So, how would you price up next years Premier League title race?
It’s head over heart time for serious gamblers and pundits as we calculate every possible differential between the relevant teams, while for those a bit more relaxed it’s the usual heart over head time as they look for a repeat of the perfect-storm season of 2015/2016, when Leicester proved every pundit in the world wrong with their 5000/1 victory.
As of today Sky Bet prices look like this:
City head the list at even-money from 5/4 after so far proving significantly the most popular team in terms of both stakes and number of bets.
Liverpool are out to 11/8 from evens but that’s probably because most of their fans still haven’t recovered from a 30-year-wait induced headache. Come September they could still go off favourites, given a few signings and the optimism with which they'll be entitled to start the season.
Frank Lampard’s Chelsea are the team for money at 14/1 with the Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech signings a clear indication that they intend to close the current 32-point gap between themselves and the champions.
Bruno Fernandes has rekindled title dreams for the red half of Manchester with plenty of interest in the 16/1 but in truth let’s not pretend Ole is close to taking this United side into the top two.
Tottenham are 40/1 Arsenal 50/1 and in betting terminology 'we can’t give them away', which means nobody is interested in backing them. For you nature lovers we have 66/1 for the Foxes and 100/1 for Wolves and if your looking for some divine inspiration maybe Don Carlo Ancelotti at 150/1 can sprinkle some gold dust around Goodison Park.
So just who should we be backing?
When looking at the list of previous Premier League winners, from 1992/93 onwards, the one thing you can’t escape is how footballing dynasties have dominated.
Sir Alex famously said it takes five years to build a team and then of course the tinkering around the edges to keep that team competitive and the very best it can be. Incredibly the Red Devils won the title eight times in the first 11 years of Premier League existence. No wonder their fans live with a sense of entitlement.
In June 2004, Jose Mourinho arrived in West London to build the Chelsea trophy-winning machine, before Fergie regained his mojo, inspired by a blossoming Cristiano Ronaldo, to take the title three years in succession from 2007 to 2009. Then, from 2009/10 onwards, Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and let’s not forget Leicester shared the honours, before Pep Guardiola arrived in 2016 and the rest is history.
Once big clubs get a great manager and the funds to build a fantastic team they can dominate the Premier League landscape for many years. What Klopp has done at Liverpool has been nothing short of sensational. The final signings of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson completed the German manager's jigsaw and, boom, we saw in 2019 arguably the most perfect Premier League performance ever - and they aren’t going anywhere.
In fact, I want to be with Liverpool again next season.
This squad is in its prime, senior players blending wonderfully with the youngsters, and if Klopp can add someone like Adama Traore to the already quality group he has then they will be impossible to displace from the top of the English football pyramid.
When I watch Liverpool take the field I see a rare intensity seldom seen in the game. They will not be beaten. The group demands of each other the very highest standards, both in terms of effort and quality. As an ex-player I can assure you that is the ultimate professional experience. They go into each game physically superb, tactically astute, and adaptable, while ruthless and unflinching in not accepting anything but victory.
If you’ve seen Michael Jordan's 'The Last Dance' then you’ll know exactly what I mean. Professional perfection is what everyone at the club aspires to.
As I write, Liverpool are 23 points ahead of City and I don’t think Guardiola can close that gap.
Apart from the above there are two other major reasons. Normally you would fear Pep can just go and spend £200-£300million on players and make a challenge on the back of that, but with the Financial Fair Play issue still hanging over City that is very unlikely to be a possibility. Let's assume then the squad roughly stays the same but with David Silva and perhaps Leroy Sane departing, and Sergio Aguero another year older. Where will the extra spark come from to close down a 20-point gap?
My other reason for sending antepost money Anfield's way is nothing more than logistical.
As we approach the end of June, Liverpool’s players can relax and the managerial team can start concentrating on the new season, starting in the second week of September. Don’t be surprised to see Liverpool’s youngsters playing for the remainder of the games - and don't underestimate how wonderful a position that is to be in.
City have FA Cup and Premier League action in July while the Champions League - their main priority and the one thing missing from Guardiola's reign - fills the August diary. That is advantage Liverpool before a ball is even kicked, and they surely deserve to be favourites given what they've achieved this season.
Of the rest, Chelsea must be interesting but I still don’t see them as a 38-game team. The standard City and Liverpool set means 95-plus points is required to be a contender, and even with a few big names coming in that’s a huge jump from where they are now, with 54 points from 31 games so far. At most that puts them on 75 points, and they need to find huge improvement to win the title.
Manchester United fans might be getting giddy about a title challenge but Ole won’t be the man to take them there. He simply can’t be mentioned in the same sentence as Pep and Klopp that’s not a criticism - it’s just a fact. He’s likeable and probably what United needed at the time, but not the solution for a club of their size. If it wasn’t for Fernandes and the difference he’s made he wouldn’t still be in the job.
Tottenham and Arsenal are simply a million miles away. My money is very much on Liverpool.
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