contributed his list of the best players up for grabs in Football’s version of Tinder – nothing to lose and everything to gain!

5 – Joseph YOBO

JOSEPHYOBO

No spring chicken at the age of 34 but certainly has a wealth of indispensable experience from plying his trade at an elite standard for a number of years. Yobo was David Moyes’ first signing at Goodison Park and went on to amass 220 appearances for The Toffees in a 10 year spell at the club. His domestic experience is also supplemented by being Nigeria’s most capped player ever, captaining the side for a number of years en route to 100 appearances for the Super Eagles.

4 – Dimitar BERBATOV

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A proven goalscorer with a CV to die for, Berbatov boasts goals from everywhere he has been, including lucrative spells at Fulham, Tottenham, Man United and more recently coming off the back of an 18 month stint with Monaco in Ligue 1. 13 goals in 38 appearances last season prove he has still got what it takes and his elegance and economisation of energy around the pitch surely mean he is yet to reach his sell-by date. Berbatov’s impressive resume in the Premier League means he would be a huge addition to any of the newly promoted sides, with reports emerging linking him to Championship title holders Bournemouth for the upcoming season.

3 – Ron VLAAR

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Having played 78 times for Villa over the previous 3 seasons Vlaar’s ship has sailed from Villa Park and currently awaits a new destination. The Dutch international, an excellent tackler of the ball, is a determined and committed defender with plenty to offer at only the age of 30; no surprises that there are already rumoured to be 5 year deals on the table from Newcastle, Sunderland, Southampton and Besiktas.

2 – Abou DIABY

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Despite the fact that Diaby had been heralded as the ‘new Patrick Viera’ on a number of occasions a career blighted by injuries will leave a sour taste in the mouth of the former French international who suffered a colossal 42 injuries at during his time with The Gunners and is undoubtedly past his absolute best. When injury free Diaby had been one of the most exciting talents to grace the Premier League, with a scintillating box-to-box style of attacking football built around incredible technical ability. Despite his ongoing issues with injuries Diaby remains the right side of 30 and still genuinely has the potential to be a very good midfield player for side in the middle to top echelons of European football.

1 – Nigel DE JONG

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A consistent performer in Europe’s most demanding leagues De Jong has endured successful spells at Ajax, Hamburg, Manchester City and AC Milan. Having also become a mainstay in the Dutch national side his experience for both club and country would be worth a great deal for any top side in the market for a world class midfielder on the cheap. De Jong is regarded as one of the most clinical passers of the ball in modern day football and was the holder of the highest pass completion rate in the Premier League 2010/2011 season with an astonishing 90% of passes reaching their intended target. As to be expected there have been many teams eager to land the Dutch man’s signature although Manchester United have become the overwhelming favourite to secure his services as Louis Van Gaal hopes to work with his trusted defensive midfielder again. Will we be seeing “The Lawnmower” walking out onto the Theatre of Dreams this season?

Wildcard – RONALDINHO

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Arguably one of the best ever players to grace the world with his dazzling skill and trickery, Ronaldinho is a household name in world football as much for his talent as for his glowing passion for the beautiful game. With previous employers including PSG, Barcelona and AC Milan and 279 goals from 706 club appearances it is safe to say that we will not see the same level of wizardry that befell England’s 2002 World Cup campaign but, at the age of 35, he can skill make up for his lack of relative pace and agility with experience and some of the best feet in the game. In recent times clubs as low down the food chain as Basingstoke Town have bid to bring the Brazilian into English football but surely there is a club out there in the market for a 2 time FIFA player of the year, 1 time Ballon d’Or winner, World Cup and Champions League winner on a free transfer!

@EuroEliteESP’s La Liga End of Season Review

Follow me on Twitter: @EuroEliteESP 

With Spanish football now done and dusted for the season following Barcelona’s superb 3-1 victory over Juventus in the Champions League final, the next few weeks provides the perfect opportunity to sit back and analyse what has been a successful start to life here at Europe’s Elite. Our aim is to be the most honest and hard working tipsters available on the Twittersphere and throughout this post I will review my selections whilst identifying strengths and weaknesses that can be built upon next year in adding more profit to your back pocket!

JANUARY

“Quick out of the blocks and delivering profit from day 1!”

A first half brace from Mandzukic helped us on our way to a cracking 4/1 winner
A first half brace from Mandzukic helped us on our way to a cracking 4/1 winner

Highlight: Getting off to a flyer with successful tips landing at prices of 5.00 & 1.94

Improvements for 2015/16:  I failed to utilise the ‘win & btts’ market as much as I should have which proved to be a very profitable one for me. Next season I will keep a closer eye on value to be had in these offerings more regularly.

  • Total Staked/Returns: 5pts/10.82pts
  • Profit/Loss: +5.82pts
  • ROI: 116%

FEBRUARY

“A reality check as the struggles of delivering a consistent profit become much more apparent”

An injury hit Real suffer their biggest defeat for over 4 years as they go down 4-0 to La Liga holders Atletico
An injury hit Real suffer their biggest defeat for over 4 years:  a 4-0 loss to bitter rivals Atletico

Highlight: A lovely run of 3 straight rounds of profit

Improvements for 2015/16: It’s very important in betting to understand the concept of variance – a bet that loses in the short run can often be a profitable proposition in the long term based on the factors taken into account. For example have you ever thought a team was a ‘dead cert’ only to see them concede two fluke goals, pick up a red card to their most influential player and fail to convert any of 15 shots on target? We have to embrace these eventualities and not dwell to heavily upon them and Celta Vigo’s shock away win at Deportivo was certainly one of these curveballs thrown at us by La Liga.

 

  • Total Staked/Returns: 34.5pts/27.7pts
  • Profit/Loss: -6.8pts
  • ROI: -19.7%

MARCH

“Marvellous March – the Midas touch in full flow as loyal followers are rewarded with ~£150 of extra cash from just £10 stakes”

Barca's elite continued to run riot and secured us yet more profit in a clinical 2-0 win at Eibar
Barca’s elite continued to run riot and secured us yet more profit in a clinical 2-0 win at Eibar

Highlight: A beautiful 19/10 offering on Real Sociedad to overcome away strugglers Espanyol alongside in-form Levante to win or draw versus Eibar sailed home to continue my proficiency with short priced doubles

Improvements for 2015/16: I realised betting on cup competitions to be a tricky and unpredictable proposition. I found I was less successful in similar ‘one off’ bets on competitions other than La Liga, which is why I decided to reduce my bets on them for the rest of the season due to unpredictable nature of these cup ties, with questionable team selections and motivation levels. I also decided to limit any extra bets unless I felt they offered exceptional value, a strategy I feel will have more success in the long run.

  • Total Staked/Returns: 22.5pts/37.54pts
  • Profit/Loss: +15.04pts
  • ROI: 66.84%

APRIL & MAY

“Many positives to be taken as I continued to land the trademark short priced doubles but ‘end of season’ syndrome hacks away at profits”

Sociedad whipped up another surprise 4-2 victory versus Rayo Vallecano having previously beaten Real Madrid by the same scoreline
Sociedad whipped up another surprise 4-2 victory versus Rayo Vallecano having previously beaten Real Madrid by the same scoreline

Highlight: Continuing to go from strength to strength with my short priced doubles – an example of one was a 3.40 double on Valencia to win to nil vs Levante and Real Madrid to win both halves against Eibar, securing a 6.8pt return with ease.

Improvements for 2015/16: As the season came to a close my profit levels were going swimmingly until the dreaded last two sets of fixtures came about. I hadn’t taken into account the drop in motivation levels from mid table sides as much as I should have and this lead to a brutal loss of a fair chunk of our hard earned profits. For example, I picked Rayo Vallecano to beat Sociedad on the final day, which I selected as Rayo had put in a string of excellent performances in recent games, had a full strength side and were in excellent home form – whilst Sociedad were almost the complete opposite. However, all of those factors seemed to go out of the window as Sociedad won 4-2 in a bizarre game.

I am often slightly apprehensive about end of season matches – teams with things to play for are very unpredictable in that some handle the pressure with ease whilst others bottle it, and those with nothing to play for are equally as unpredictable! I believe that had those games been played at any other point in the season the bets would have landed. However, unfortunately they did not, and so the last two weeks undid a lot of good work with a punishing -8pt loss.

I also delved into the goalscorer markets for the first time in May with a double featuring Carlos Bacca. Although the bet didn’t land (he was, rather strangely, dropped to the bench before coming on for the last 5 minutes and agonizingly hitting the bar), it’s a market I may look into next season, as the odds are often quite favourable, especially for the ‘lesser known’ players.

  • Total Staked/Returns: 43.25pts/35.09pts
  • Profit/Loss: -8.16pts
  • ROI: -18.9%

SEASON REVIEW

After reviewing my performance this year there are definitely areas in which I can improve, which I have noted and will work on to ensure an even more profitable run in the 15/16 season. I have identified several markets which I think i could use a lot more in future, whilst I’ll cut down on certain types of bets which had a poor ROI – for example, special bets on cup competitions, and bets that were too heavily based on one element (be it statistics, performances, form etc). Additionally, I will have to be a lot more careful regarding end of season bets next year – the last two weeks of the season halved my profit for the season and reduced my ROI by almost 10%! However, it was still a profitable season with a total of +8.16pts overall – definitely a figure that can improve and one that, after a full season next year, will hopefully be much higher!

  • Total Staked/Returns: 105.25pts/113.41pts
  • Profit/Loss: +8.16pts
  • ROI: +13.1%

See you next season and may it be a profitable one!

Premier League: Elite Betting Advice 24/05

The end of the season is approaching and Premier League advisor David Huntingford (@EuroElitePL) is hoping to end the season on a high. While the last couple of weeks have been frustrating for him, he’s still chimed in with a tidy +9.775 pts profit for the campaign.

As we enter the final weekend of the domestic Premier League action, tomorrow’s fix of Super Sunday entertainment will reveal the fate of the hotly contested relegation battle. On paper Newcastle have been presented with the perfect game; an out of sorts West Ham who’ve struggled to generate any momentum in the second half of the season. While it’s a favourable fixture on paper, Newcastle are still plagued by a lack of confidence which has now seen them accrue 1 point from 10 games. Hull on the other hand need to overcome the small matter of Manchester United, and hope that Newcastle drop points. Hull’s prospects don’t look great but they’ll be encouraged by the performance at White Hart Lane, by all accounts they were very unlucky to lose the game 2-0 after creating a host of chances.

I always find these end of season games a betting conundrum (especially in relation to goal markets). There are games where there’s so much at stake, but equally games where there’s little at stake, this makes predicting things a complete nightmare. Do sides with little to play for approach the game in a fearless manner and therefore throw bodies forward? Or are they happy to play low intensity possession football without breaking a sweat? It’s a difficult one and that’s the reason I’m staying away from all but one game this week. The game of choice this week is Chelsea v Sunderland.

Chelsea v Sunderland @ Stamford Bridge (2pm KO Sunday):

Chelsea suffered a rather remarkable 3-0 loss at the hands of West Brom on Monday night. Mourinho has already lifted Chelsea to Premier League glory but that defeat will bruise his ego slightly. Mourinho is a perfectionist and I’m sure he’ll be motivating his players to come out all guns blazing on Sunday. Sunderland have once again managed the feat of surviving relegation, Dick Advocaat deserves immense credit for grinding out enough results to ensure the Wearside outfit retain their Premier League status. However, the game against Arsenal on Wednesday was a test of fitness and mental strength which may play into the hands of Chelsea on Sunday.

Such discipline requires enormous concentration and work ethic, and that’s something I expect to be in shorter supply this weekend.

Sunderland have nothing to play for, combine that with a high probability of accumulated fatigue and it looks tough for them. Chelsea on the other hand will be eager to redeem themselves after the disappointment of Monday night, so will look to play positively from the off.

Advised Bet: Single on Chelsea -1 Handicap @ EVENS (SkyBet) 3 PT STAKE

Bundesliga: Elite Betting Advice 25/04

Our very own resident Bundesliga betting advisor Tom Sandford (@EuroEliteGER) provides his selections on what promises to be a critical round of fixtures at both ends of the table, with a  huge amount still to play for.

Hamburg vs Schalke 04 23/05 KO 2.30PM

As the drama unfolds across the Bundesliga our focus here at Europe’s Elite will be towards the scrap for survival at the bottom end, with just 3 points separating the bottom 5 (below). 

  1. Freiburg       -10       34
  2. Hannover    -17      34
  3. Stuttgart      -19      33
  4. Hamburg     -27      32
  5. Paderborn   -33      31

With the season coming to a close one of the surprises for me has to be Hamburg’s lowly position, I felt as though they would mature into a mid table side after the character shown to survive the relegation play-offs and maintain their top level status in German football. However after getting things started with 6 straight defeats it has been a troublesome battle for Hamburg, now on their 4th manager of the season and facing the prospect of relegation should they fail to win this contest. Because of their poor goal difference Hamburg will be relegated if they do not win, unfortunately for them they will face a team who also has something to play for; Schalke will secure their automatic qualification to the Europa League group stages with a win today.

The promise of Europa League football to Schalke as a best case scenario will be a tough one to swallow for Di Matteo’s men, they’ve gone backwards this season having had a taste of the big time in the Champions League. Hamburg will undoubtedly be ready for this game and fired up once they come in front of their home crowd with over 50,000 fans chanting for their survival.

Going into statistics I would say Hamburg have a great chance- They have scored in each of their last 4 games whilst securing 2 victories and a draw, certainly positive momentum going into this vital game.

Similar form is not, however, echoed in Schalke’s recent performances. Despite having won their last 2 games this has not been in the most convincing fashion and 2 weeks ago the Schalke chairman deemed it appropriate to suspend 2 Schalke players following the team’s awful 2-0 loss against Cologne. The atmosphere around the club is likely to be detrimental to the performance and and on top of that they go into this game having not won a league game away from home since the 17th of December.

The way I see it Hamburg will likely feel pressured early in the game but they will eventually come out fighting to earn the result required to secure survival. Opponents Schalke have not scored in their last 2 away games and will likely continue this poor streak to the end of the season as the club controversies still loom over the team.

Recommended bets:

Hamburg WIN TO NIL @ 5.00 (PaddyPower) 2 PT STAKE

LEAGUE OF IRELAND: ELITE BETTING ADVICE, 21/5

Vincent Mulligan (@Makool) is the League Of Ireland betting advisor for http://www.scottishfootballtips.com/ and has already provided us with some big priced winners this season. With the League Of Ireland continuing throughout the summer months this elite tipster is the one to watch.

It’s a tough old night for the WDW markets in Ireland but there are a few decent priced teams worth keeping an eye on. I watched Derry City trouble Dundalk in Oriel Park last week and must admit to being impressed by their organisation and commitment but they unfortunately look a little toothless up front.

Keep an eye on Galway who are starting to show some form and with 13 goals in their last four matches should be capable of grabbing all three points at Hunky Dory Park against Drogheda tonight. But they are hard to call as are the other games that feature the top four sides, Cork v Shamrock Rovers and Saint Patricks v Dundalk.

Amongst these hard to call games are three teams that I just cannot see not scoring. Dundalk, Cork and Galway all look set up for at least a goal tonight and with the nature of their games being tough to call that leaves some decent prices on them getting on the scoresheet. A treble of the three teams above pays @ 2.42(71/50) with Boylesports and that tempts the hell out of me.

It’s 2+ years since Cork have failed to score at home. Dundalk, well, they just score and Galway should manage at least one tonight. That’s a simple explanation but it’s a simple bet with a great chance of success.

Recommended bets.

Dundalk, Cork City, Galway, ALL +0.5 Team Goals @ 2.42 with Boylesports.

La Liga Elite Betting Advice – 23/05

It’s been yet another enthralling season in La Liga, with some incredible games, moments and records broken. Huge congratulations must go to Barcelona on yet another league title (their 23rd!) – the champions were superb throughout the season and some of their football has been a joy to watch. Their eyes will of course be firmly focused on a treble now – with the Copa Del Rey Final upcoming next weekend, and, of course, the Champions League Final (vs Juventus) in Berlin on June 6th.

The title race has been one of several fascinating battles – including Sevilla and Valencia’s rivalry for 4th place and of course, the relegation dogfight which is still yet to be decided – 4 teams are still unsure of which league they will be in next season. Unfortunately, the final round of fixtures on Sunday also marks the last opportunity to further our profits for the season. Overall, it’s been a successful start to my Europe’s Elite career, racking up +13.14 pts profit since February. Hopefully we can end on a high this Sunday before an even more profitable season next time around!

Bet 1: Rayo Vallecano WIN (vs Real Sociedad) at 1.91 (Betvictor, Coral) – 3 pt Stake

Bet 2: Rayo Vallecano WIN TO NIL (vs Real Sociedad) at 4.25 (Coral) – 1 pt Stake

You’d be forgiven for thinking a side like Rayo Vallecano would be more focused on their upcoming holidays on la playa (the beach) than their final few games of the season. It’s been a successful campaign for Los Vallecanos with a top half finish looking likely and their squad has earned a rest! However, that has simply not been the case and their performances and results have actually improved in the past few weeks.

After a difficult first half of the season Rayo have emerged as one of the form teams at home, winning 6 of their last 8 at Estadio de Vallecas and losing just once, to Real Madrid.

David Moyes’ side have been in terrible form of late, he’ll be hoping they can end the season well this Saturday

Sociedad meanwhile, already appear to be on holiday, let alone thinking about it. David Moyes’ men put in a terrible display last time out, losing 3-0 at home to Granada (the side who were thumped 9-1 just a few weeks earlier). Recent performances from Sociedad have been poor generally, which has done nothing to improve their terrible away record of just one win and 11pts all season. Fortunately their home form has been strong otherwise they could have been in a spot of trouble!

Their away form has actually deteriorated in the last month or so with 3 defeats from 4. Goalscoring has also been a crucial issue for Sociedad – averaging just 0.61 goals per game on the road – and they will struggle to improve that stat against a Rayo defence which has conceded just 4 in 8 home games.

Rayo have a good squad and a win on Sunday will guarantee them a top half finish which would represent good progress for a side dwarfed by the shadow of neighbors Real and Atletico. I think they have every chance of getting just that against such a lackluster and disinterested Sociedad side so I have backed the home win here at attractive odds. Rayo have won 5 of their 8 home wins without conceding and considering Sociedad have scored just once in their past 4 away games I feel the odds of a Rayo win to nil at 4.25 irresistible also.

Bet 2: Athletic Bilbao vs Villarreal – Correct Score 1-1 DRAW at 8.50 (Betvictor)

Villarreal are looking to end a run of 6 consecutive away draws

My final bet of the season may not be one of the ‘safest’ bets ever but I believe it represents excellent value. I’ve based my thoughts on this game on watching recent performances of both sides and these 3, key stats, as below:

  • Villarreal have drawn their last 6 consecutive away games
  • Bilbao have drawn 3 of their last 4 home games (all finishing 1-1)
  • 1-1 is by far the most common score for both sides – with 28% of Bilbao’s home games and 34% of Villarreal’s away games ending one apiece.

As you can see, a 1-1 draw certainly looks likely – and yet the Bookie’s prices don’t reflect that, and thus I think this bet is great value. Especially as the vast majority of draws for both sides have come against similarly positioned sides – Bilbao regularly draw at home to top half sides whilst Villarreal have drawn the vast majority of games away at mid-table sides. Neither side needs a win (as I said, there’s nothing at stake in this game) and so I’m going to confidently put my money behind this scoreline and hope for a big winner to end the season!