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Alan Alger: If this season lives up to the title prices, we’re in for a real tussle at the top

07 Aug | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Alan Alger: If this season lives up to the title prices, we’re in for a real tussle at the top

The football is back - Betway Insider discusses where there's value ahead of a bumper weekend of action

I can’t remember the last time the top seven divisions in the country all started on the same weekend, but it has certainly focused the mind of punters seeking that ‘life-changing’ title winners multiple.

I also can’t remember the last time the top four teams in the Premier League betting were all priced shorter than 11/2 to take the title on the opening day of the season.

One thing I can remember is how dull the race to take the Barclays-sponsored crown was in 2014/15. Chelsea grinding out the necessary points as their rivals suffered blips and trips along the way.

If the 2015/16 Premier League season lives up to the title prices then we are set for a real tussle at the top, although I have my reservations.

The best backed team so far have been Arsenal. Stemming from the FA Cup win at Wembley in May – which prompted a price cut on the early market from 11/2 into 5/1.

Punters got behind Arsene Wenger’s side and a near faultless pre-season saw that price move again into 9/2.

Beating champions Chelsea in the Community Shield shaved another half point off the price and they kick-off the season on Sunday as 4/1 third-favourites.

In reality that price doesn’t look at all tempting. The ‘improved’ form from last season could be picked apart and when you look at the stats properly it is arguable that they didn’t improve at all.

Yes they won at Manchester City, yes they didn’t suffer the horrendous away beatings they did in 2013/14, but their form against their fellow ‘top nine’ teams in the division was actually worse – and they finished further away (in terms of points) from the eventual title winners.

The two Manchester teams might serve up a better challenge to Jose Mourinho’s side.

Louis van Gaal has his Manchester United squad in decent shape and if he can find the right formation and keep key personnel fit they will be much closer.

A number of shrewd individuals think Manchester City could bounce back this season, although up until those tips were published in midweek, Manuel Pellegrini’s side had been ‘friendless’. Forced to choose between City at 3/1 and United at 5/1 I’d have to plump for the latter as the value call.

That said, it really does look set for Chelsea to take consecutive titles and the advice in the top-flight is to make them the cornerstone of pre-season multiples at 6/4.

The winners of the three Football League divisions usually take a lot of finding. That was illustrated by the sides lifting the titles in the Championship (Bournemouth 25/1), League 1 (Bristol City 8/1) and League 2 (Burton Albion 16/1) back in May.

A hindsight treble landing a sum just shy of £4000 for a £1 stake. We can certainly hold that dream, after all a ball hasn’t been kicked yet.

The Championship is always wide open, there hasn’t been a winner at single-figure odds since Newcastle United bounced back to the Premier League at 8/1 in 2009/10.

Derby County have been all the rage over the summer, but if they were to take the honours it would be the shortest winning price in a decade of Championship action. That tells us that punters are always better off looking elsewhere when favourites are concerned at this level.

Sides relegated from the top division are always well supported, but once again history serves a reminder that none of them have won this title in the last ten years.

When you consider that stat includes three relatively big sides per season, then it really is worth swerving Hull, QPR and Burnley. Throw in second-favourites Middlesbrough, who also look too short, then we’re left with a few alternatives at nice prices.

I’ll hold my hands up to backing Fulham in this section last year – don’t stop reading – a thoroughly poor call on my part. They should improve on that woeful 17th position and make each-way appeal at 25/1.

Nottingham Forest, at the same price, should improve with Dougie Freedman starting a first full season in charge. They have a good set of players and fit the bill of a progressive side. Home form was abysmal last year – losing nine games – but if that one area improves they could be contenders.

With five single-figure odds winners in the last seven seasons, League 1 could be considered one of the easier parts of this multiple.

Then again, with a host of big clubs looking to escape the third tier, this coming campaign still presents a tricky puzzle. Sheffield United’s painful annual failures in this division with a host of near misses will certainly put punters off.

A killer stat at this level that could put punters off the other short priced teams is that a relegated side from the previous seasons Championship is more likely to be relegated (five in ten seasons) then win the title (just two in ten seasons).

Peterborough can make a bold bid at 14/1 to make a return to the second tier at the third attempt.

In League 2 the market is framed around the expectations for Portsmouth.

Successive finishes in the bottom half of the division have not diminished the market’s ability to serve up some big-club bias at the top of the prices. Good news for those that want to oppose them. Cambridge United and Luton Town came up from the Conference at the end of the 2013/14 season and both have been well-backed for this coming campaign.

In the case of Cambridge that seems odd at face value considering they finished 19th last season. But wholesale changes in Richard Money’s squad have made lower league punters take note. It still looks a risk to expect so many new players to gel and their price of 14/1 should be swerved.

In contrast Luton have added players to a decent spine of a team that were unlucky with injuries last year. 13/2 for the title is short enough, but John Still has the required expertise to get them promotion to League 1, and I expect him to do it via a second league title in three years.

My full preview of the National League can be found here. But for the record I’ve tipped Forest Green Rovers to end their stay as the longest serving ‘Conference’ club. Ady Pennock’s men are 7/1 third favourites and it will be a big surprise if they don’t produce at least small each-way profit on any investment.

Grimsby Town have been very popular for the title and now sit on top of the market at 9/2. That looks a price to swerve on a number of things (outlined elsewhere on the blog) – chiefly the poor performance of play-off final losers in the following season.

The National South sees Ebbsfleet United as the strong favourites with their owners still intent on bankrolling a promotion bid. They should justify odds of 100/30.

The market says their main challenge should come from Havant & Waterlooville – but they are a side that the punters latch on to every year without success. Newcomers Margate and Maidstone United should make a bid for the play-offs. But Fleet under Daryl McMahon will take some stopping.

The National North has gone to a side at odds of less than 5/1 in four of the last five years.

Although the other season in that sequence of half a decade saw Hyde land the spoils at an incredible 50/1. Stockport County are a huge club in relation to the division, but have had two terms languishing around mid-table. They have to be respected by the market, but represent a dodgy punting proposition.

AFC Fylde were runners-up last year and for that reason head the market as 11/2 favourites. Relegated sides Alfreton Town and AFC Telford appear at 9/1 and 11/1 respectively.

Personally I like the look of Boston United who have improved season-by-season culminating in third place last year. They can deliver at least that each-way payout again at 9/1, and hopefully go two places better.

For all the latest outright prices for the coming season visit www.betway.com

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