Stoke look like a sinking ship
Chris Hammer takes a look at the Premier League relegation betting and fancies Stoke to struggle.
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5pts Stoke to be relegated at 7/1 (BetVictor).
Promoted teams are always near the head of the betting for instant relegation back to the Championship but recent history suggests there's very little value backing any of them at such short prices.
Take last season as a prime example. Swansea and Norwich were never really in contention for the drop as they finished comfortably in 11th and 12th respectively while QPR survived by the skin of their teeth on a dramatic last day.
Even had a last-gasp goal from relegated Bolton sent QPR down, the manner of their demise wouldn't really have made a season-long bet at 13/8 seem a wise prediction, more a lucky escape.
Bolton's draw at Stoke was also good news for Betting Zone followers after we tipped the Trotters to perish with a chunky stake at 11/2 having identified them as a sinking ship in our pre-season analysis.
Our only other pick was also another established Premier League outfit Blackburn, originally promoted with Bolton and Fulham back in 2001.
Rovers of course finished in the bottom three alongside their Lancashire rivals as well as rock bottom Wolves - although that was a little more obvious a call given the questionable ownership of Venky's and their misjudged faith in manager Steve Kean, who is still somehow in a job.
In the season before that, Blackpool were the only promoted team to fall back down but anyone who initially lumped on them at 1/5 would have endured an incredibly nervy 'Survival Sunday' as they took it right to the wire.
Joining them in the Championship was Birmingham, who finished ninth a year earlier, and seasoned top-flight campaigners West Ham.
In the 2009/10 season, Burnley went straight back down at the first attempt as Wolves and Birmingham survived while Newcastle and Middlesbrough were the 'shock' relegated clubs in 2008/09.
So the conclusion of our mini history lesson is that only three promoted teams out of a possible 12 have been relegated after just one season in the top flight, making the new sides unfavourable to back in this market at such short prices.
They tend to come up with fresh ideas and a new approach that Premier League clubs, who have been stuck in their own bubble for the previous year, aren't expecting and therefore allow them to make such a fast start that pushing them back towards the wrong end of the table often proves tricky.
Even Blackpool's attacking courage put them well on course to stay up during a superb first half of the 2010/11 season before ultimately running out of steam but the same can't be said of Norwich and Swansea who continued to pick up impressive results playing attractive football throughout the last campaign.
Of course there are no guarantees that Southampton (11/8), Reading (11/8)and West Ham (2/1) will all repeat the feat of last year's newly-promoted trio but we just can't see the value.
Saints boss Nigel Adkins and Reading counterpart Brian McDermott have both received rave reviews for their management skills and style of football while Hammers manager Sam Allardyce has a proven track record of keeping his teams up.
Therefore our policy in this market is to try and identify the dead wood heading in a downward spiral. An existing top-flight side looking stale and lacking in new ideas to keep surprising the opposition.
And for us, Stoke tick all the boxes.
The Potters' key to staying up first time around - and indeed becoming established - was based around their physical, direct style and a passionate crowd at the Britannia Stadium, which turned the venue into a fortress.
Their fans bought into Tony Pulis' ideas and relished watching their committed side ruffle the feathers of big name managers and clubs such as Arsene Wenger's Arsenal.
It drew comparisons with how Bolton made such giant strides during the Allardyce era although the Trotters did at least have elements of flair in their best sides to propel them into the top half on four occasions whereas Stoke can only boast finishing positions of 12th, 11th, 13th and 14th.
Fellow Premier League sides have wised up to them now and while the previously troublesome long-throw strategy is now looking as doomed as the Schlieffen Plan, there were clear signs during the second half of last season in particular their overall style has been severely blunted.
Stoke managed just four league victories since the turn of the year and failed to win any of their last six games, prompting fans to get restless and doubt the club's vision to take the next step after several years of stability.
A poor finish can linger in the mind and contribute to painfully slow early season momentum, which is what exactly happened to Bolton's cost last season.
If you're playing catch-up at the bottom of the table in the opening months of the campaign then pressure builds for every game and you continually feel you're in a scrap. The whole atmosphere can become negative and a losing mentality sets in.
Stoke's pre-season results won't exactly inspire the club's supporters either and their last four friendlies against Sporting Kansas City, Torquay, Yeovil and German club Greuther Furth all ended in 1-1 draws.
This summer Pulis has brought in Jamie Ness on a free from Rangers and Michael Kightly from Wolves for an undisclosed fee but we doubt either are going to arrest their slump.
Pulis himself admitted that he needed to bring Kightly in due to fellow wingers Matthew Etherington and Jermaine Pennant "going off the boil" while the inexperienced Ness managed just 18 games during his time at Ibrox.
With all this in mind, we feel Stoke are a clear example of side heading nowhere but down and they seem a great bet at 7/1 with BetVictor to be relegated.