Outright market changes after Premier League gameweek 17
In his weekly column, Alan Alger analyses the remarkable turnaround in the Premier League title market over the festive period.
‘The numbers catch up with you in the end, or you catch up with the numbers.’
That sentence is the defence of the work that most football analysts and odds-compilers have done in putting numerical values against such a random sport as football.
Essentially, if the sample size is right then the analysis and reading of those numbers should stand you in good stead.
To go one step further, if a sample of 20 games suggests that a team should be scoring an average of two goals per match and they’re only scoring an average of one, it’s effectively predicting that you might see a few three-goal hauls to even those numbers out across the next few weeks. The reverse could also be true.
Although we should always go back to the fact that it is a random sport and so many other factors will determine how results turn out, Liverpool’s recent slump in form could owe plenty to last year’s title success.
According to the most reliable of Premier League analysts and odds-compilers, Jurgen Klopp’s team outscored the quality of their own performances by around 20 points across their 38 games in 2019/20. So is their haul of 33 points from 17 matches this season a fair regression and evidence of the numbers playing catch-up?
The Reds kicked off the season as second-favourites for the title, something that was questioned owing to their 18-point superiority in the last campaign. In the weeks since the opening round of fixtures we’ve seen a market that has switched favouritism an astonishing 11 times, with three of the switches within the last four weeks.
In the space of just 16 days Pep Guardiola saw his team go from 9/4 to regain the trophy to comfortable 19/20 market leaders.
Christmas and New Year matches are always a pivotal time for markets at both ends of the Premier League table. Even though this year’s festive fixtures hit a little earlier than usual due to the delayed start to the season we still saw some huge alterations and corrections.
Liverpool arrived at the Christmas fixtures as 10/11 title favourites off the back of a stunning 7-0 win at Crystal Palace. They had three league fixtures ahead of them in which they were odds-on favourites to take all three points. The first two matches in that sequence against West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle saw them fail to win when heavily odds-on.
Taking just two points from a possible nine in those games handed the initiative to Manchester City. City only had two games in that time but a professional display against Newcastle was backed up in some style by brushing aside Chelsea on their own patch.
In the space of just 16 days Pep Guardiola saw his team go from 9/4 to regain the trophy to comfortable 19/20 market leaders. The City boss will be hoping that his side can now hang on to that position and not relinquish the market advantage to the Merseysiders for a sixth time this season.
Those inconsistencies from the top two in the betting have sent faint glimmers of hope to others.
Manchester United continue their good form, quietly sneaking into the reckoning at 6/1. The Red Devils are sitting at the top of the form tables that encompass 6, 8, 10 and 12 games in the division. Their Christmas form saw them halve in price for a first title since 2012-13.
Chelsea, though, have discarded all of the hope and optimism of quotes reaching lows of 6/1 third-favourites in the autumn with a disastrous run which puts them as low as 17th place in the rolling six-game form table. They’re now sixth in the market at 66/1.
At the other end of the table, a resurgence in form for Arsenal saw them return to much more palatable three-figure quotes to suffer the drop. One of the first markets settled could be the relegation of Sheffield United, who have burned up all good will and expectations of a revival, looking doomed at 1/33.
The Blades going down would leave just two remaining relegation spots and West Bromwich Albion are on course for one of them at 2/11. Their hope that Sam Allardyce could perform a rescue act probably failed to account for the fact that their squad wasn’t underperforming in the first place.
Big Sam might now be realising that if you have the 19th or 20th-best squad in the division, it’s going to be a stretch to finish 17th.
Some are going as far as saying that his previous good work might simply have been getting squads who, on paper, were mid-table in quality back to mid-table. Are the numbers now catching up with him?
Fulham 5/6 are also odds-on in this market, with a few sides in behind taking the percentage of chance from Arsenal.
They are Brighton (100/30), Burnley (7/2) and Newcastle (4/1). Scott Parker will like the look of that, considering we’re now saying it’s almost a toss of a coin that his side can overtake one or two of those teams.
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