As the Premier League returns, Jake Pearson looks at the trends and Punting Pointers that have emerged this season.
It is of course possible to make money gambling, otherwise we wouldn’t have a website, but only a small percentage of gamblers do actually turn a profit. One of the main reasons for this is that average punters attempt to predict the outcome of an event, rather than trying to decipher the true probability of each possible outcome.
Everybody is aware of the coin toss analogy. A coin is equally likely to land on heads as it is tails, therefore the true probability of the coin landing on heads is 50%, while tails is also 50%.
Obviously, football is not the same as a coin. There is no definite way to know the true probability of a football match, but the closing odds do provide about as accurate a reflection as you are likely to get.
Therefore, we can assume that if a punter “beats the price”, i.e. the price they have backed an outcome at is bigger than the price that outcome is at the beginning of the match, then that punter has successfully achieved value, and will, over time, turn a profit.
This is easier said than done of course, and there are many different ways that punters attempt to beat the price. Here I will identify a few teams that have gone off shorter than their opening odds on multiple occasions this season, and try and spot a pattern.
There are certainly similarities between the kind of teams that tend to beat the price on a regular basis, teams such as Burnley, Crystal Palace, West Ham and Wolves all feature prominently in this analysis.
The overwhelming similarity is undoubtedly that of a more pragmatic approach to the game. All four of these teams are, for want of a better word, unfashionable, and are therefore overpriced early on, possibly because they are not particularly appealing to punters.
Crystal Palace travel to Manchester City at the weekend, a match, despite facing a very in-form side, in which their chances may have been underestimated - several bookmakers have them priced at 20/1 for victory and 8/1 to draw.
Wolves host West Brom in the Black Country derby on Saturday, and though heavy favourites, Nuno Espirito Santos' men may have an even bigger chance of victory than the market currently suggests, particularly against a Sam Allardyce side really struggling at present.
Teams to avoid when betting in this way would be Leeds and Everton. Both have drifted on multiple occasions this season, and the reason is clear: they are style over substance.
Punters like to back a team they can cheer on, and let’s be honest, few people want to cheer on a Burnley. Thus, teams like Leeds and Everton are initially priced up too short by bookmakers, but will drift when shrewd money enters the market.
Everton face a tough match against Aston Villa at the weekend, and despite the Villians' current Covid crisis, there is every chance that the Toffees have been overestimated, while Leeds' fixture against Brighton also appeals as a potential banana skin.
In conclusion, when looking to beat the price, search for teams that punters do not necessarily want to back; teams that the neutral might turn their nose up at.
Pricing up football matches is often more superficial than people think, bookmakers will quickly rack up unwanted liabilities if they generously price up teams that punters want to back, so siding with more pragmatic teams can often help you achieve value.
Fans being unable to attend matches has undoubtedly made a difference to how the game is being played, and the figures back that up. Home teams have scored a total of 228 goals in the Premier League this season, while away teams have netted 233 times. That is pretty astounding all things considered, but how do we turn it into a betting angle?
Bookmakers are aware of this trend, and they have adjusted their prices - the average price for an away win this season currently stands at 4.19, whereas in previous seasons it was 5.04 (2019/20) and 5.62 (2018/19) – but there could still be value in siding with away teams.
If we take the fact that 38% of matches have been won by visiting sides this season, then the fair odds for such an outcome would be 2.6. Obviously, this must all be applied in context, but there is no real reason why this trend will not continue.
One team to have shown profit when away from home this season is Southampton, and, considering Leicester’s woeful form at the King Power – collecting just 10 points from a possible 24 – the Saints could represent value on Saturday at a price of 100/30, though Southampton/Draw at even money also looks tempting.
There could be another angle into this however, and that is first-half goals. We know that away sides have scored more than home sides this season, and that has caused a reaction from the bookmakers, shortening the visitors. But home teams have been leading at half-time in 56% of matches, compared to 40% for away teams.
Given that half-time markets are usually priced up based on the odds for 90 minutes, it could be worth siding with the hosts to win the first half.
Southampton boast one of the best first-half records this season so, not only are they potentially worth backing to beat Leicester outright, it could be worth looking into the Saints leading come the half-time whistle.
Their half-time record is good, not as good as Tottenham though, who would have amassed more points than any other Premier League side had football matches been just 45 minutes long.
Spurs travel to Sheffield United on Sunday and could well be home and hosed come the half-time whistle.
Form is temporary, class is permanent, right? Well, perhaps, but that does not mean that form cannot play a vital part in informing your betting.
A great example of this is the huge upturn in the fortunes of Arsenal over the past few weeks. Prior to Christmas, Mikel Arteta was under huge pressure and the favourite for the sack race, having seemingly coached Arsenal into a relegation battle. Fast-forward 21 days and the Gunners have won three on the bounce – four including an extra-time victory over Newcastle in the FA Cup – and have fans talking of challenging for Europe.
Could we see this coming? Perhaps not. But there does come a point where, no matter how poor a team is playing, the price overlaps the performance, and this happened when Arsenal played Chelsea on Boxing Day.
Arsenal were sent off as big as 4/1 in places to beat the Blues at home, that is the biggest price they have been at the Emirates since they hosted Manchester City in December 2019, and this was against a Chelsea side who had lost two of their previous three matches.
The Gunners were then sent off odds-against to beat Brighton, which they did, and, in hindsight, could have been even shorter against West Brom.
Bookmakers will have now got a hold on Arsenal’s price however, and may even overestimate their improvement, but we can use this example to look for teams whose fortunes may be about to change, and whose prices do not accurately reflect that.
Chelsea would have been licking their wounds after defeats to Arsenal and Manchester City, either side of a draw with Aston Villa, but Frank Lampard's side haven't actually been performing all that poorly during this period and could be a team to watch.
The Blues face west London rivals Fulham at the weekend, and that could provide exactly the confidence boost Chelsea are looking for ahead of a big game at Leicester on Tuesday, a game Lampard's men could be worth backing in.
Expected Goals (xG) is in fact a really good tool to use when trying to identify teams such as this, as it gives an overview of how they are actually playing, as opposed to just looking at the bare results.
Infogol's Premier League table based on performance has Chelsea second - seven places higher than they currently are.
By that same measure, Everton are certainly one of the biggest overperformers this season, with their seventh position putting them six places higher than they are in Infogol's xG standings.
Another such team is Manchester United, and the Red Devils face possibly their biggest game of the season as they travel to Liverpool at the weekend.
United are arguably the in-form side heading into this match, Liverpool are winless in three league games, but this could represent a very good opportunity to go against the form team and could mean Liverpool represent the value.
Teams such as Everton and Manchester United should be avoided in the coming weeks based on this evidence, while teams such as Wolves, and even Chelsea, who could be due a rejuvenation, are worth following.
Odds correct at 15:00 12/01/20
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