We've all played Mario Kart, sitting comfortably at the front of the pack, when all of a sudden a banana peel makes us spin out and wreck our run, condemning us to second place behind Warrior. Why is it always Wario?!
Well, the same thing happens in the Premier League. Every team has its own banana skin game. A game they should win but for no conceivable reason, they just can't see it through. Here's a look at a banana skin game for the top six sides in the Prem.
I've defined the top 6 as:
Sorry Tottenham fans, I know you had a better season than Chelsea did last year but I don't think that's going to happen again this year.
Banana Skin Opponent: Tottenham Hotspur
Games: December 2, 2023, & April 20, 2024
Tottenham has done something no other side has been able to do, hand City a losing record. Since the calendar turned to 2020, the Spurs are 5-0-3 in all competitions against Man City. Focus on the Prem and that record improved to 5-0-2.
I know what you might be saying; "without Kane, the Spurs don't stand a chance." As we all know, German powerhouse Bayern Munich have made it their mission to sign the Spurs striker. But look, in three of those five wins Kane didn't find the score sheet, and wasn't even on the pitch for two of them.
Tottenham has bested Pep's men, regardless of the stadium, for years now. Be wary when they face off this season.
Banana Skin Opponent: Nottingham Forest (away)
Game: January 30, 2024
I'm focused on Arsenal's away game at Forest in January. The Gunners haven't won at The City Ground (in all competitions) since 2016.
When Arsenal traveled to the midlands, they held 81% of possession, 65% of the shots but couldn't find a way past Keylor Navas. Instead, it was Forest's Taiwo Awoniyi that found the back of the net in the 19th minute to earn a necessary three points for the Tricky Trees.
There's no reason Arsenal should have lost that match. I'd stay away from smashing an Arsenal win on the moneyline when this fixture comes around later in the season.
Banana Skin Opponent: Brighton
Games: September 16, 2023 & May 19, 2024
While Brighton was a top-six side last season, United will be favored to beat the Gulls in both of their matchups. But United's recent record against Brighton suggests they'll struggle mightily.
|May 4, 2023||1-0 Loss||Amex Stadium|
|April 23, 2023||0-0 (7-6 win on pens)||Wembley (FA Cup)|
|August 7, 2022||2-1 Loss||Old Trafford|
|May 7, 2022||4-0 Loss||Amex Stadium|
The only win in that lot of games wasn't in the Premier League.
Looking ahead, United will likely be favored in both contests thanks to both sides' transfer windows. Manchester brought in Mason Mount and Andre Onana and could be adding Rasmus Hojlund. Brighton lost Alexis Mac Allister and could be losing Moises Caicedo.
But Brighton have shown they can cope with loss. Heck, they lost their manager mid-season to Chelsea and they didn't skip a beat!
If I was a United fan, I would worry about both of these fixtures on the calendar.
Banana Skin Opponent: Brentford (away)
Game: February 17, 2024
As a Liverpool fan, I used to dread visits to Villa Park. It seemed that every time we visited that stadium something unfortunate would happen. Like that 7-2 loss in 2020.
But Liverpool hasn't lost on that ground since. The Reds have put up a 3-0-0 record with a +6 goal differential. I don't worry when it's time for an away trip to Villa Park. But I do worry when we visit Brentford.
In two trips to Brentford Community Stadium, Liverpool is 0-1-1 and allowed six goals. In both games, Liverpool held superior expected goal numbers but still couldn't come away with a win. It's a true banana skin game.
So when Liverpool travels to Brentford on February 17, Klopp's men will certainly be the favorites but I would stay well away from betting that angle.
Banana Skin Opponent: Wolverhampton Wanderers
Games: December 23, 2023 & February 3, 2024
For whatever reason, Chelsea just can't find success against the Wolves. Since December 2020, the West London club is 1-3-2 against Wolverhampton.
Chelsea's struggles from last season are well documented but the issues against the Wolves have existed for some time now. They couldn't defeat them when Chelsea ended the season third in 21-22 and when they finished fourth in 20-21.
The Blues could be having a strong season but they still aren't able to defeat this tough opponent. So when Chelsea heads to the Molineux in December and welcomes them a few months later fade a Chelsea win on the ML and instead focus on a draw.
Banana Skin Opponent: West Ham United
Games: November 25, 2023 & March 9, 2024
West Ham has been a thorn in Newcastle's side for a while now. The Magpies have only claimed all three points against the Hammers once in their last four meetings.
|April 5, 2023||5-1 Win|
|February 4, 2023||1-1 Draw|
|February 19, 2022||1-1 Draw|
|August 15, 2021||4-2 Win|
Whatever David Moyes is doing when his side lines up against the Toonies, it's working. He's found a way to grind out more points than West Ham deserves in these matchups. In those four meetings, Newcastle holds 57% of the expected goals but somehow only came away with 42% of the available points.
I know Newcastle won their last meeting with West Ham by a convincing 5-1 margin, but that's not enough for me to blindly bet on the Magpies to defeat the Hammers this year.