After three months of anticipation and fraught betting on the Icelandic Second Division, the Premier League returns this weekend and we couldn’t be any more excited. After a summer of frenzied transfer activity all 20 teams are in place and raring to go. But as ever, while some will prosper more will undoubtedly fail to achieve their pre-season ambitions, and so the journey to success for punters is, as ever, littered with obstacles.
However, here are some wagers that, on the face of it, look excellent value:
Premier League Winner
When we look at the Premier League Winner market we have to take the top six teams from last season and investigate who is stronger than they were at this stage 12 months ago, and who simply isn’t. Quite simply, it is unlikely that anybody will follow in Leicester City’s footsteps and take the EPL by storm in 2017/18.
Are defending champions Chelsea stronger? They’ve brought in an extra defender in Antonio Rudiger, and introduced the athletic Tiemoue Bakayoko in midfield at the expense of Nemanja Matic. So far, so good.
But the loss of Diego Costa, love him or hate him, could be pivotal. The Spaniard was a consistent goalscorer for the Blues in their title-winning campaign, and his sheer presence up front ensured opposition defences up and down the land would have a headache-laden 90 minutes.
We don’t know if his replacement, Alvaro Morata, will take to English football – there’s risk attached to the transfer, and the jury is still out on Michy Batshuayi for the simple reason that he hasn’t had enough game time so far.
So have Chelsea progressed, or regressed, in the past 12 months? You’d have to argue with the latter, and with the added pressure on the squad of Champions League football they have to be given the swerve in this betting market.
Of the other contenders, clearly Manchester City have been the most dynamic in the transfer window. They’ve brought in not one but three quality full backs, a goalkeeper to bolster what has been their Achilles heel for so long, and the addition of Bernardo Silva brings another option in attack for breaking down stubborn resistance.
The Citizens have, by weight of sheer spending power, ‘won’ the transfer window, and at 19/10 they must be backed to win the Premier League title this season.
Those with a penchant for statistical analysis refer to the term ‘regression’ a lot, which, in broad terms, surmises that there will be a return to normal levels of a specific phenomenon that has been out of the ordinary previously.
A hypothesis that can be made is that Burnley’s home form will regress from the extraordinary standards they set last season – W10 D3 L6 is outstanding for a side of their means. Assuming that tails off this term, the Clarets – who only evaded relegation by six points – are in big trouble.
The loss of Michael Keane will not help matters, and so the 13/10 available on Burnley to be relegated looks to be outstanding value.
There’s no value in taking Huddersfield at odds-on, while nobody is quite sure what to expect from Newcastle. Maybe there’s value in the 13/8 available on Brighton to hit the dust; the Seagulls have never sampled Premier League life before, and they look short of goals unless reinforcements are brought in.
Here’s that term regression again. With Tottenham playing their home games at Wembley this term, you would imagine that their standards will slip a little at a ground that wasn’t particularly kind to them in last season’s Champions League.
Harry Kane won the Golden Boot last season thanks largely to a late glut of goals, and so there’s enough evidence to suggest some kind of regression will be experienced this season.
Romelu Lukaku is net favourite, but Jose Mourinho’s penchant for playing defensively against high quality opposition suggests the Belgian might not always get the service he craves. We’re happy enough to give him a fade.
With Sergio Aguero likely to share game time with Gabriel Jesus, punters really are in a pickle in this market. But with most sportsbooks offering four places, there is enough value in Sadio Mane ad Jamie Vardy (both 40/1).
Jurgen Klopp’s decision to play without a recognised frontman offers up opportunities for the likes of Mane to break through the middle when the mood takes them. The Senegal international missed a decent chunk of last season through injury and African Cup of Nations duty, so if he can stay fit this term there is no reason why he can’t significantly improve on his tally of 13 from 2016/17.
Vardy, meanwhile, was the toast of the town after guiding Leicester to the unlikeliest of title reigns, and while he regressed last term that was partly due to off-the-field problems with former manager Claudio Ranieri. The fact he notched 10 in 18 after the Italian had left the hot seat speaks volumes.