In his weekly column, Alan Alger analyses the Premier League outright markets ahead of the Christmas period.
Despite two whole rounds of fixtures taking place since the last column, we haven’t seen the same wild changes to the market that have punctuated previous weeks.
The first weekend in December was a painful one for bookmakers, with most of the top sides winning and match result accas flying into the payout basket of a large number of Betway punters’ accounts.
But the gambling gods were far kinder to the firms this weekend just gone, with stuttering performances from a number of odds-on teams in the Premier League.
Notably, Liverpool’s draw at Fulham deflated many optimistic multiples on Sunday afternoon.
And the midweek matches saw another great result for bookmakers, with West Brom battling to a draw at the Etihad. Amazingly, that unexpected point did nothing to halt the departure of Baggies boss Slaven Bilic, who was replaced by Sam Allardyce within 24 hours.
The reaction to that appointment can be judged by looking at how the relegation market has changed following the arrival of the survival specialist.
Allardyce has twice arrived at a club who were 19th in the Premier League table and odds-on for the drop, and has managed to guide them to safety on each occasion. West Brom will be hoping that Big Sam can complete the hat-trick this season and, at Betway, we were the most impressed with his appointment, quickly lengthening their price for the drop from 30/100 to 4/9.
That’s still a heavy odds-on quote, though, and this looks like one of his most difficult tasks to date, mainly due to how few teams look like being dragged into the scrap. We’ve talked about the bottom quartet leading the drop market all season and their gap to the rest, and updated quotes show Sheffield United at 1/4, Fulham at 8/13 and Burnley at 5/4.
The gap to Brighton at 5/1 is bigger in the market than it actually looks in the table, especially because of Burnley’s game in hand. An extension to the Seagulls’ winless run of four games will certainly make that price come under pressure, regardless of what the other teams around them manage to achieve. All four will see a continued Brighton collapse as their lifeline.
At the other end of the table, Manchester United have desperately clawed themselves back into the title reckoning, regaining the respect of a quote of 12/1.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s minimum target of a top-four finish has been brought into touching distance by the collapse in form of Chelsea. We touched on how much the market wanted to see the Blues perform away at a big team ahead of their game at Everton, and Frank Lampard’s side have disappointed both at Goodison Park and Molineux.
Chelsea have drifted to 11/1 (from 6/1) with those two defeats, with Lampard saying his team ‘have things to learn’. What we learned about him and his squad is that they aren’t sure-things to finish in the top four.
They drift to 8/13 with Manchester United closing in at 10/11. Credit to Solskjaer and his squad for battling back, akin to the way they have been dropping leads in away games only to scramble to three points.
The key game between Liverpool and Tottenham swung the title race in favour of the current champions. Jurgen Klopp’s men are now 5/4 for the title, with Tottenham drifting to 7/1.
The impact of Spurs losing their lead at Crystal Palace was heavier on the market than the non-disgrace of a narrow defeat at Anfield.
The market doesn’t want to take any chances with Manchester City, with them remaining at 5/2 second-favourites to win the league, despite taking just nine points from their last possible 18.
Games to watch over this weekend include Southampton having the chance to beat City and move seven points ahead of them in the table. Pep Guardiola’s side are heavily odds-on for the trip to St Mary’s but I can’t imagine many Betway customers will trust them in their accas.
Arsenal’s troubles are highlighted by their biggest quote for a match away at Everton since the late 1980s. Even their most optimistic fans won’t be rushing to back them at prices 2/1 and above.
Fulham can drag Newcastle nearer to the drop-zone with a win away in the north-east, although we’re asking you to take under 2/1 for a side that have won once away all season, albeit at a decent Leicester side.
The title market will want to see Manchester United handle a home game with the kind of attacking efficiency we’ve seen away from Old Trafford when they take on Leeds United.
At the other end of the table, the relegation market will want to see an immediate ‘new manager bounce’ from West Brom at home to Aston Villa.
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