Here we go again. Twenty teams, 10 months, 380 matches, countless ups, downs, big bets won, sure things lost and at the end of it all Man City win the league? Certainly, if you believe the pre-season odds with City as short as 1.7 in places then it looks more likely that not but don’t be fooled that this will be a predictable season in the greatest league in football.
As always there will be a ton of great betting opportunities and throuhgout the seaosn at Matchbook Insights we will have a dream team of contributors giving you best bets for the weekend’s Premier League action as well as longer term betting strategies and advice. So before it all kicks off we gathered them together, along with some special guests to dig a bit deeper into what the new season might offer up.
Mark O’Haire: After starting his working life in sports journalism, Mark soon found his way into the online betting world. With a thirst for data, industry expertise and an obsession for the oval ball, Mark’s turned his hobby into business as a freelance football betting analyst, as well as owning WeLoveBetting, a free online sports betting service.
Mike Holden: Renowned punter, sports journalist and ratings expert Mike Holdenm is the man behind the Foxpunter Ratings and analysis site and a contributor to a number of betting sites. He focuses on detailed analysis and insight into UK and European football primarily from his own ratings that he compiles on a number of leagues.
Mark Stinchcombe: Football/tennis/darts trader, odds compiler, algorithm writer and data analyst with a degree in Computer Games Programming. Outside of betting, interests include playing football for my local side and following Liverpool FC around the country. Mark also contributed to the Fans Panel which is, of course, worth a read.
John Crowley: John Crowley is a sports analayst for Matchbook where he makes sure there is a competitive array of markets on site and seeing potential areas where Matchbook can improve. As such he’s always looking for an interesting angle on betting and doesn’t take a standard line when hunting for value either.
#1 Are there are any teams that underperformed last year that might turn it around in 18/19 and any that overperformed that might do the opposite?
Mike Holden: Sean Dyche has worked wonders with Burnley but they’ve surely hit a glass ceiling and the only way for them is down. They squeezed every last drop out of themselves last season, yet finished nine points behind Arsenal, 16 behind Chelsea and 21 behind Liverpool. So there simply isn’t another level to go to and the campaign could be a long, hard slog once that reality dawns. The Europa League will be a lovely distraction but we’ve seen it many times before, the problems that can arise for English teams playing regular Thursday night football.
Mark Stinchcombe: Based on expected points, Crystal Palace and Southampton vastly underachieved and should be looking to perform better than last season. Crystal Palace suffered from bad finishing, mainly down to Benteke, and Southampton conceded far more goals than they should have. Mark Hughes didn’t join the Saints until March, so there should be an upturn in results this season. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Man Utd and Burnley hugely overachieved, both down to their goalkeepers. David de Gea and Nick Pope enjoyed phenomenal seasons but don’t expect them both to be able to continue to outperform the data for another season.
George Elek: Burnley are the obvious one here who you would expect to drop off a bit from their performance last season. Sean Dyche’s team pose problems to those like me who like to follow shot data trends, as they consistently get better results than the numbers tell us they should. Another season like last term, especially with some teams chasing the big six looking stronger, must be unlikely. Palace could be another one to keep an eye on. They were never as bad as it looked when they were bottom early on, while Hodgson improved them and you’d expect Benteke to get back into goal scoring form.
Mark O’Haire: Manchester United vastly overperformed to finish as Manchester City’s nearest rivals. Performance data suggested the Red Devils were only the sixth best side in the division with Jose Mourinho’s charges shipping 15 goals fewer than the opportunities they allowed their opposition, according to Expected Goals. Mourinho’s disposition is becoming increasingly erratic and it wouldn’t be a great surprise if United blew up before the end of the season, especially with neighbours City and Liverpool expected to fill the top two positions. On the other end of the table Huddersfield fought valiantly to defy pre-season predictions for an immediate return to the Championship but ‘Second Season Syndrome’ could hurt the Terriers in what appears to be a more competitive division than 12 months ago. David Wagner’s troops won just three games after Christmas and their miniscule budget and skinny squad might struggle to replicate last season’s efforts this time around.
John Crowley: Chelsea underperformed last season, although you have to be wary that the interest of the owner appears to be waning and this could have an impact on the quality of the squad longer term. One team I have my eye on, however, is Southampton, who finished with a goal difference of -19 last season and they feel like a striker away from being competitive for a top half finish. They’ve also strengthened at the back with the signing of centre back Jannik Vestergaard from Borussia Monchengladbach.
Mike Holden: Crystal Palace had a disastrous start last term and then suffered an horrendous injury crisis just after Christmas, yet they somehow finished 11th. I’m not sure they can go much higher but they can certainly enjoy the ride a bit more this time. I’m sure a season without ever contemplating the possibility of relegation would be more than welcome at Selhurst Park.
#2 Which team(s) do you think present the most value when they are short-priced favourites and/or those that tend to perform well in the betting as big underdogs?
John Crowley: Man City tend to do well when strongly odds on, as is the case for strong attacking teams in the Premier League with Liverpool another good example of this. I would add, though, that I would bet sides like them and Liverpool on the AH rather than on the 1X2 markets. In terms of good underdogs you can get some good prices on Watford at home. They are a side that seem to relish home games against the big sides and can represent great value.
Mark O’Haire: Manchester City and Liverpool were the most consistent teams to back when short-priced favourites – collectively the pair won 33 of their combined 40 games against bottom-half dwellers, losing once. Burnley returned a quite stunning +£22.47 profit from £1 level stakes across the whole campaign, bolstered by winning seven away trips. However, the Clarets only won once at teams that finished above them in the standings and so Newcastle deserve a mention for toppling three Big Six sides despite their largely uninspiring campaign.
George Elek: This is a hard one to answer without knowing the match in question. I’m not sure any team consistently represents value when a certain in a price bracket, but Liverpool have been a good one to take on against teams happy to sit and soak. That may now change with the additions they have made in midfield.
Mike Holden: It’s not about teams for me, it’s more about managers. And I think Javi Gracia is capable of taking some big scalps with Watford this season based on his past exploits in La Liga. He made life uncomfortable for Barcelona and Real Madrid repeatedly, when managing a fairly mediocre Malaga side (and even Osasuna before that). The Hornets could be a solid Asian handicap proposition against the top six and good for the unders because the 1-0 correct score route is the way they’re most likely to go about it.
Mark Stinchcombe: By far and away the best team to bet as an underdog is Burnley. Their playing style does not lend itself to strong performance metrics, the modern method for pricing up football matches, but Sean Dyche’s methods reap results. Their return on investment on all matches last season yielded 50%, and while it will be near on impossible to maintain, they should still be profitable, particularly as underdogs. The next best was actually Man City with a yield of 18% ROI. Man City regularly beat the handicap line last season, and they won by two goals or more 22 times.
Mike Holden: In terms of reliable jollies, I think Southampton should win more of their routine fixtures under Mark Hughes. The Saints used to be a stick-on against the also-rans at St Mary’s and the Welshman has made a career out of consistently beating lesser teams, especially throughout his time at Stoke. The Potters won 24 out of 40 home games against opponents that finished below them while he was in charge. That’s basically a 4/6 shot, which is pretty solid.
#3 How do you approach betting on recently promoted teams and how do you rate the chances of this year’s crop?
Mike Holden: I think Wolves and Fulham are stronger than your average promoted sides, not just in terms of the standards they set in the Championship but because of the brand of football they played and the technical quality they displayed at that level. They don’t really have to do anything different, they are ready-made Premier League teams and they appear to have strengthened well on top of that.
John Crowley: Wolves and Fulham should be ok, and it’s notable that Fulham have been very active in transfer window. I do think that Cardiff will struggle, however, and they are +50 on the handicap market with City on scratch, so they are clearly favoured by the markets as the team to come last and their odds in the outright reflect that too. I think it may be a long season for them.
George Elek: As a keen follower of the EFL I do feel like I have something of an edge on these promoted teams, and never more so than this season. Wolves look ready to have a good crack at getting into the top 10, while I’m confident that Fulham will be absolutely fine and they should not be one of the favourites for the drop. It’s hard to know what to make of Cardiff, who lack the quality of the other teams but were mightily effective last season. It wouldn’t surprise me hugely if all three stayed up again, but Cardiff look the most in danger.
Mark Stinchcombe: Wolves and Fulham should enjoy successful seasons in my opinion. Wolves have invested wisely over the last few years, and their performances and results last season were very impressive. Fulham’s playing style is both aesthetically pleasing and efficient, hence the low odds Slavisa Jokanovic’s team have gone off at over the last 18 months. Both can challenge for the top 10. Cardiff are expected to finish bottom, but Neil Warnock has a side who are totally behind him and his methods could be good enough to avoid the drop.
Mark O’Haire: Slowly but surely the huge financial injection into the Premier League has filtered its way down to the Football League and the so the promoted clubs are now arriving at the top-flight well-equipped to compete. Last term was only the third occasion in Premier League history that all the newcomers survived and Wolves and Fulham look more than capable of consolidating in mid-table. Cardiff’s rigid game plan, lack of invention or standout stars could prove their undoing but more often than not, a solid game-plan and well-organised outfits boast enough nous to eke out necessary results. Burnley and Huddersfield are real torchbearers for the Bluebirds and so I wouldn’t be rushing to oppose any of the upcoming trio this term.
Mike Holden: Cardiff are more of a traditional promoted side and probably come up shorter than most in terms of baseline ability. I’m expecting them to struggle but I don’t think games against them will be much fun for the opposition either. I like it when newly-promoted sides start with an away game because it takes the edge off expectations and they usually come out all guns blazing in their next game at home. The Bluebirds toppled Man City at 8/1 on the second weekend five years ago and I fancy them to beat Newcastle this time around too.
#4 Where can we look to beat the market and find value?
John Crowley: Betting big early. if you are seeing something that looks like good value early then back yourself, as the market will soon correct itself and if you are seeing the right things it will work out longer term. People who move prices are people who are making money most of the time, so get in before the value is gone.
Mark O’Haire: Finding an edge in the Premier League can be incredibly difficult. The layers inevitably will have more (if not the same) information available so finding clear and obvious opportunities can be mighty hard. As well as keeping a firm eye on the major performance data metrics and team news, I pay particular attention to formations and systems, as well as comments from management, in order to try and gain a firm understanding on their approach and game-plan. Match markets are so heavily weighted towards Expected Goals and performance, I’m almost going old school now by trusting my own instinct and interpretation over my own ratings and bookmakers odds.
George Elek: You’ve just always got to ask what your edge is on the market. If you’re betting on the early tissue it’s just you against the compiler so beating the price is the aim. Team news is the obvious one to get you some value late on, but generally it would be pretty hard to win long-term at kick-off prices, so I’d generally advise getting your bets on early.
Mark Stinchcombe: The best way to find value is to be adaptable. One method that worked last season has no guarantees it will work this season, and it’s about being open minded and evolving with the markets rather than standing still. At the end of the day a football match consists of 22+ humans competing against each other where often the true result of the game does not come to fruition. By adopting a combination of the suggested methods, you should find value, and only then should you bet.
Mike Holden: I think each individual punter has to find and develop his or her own path. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach because if everybody was doing the same thing, that wouldn’t be an edge. From experience, especially now I’ve got two young children, I think it’s better to do your research early because there’s no joy in constantly playing catch-up and forever hearing other people’s opinions first. Ultimately, whatever you do, you want to make the nitty-gritty of it – the actual research process – as enjoyable as possible.
#5 Do you bet on Asian Handicaps and if so why do you feel they are a good betting market?
Mark O’Haire: Absolutely, it’s my market of choice. For me, Asian Handicaps just give punters greater insurance and often more value too. For example, you can profit (or get your stake returned) even if your selection loses, depending on the handicap. It lowers your risk and makes your money go further.
John Crowley: Yes I do bet on the Asian Handicap market, but it wouldn’t be main market I use. It has some significant advantages depending on your risk tolerance levels. Obviously, with odds being closer to evens, it tends to be better for bankroll management as you are very unlikely to endure huge periods of variance.
Mike Holden: Yes. I like betting on them when I feel like I have a particular league by the short and curlies, but they unsettle me when I’m worried about gaps in my knowledge. The Asian lines are shaped by the shrewdest operations out there and there’s no hiding place with a straight 50-50 bet, so you have to be really clued-up and on top of your game in order to make them pay. You can do a lot of damage surprisingly quickly when you’ve got a few too many blind spots.
Mark Stinchcombe: Yes, for serious bettors Asian Handicaps are a must. They offer more flexibility than the 1X2 market, where you eliminate three options to two, and because they are the most popular market with big bettors, the liquidity is huge, so it is the best market to ensure getting the best value.
George Elek: Yes, anyone who bets on the draw no bet market should really bet looking at the Asian Handicap instead as the margin is smaller so you may get a bigger price. If you’re a handicap bettor, an understanding of how the Asian market works is essential.
#6 What data do you rely on, how do you use it and where can people start to do their own research?
Mark O’Haire: I produce my own ratings based on the data I have available. Expected Goals (xG) is the obvious stat of choice and I can take that further by adjusting xG to take into account efforts from open play only, which I’m a bit admirer of. Similarly, raw shots in the box data can be useful and basic shots or shots on-target numbers are helpful in plotting teams strengths (or not). FiveThirtyEight and Understat are probably your best sources for xG data.
Mike Holden: I try not to get too fixated by expected goals. It’s a helpful reference tool to get a feel for how a team has been performing relative to recent results but no two models are the same and making a generic xG model your primary tool is unlikely to give you any sort of discernible edge. The big syndicates are using models way more advanced than anything available publicly, so if you think you’ve found an angle due to some quirk you’ve spotted on a random website, you might just be looking at an inadequate model.
John Crowley: I think XG is very important, and it’s great for betting on totals or for taking an opinion on either the Asian Handicap or the 1X2 markets. A good example of how it can make trends more clear is Liverpool, who saw their XG conceded go from 1.26 to 0.67 after signing Virgil Van Dyke last season. That’s obviously a very small sample size but it’s an incredible stat and BTTS (NO) landed 10 times out of 16 in Liverpool games in PL post signing.
George Elek: For Premier League betting I rely heavily on shot data, specifically xG. Long-term trends rather than game-by-game has to be the approach and there are some great tools that you can use. Michael Caley is a must follow on twitter, as is Ben Mayhew for the EFL. The Infogol app gives live xG figures, and there are plenty more. The data does vary though, so make sure you trust your resources!
Mark Stinchcombe: In no particular order, I rely on my own ability to rate sides, expected goals data and closing prices. My first port of call will be to compare the markets prices to how I rate the sides, then if I believe I have an edge, back it up using performance data. Finally we can get an idea if the current odds are out of line with previous matches by checking the closing prices, generally viewed as the true price of a match.
Mike Holden: The way I see it, shot data and xG models are the new league tables and form guides. We’ve simply gone from results-driven data to performance-driven data and that’s progress. But you never used to bet a team just because they were fourth in the table, and nor should you do likewise now. My advice is to find a pattern – a way of researching that excites you – and stick to it, whether that’s working with numbers in Excel sheets or visualising shot maps. Don’t change your process from one week to the next. Be consistent in whatever you do.
#7 What are the more subtle factors you look at before placing your bet?
Mark O’Haire: Team news, schedule and style/approach all have key elements depending on the time of the season and match you’re looking at. Understanding the motivation of each side is also important.
John Crowley: The impact of the Europa League on teams who are playing in it is a big factor, and I will be most certainly opposing Burnley this season if they qualify as it will serve as big distraction and give them a lot of travel and extra games they aren’t used to. Aside from this a change in coach during the season can yield a significant change in XG, for example if you bring in an Allardyce style manager. And this can make a real difference to the potential in totals bets.
George Elek: Team news is crucial, especially in less high-profile games when the market may not really react. Coaching styles for new managers, especially with goal lines, is another important line, while home/away form is of course important but, again, you’d want to look more at the numbers behind the form rather than the bare results.
Mike Holden: Manager profiling is my niche. I’m big on Myers-Briggs typology and understanding a manager’s particular strengths and weaknesses. I’ve been thinking along these lines for many years now, so I’d say I have a good sense for when a particular manager is handling the media well, communicating his ideas properly, or when he is showing signs of strain. Sometimes, my perceptions can even be triggered by tiny body language cues on television in response to a particular question. A manager being under pressure doesn’t determine whether a team will lose their next game but how he reacts to that pressure can be a pretty big clue. We don’t know what goes on behind the scenes at any club but you can rest assured that players will pick up on bad vibes in their daily routines if a manager is struggling to hold it together.
Mark Stinchcombe: It’s not a big thing for me. At the end of the day we are betting as if the match is played 100+ times, whereas in reality we only actually see one iteration. The more subtle factors probably will only account for 1% of my analysis, and even then will rarely figure too much in my expectations.
#8 What’s the best advice you can give to someone looking to win more from betting on the Premier League?
Mark Stinchcombe: Trust in your own instinct. As already mentioned, a football match is 22+ humans not robots. Anything can happen so be open minded and not follow the crowd. Often opposing the money can be shrewd because frequently selections can be overbet once the public follows the big money.
Mike Holden: Be consistent. Don’t chop and change your methods from one week to the next. Stick to a few websites you trust to gather information and develop a weekly routine that you stick to religiously – even if it’s only a few hours a week. Try to do the bulk of your research early, ideally within 24 hours of the final whistle, because if you don’t make your mind up about results and performances quickly, others will do it for you. Once you start thinking like the crowd, you might be taking away any edge you had.
George Elek: Before every bet ask yourself if you are getting value, and why you have an edge. Get out of the idea of merely betting on who you think will win as in any match there should be a price where you back all outcomes.
John Crowley: The Premier League is obviously the best known league in world so it is hard to win big and my biggest piece of advice would be to use the exchange for betting to make the most of every edge you can get. The tighter margins are of importance in all betting but especially where edges a lot smaller such as Premier League football.
#9 What markets are the most profitable to focus on when it comes to the Premier League?
Mark O’Haire: Depending who you’re talking to, there’s value angles and systems to be found across all the major markets. Personally, my best results arrive from Asian Handicap markets and Asian Goals markets, again that’s purely down to the extra value and insurance extracted from such markets.
Mike Holden: It’s horses for courses. And having a knack for knowing which markets to play, and when, is all part of the successful punters’ skill set. It’s important to ask yourself searching questions about why you fancy a particular bet if you want to understand which market is the best to play. Take the Watford example I mentioned earlier. My rationale for backing them as underdogs is Javi Gracia and his methods for frustrating superior opposition and keeping clean sheets. With that in mind, an Asian handicap bet might be my main play but it would be negligent of me not to back the 1-0 correct score at a big price.
Mark Stinchcombe: This is quite subjective and depends on your betting style. One thing you should ensure to do is remain consistent. Are you someone who likes to oppose a side by backing the opposition on the Asian Handicap or backing them in the match odds? The same can be said for goals, do you prefer backing under 2.5 goals or 0-0 and 1-0? Retain your strategy, don’t be put off by short-term results and long-term you will be profitable.
John Crowley: The first half 1X2 market has always been one I’ve liked, as a lot of time you can find value in laying strongly fancied teams who tend to start slowly. A good examples of this would be Man United in recent times who rarely go flying out of the traps but have an ability to grind out the results.
George Elek: Again, it’s hard to answer this definitively! The answer is wherever the value lies. A lot of people think goalscorer betting is a mug’s game, but on the exchanges you can get some cracking prices as team news breaks. It all depends on the match and the markets!
#10 Is there a team you’re looking to oppose this season?
Mark O’Haire: Tottenham could be vulnerable throughout August due to the exploits of their best players at the World Cup. Many are only just returning from holiday and are unlikely to be able to seamlessly slot into the first XI. Spurs are also moving stadiums early in the campaign and the upheaval could easily have a detrimental effect on their early results so I’ll be looking to oppose them when appropriate.
Mike Holden: I imagine I’ll be repeatedly opposing Manchester United away from home between now and Christmas. It looks like we’re seeing another Jose Mourinho demise but most teams lack the belief to go to Old Trafford and take anything more than a point, which you’ll only share with 3,000 fans in any case. At home, there’s a full stadium to delight and a greater obligation to attack – and there’s still no more satisfying scalp than beating Manchester United at home.
Mark Stinchcombe: As already mentioned, Man Utd and Burnley. Not only because of the data, but there are murmurings of discontent around Old Trafford particularly because of Jose Mourinho’s negative interviews and Burnley potentially have the Europa League to deal with which is never ideal playing Thursday – Sunday regularly. However, like every bet, it all comes down to price in-order to extract the best value.
Mark O’Haire: Longer-term, I fear Newcastle could be in for a sticky season. It’s been another unadventurous summer in the transfer window and I can imagine Rafa Benitez is growing increasingly frustrated with a lack of progress. I don’t think it would be a huge surprise to see the Spaniard walk away, or be courted by a high-profile European rival. Without Benitez, the Toon could easily tumble into the bottom-three.
John Crowley: For me it is probably Leicester. They have lost Mahrez and they are potentially going to lose Schmeichel and Maguire as well while Vardy is not getting any younger. I think there’s going to be a lot of value betting against them in the first half of season and any time they are odds on at home, then they will definitely be a consideration for a lay bet. Backing the bigger teams on the Asian Handicap market against them also looks a potentially good strategy and United at 1.51 on the 1×2 on opening day looks value.
George Elek: I had my fingers burnt opposing Man Utd in games vs the other top five last season, but will likely be following that strategy again. If the matches follow the same patterns as last year, I can’t see Mourinho’s strategy bearing fruit again.
#11 Are you wary of getting involved in the PL markets early, especially in a World Cup year?
Mark O’Haire: You always need at least six games at the very least before reading anything into early results or performance data. There is an international break in early September and that would be the time to assess things from the opening few weeks of 2018/19. I’m always a little wary at the start of a season. As Mike mentioned earlier, Crystal Palace were never as bad as their early results suggested 12 months ago and there might be similar stories emerging this time around. A good habit is to half your stakes in the opening and closing four weeks of a season just to give you a little extra cover if things go wrong.
Mike Holden: Not particularly. It was strange tournament with no shortage of Premier League involvement at the business end but I’m not sure many of those players carried too much pressure on their shoulders. If anything, it was a liberating tournament for the likes of England and Belgium, and when you consider what a procession the title race was last season, I’m not convinced that fatigue will be much of a factor. If so, it might be later in the season that the effects take hold rather than early on.
Mark Stinchcombe: For me the World Cup has very little bearing on the Premier League. I trust the players involved in Russia are 100% fit if they are starting for their club side. I don’t really feel too much of a sample size is needed on the majority sides with last seasons data available. Other than Chelsea and Arsenal with new managers, and the promoted clubs, I think most sides should be similar to what we have seen over the last twelve months or more.
John Crowley: Tricky question that one, as obviously post World Cup it might be easier to find an edge for a larger wager, but what we will see is a lot of players not properly fit as they are only just back from holidays. Lesser teams who have had a full pre-season might represent great value against a team of internationals who have only been back in training for 10 days.
George Elek: To an extent, the small sample size can work in the punters’ favour. I’m sure that the market will catch up with Fulham, so it’s time for me to profit from that until they do. Of course there are some unknowns and some games will be watching briefs in the opening weeks, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be opportunities to exploit.
#12 And finally…who do you think wins the Premier League?
Mike Holden: Manchester City. It won’t be anything like as straightforward as last season but 19 points is a hell of a gap for anyone to close. Liverpool are looking like the most likely challengers and they have to bridge a deficit of 25 points on Pep Guardiola’s men. Let’s say the Reds are 13 points better this time around, are City really going to meet them halfway and be 13 points worse? I can’t see it myself.
Mark Stinchcombe: Man City. They won the league by 19 points last season (and the closest side was an overachieving Man Utd), and despite a drop off in motivation/increased desire for European success, a 19 point gap is difficult to overturn when they have not been weakened/rivals significantly strengthened.
Mark O’Haire: Having taken top honours by 19 points, it’s difficult to see Manchester City being overhauled. Liverpool will be the Citizens’ closest challengers and an impressive transfer window should push the Reds to within touching distance but ultimately Pep Guardiola’s men will come out on top.
George Elek: I’m looking forward to seeing Sarri’s Chelsea and this new-look Liverpool, but Manchester City are rightly odds-on and must be the most likely winners again.
John Crowley: I may be the only one but I think Liverpool. I love the business they have done in the transfer window with the first half-decent goalkeeper since Reina, and potentially the best since the club’s glory days. Shaqiri is also a steal for the price they paid. Man City had a lot of players who played deep into the World Cup so they may be tired as a result and they are desperate to win a Champions League title so it’s possible they may focus there. Outside of Liverpool and City the rest are playing for third place though.
While you’re here…
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