Soccer 'crisis talk' comes far too easy these days
Manchester City the latest team supposedly struggling, but they will likely beat Everton
Crisis is a much overused word in the early weeks of the season. Arsenal were in crisis after their opening-day defeat by Aston Villa, yet have been superb ever since; Manchester United have been there too, but still this crisis club have four points out of six in the Champions League after Wednesday's solid draw at Shakhtar Donetsk; while Chelsea were in supposed crisis after defeats by Everton and Basel, but promptly went top of the Premier League, albeit briefly.
The list goes on. West Brom were under fire for their poor start, but then gave one of the best performances of the season to win at Old Trafford last weekend, while Everton were criticised after opening with three draws under Roberto Martinez (two of them goalless) but are now being lauded for their possession football and are the only unbeaten team in the English Premier League.
Now it is Manchester City's turn in the spotlight after their 3-1 home defeat by Bayern Munich in the Champions League. City's performance was calamitous in parts, notably Joe Hart's goalkeeping, but as in previous cases it is easy to read too much into one result.
Bayern Munich, of course, are reigning European champions and took Barcelona apart in even more clinical fashion at the Nou Camp in April, when they won their Champions League semi-final second leg 3-0. Clearly Bayern are capable of destroying any team, even among the elite.
For punters, it can be difficult to keep things in perspective. Every time a big team loses there is an in-depth post-mortem, almost as if they are entitled to win every game, but any team can lose. That is where the betting odds come into play, in weighing up how likely it is that a team will win, lose or draw.
As they cope with their hangover, City face fast-developing Everton in tonight's early kick-off and are favourites. The odds suggest their chance of winning is around 62 per cent, making them most likely winners, but with the expectation that they would not win four times out of 10.
The question for punters is whether they are prepared to accept those odds. It is worth remembering that City were superb in their last Premier League home game, the 4-1 demolition of Manchester United, and that their home league record is excellent - 35 wins out of 41 since the start of the 2011-12 season, including all three of this season's home games under Manuel Pellegrini by an aggregate of 10 goals to one. They don't play Bayern Munich every week.
This season's results haven't revealed anything new about City. Their home form in the Premier League is the best around and it remains clear that for Pellegrini to take them forward his two chief tasks are to improve their away form in the Premier League and their overall results in the Champions League. Wednesday's result against Bayern changes nothing.
Tonight's odds suggest City's chance of victory is underestimated, but still nobody will get rich at such short odds. Arsenal are longer odds for their visit to West Brom, which means they are less likely to win than City, but they are the best-value bet among the big six teams.
The Gunners probably should be shorter, but the price appears to have been held up by West Brom's remarkable display at Old Trafford. Suddenly the Baggies are bouncing again and many fans will be expecting them to take another big scalp.
Arsenal, however, are playing at a much higher level. They dominated Napoli in the Champions League on Tuesday in much the same way as Bayern did with City, even though the Italian team arrived with a record of six wins and a draw from seven matches this season.
Until they fail to win, or the odds contract too much, Arsenal remain a team to keep backing on the road. Last weekend's victory at Swansea - likely a similar team to West Brom - took their winning run on the road to 11 in the Premier League and Champions League.
The other bet that stands out in the Premier League is Aston Villa on the handicap at Hull. The hosts have started well, with 10 points from six games, but they are low scorers and that makes them vulnerable. Villa have scored in their last 10 away games against teams outside the big six and have not lost any of them, winning five.
Arsenal, Aston Villa, Birmingham, Ipswich, Crawley, Wolves, Espanyol, Bilbao, Frankfurt.
10pm unless stated: Cardiff v Newcastle, Fulham v Stoke, Hull v Aston Villa, Liverpool v Crystal Palace, Manchester City v Everton (7.45pm), Sunderland v Manchester United (12.30am Sun)
Norwich v Chelsea (8.30pm), Southampton v Swansea (8.30pm), Tottenham v West Ham (11pm), West Brom v Arsenal (11pm)
1 Arsenal away win Have become a banker on the road
2 Ipswich on handicap Can make up for Tuesday’s lost chance
3 Wolves away win Too good for League One
4 Espanyol on handicap Extremely solid against lesser teams under Javier Aguirre
5 Frankfurt on handicap Unbeaten against teams outside the top five