Brighton can take maximum points from their New Year's Day TV clash with Wolves.
Chris Hughton and Kenny Jackett have both gone back to basics in their bid to curb declining standards. In Jackett’s case, the policy has brought immediate reward over the festive period with successive ‘win to nil’ victories over Reading and Charlton. For Hughton, it has resulted in frustration with five points dropped - and successive blanks fired - against Brentford and Ipswich.
However, the tables might now be ready to turn. Based on shot data over the first 24 matches, there’s significant value in the 13/5 available on Brighton to win to nil. According to that sample, the bet should be no bigger than 2/1. Even when you subtract the Seagulls’ blistering start of six wins from the first seven games and reduce the data to 16 matches, the converted ’win to nil’ price is only 11/5.
The reason for these inflated odds, perhaps, is the fact that Albion have actually kept very few clean sheets over the past three months. In the final 13 matches of their 21-game unbeaten start, they managed just two shut-outs, conceding 15 goals. But the unbeaten run itself had become the focus by then, an arbitrary gauge of success that inevitably turned into a roller-coaster.
It culminated with three topsy-turvy matches that all finished over 3.5 goals. First, the Seagulls came from 2-0 down to beat Charlton 3-2. Next, they twice surrendered a lead in a pulsating 2-2 draw at Derby. Then, they collapsed late on to draw 2-2 at QPR, having taken a 2-0 lead early in the second half.
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It was an 11-day period high on emotion, the knock-on effects of which were all too evident as a cold-blooded Middlesbrough side eventually burst the bubble with a show of ruthless efficiency, in the process exposing a growing weakness at set pieces. And that would be the starting point for Hughton’s recovery mission: drilling his players on defending corners and free-kicks.
A goalless draw at Griffin Park was a positive start, the Seagulls holding firm under wave after wave of Brentford attacks, but a mistake from Lewis Dunk against Ipswich in midweek proved extremely costly, allowing Daryl Murphy to pounce and score the game’s only goal. Now Dunk has serious competition for his place with the arrival of Liam Ridgewell on loan from MLS outfit Portland Timbers.
For Wolves, the sudden miserly streak owes much to a change of formation. With Dave Edwards covering more ground as the designated No.10, the Old Gold have shifted from the usual 4-2-3-1 to a more rigid 4-5-1, allowing the back four to get narrow making it more of a challenge for opposing sides to get through.
However, Brighton are well-schooled in 4-4-2, their positional play is much superior and that could be the difference here. If the Seagulls draw first blood, as they have done on 17 occasions this term, then Wanderers are liable to over-commit in pursuit of an equaliser, enabling Albion to grab a killer second. On my tissue, the Brighton 2-0 correct score should be shorter than 9/1, so grab some of the 11/1 available on that outcome at Bet Victor.
For more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system, follow this link.