Premier League ante post 2017/18
Just a couple of thoughts on each of the UK leagues for the new season and some of my ante post bets....
- Chelsea to be top London club (vs Tot, Ars, Wat, Whu & Pal) Evens, (Bet 365, Sky Bet)
- Burnley to be relegated 6/5 (Ladbrokes)
- Lukaku to be top goalscorer 4/1 EW (4 places, 1/4 odds) (William Hill, Ladbrokes, Coral).
- Burnley to be bottom at Xmas 7/1 (Bet 365) / Stoke to be bottom at Xmas 20/1 (Betfred)
- Mark Hughes to be first manager to leave post 4/1 (Paddypower)
General thoughts on the division
Chelsea won the title last season with a seven-point cushion over runners-up Tottenham.
Man City, who had been 13/5 ante post favourites, endured a miserable season finishing third and 15 points off the champions.
Man City head the betting at 19/10 this time, with Chelsea 7/2.
While Chelsea have spent £129m recruiting Morata (Real Madrid), Bakayoko (Monaco) and Rudiger (Roma), amongst others, and Man City have splashed £211.5m on Mendy (Monaco), Walker (Spurs), Bernado Silva (Monaco), Moraes (Benfica), Danilo (Real Madrid) and Luiz (Vasco de Gama), Spurs have stood still and signed no one at the time of writing.
Factoring in Spurs have lost influential right-back Kyle Walker, too, Mauricio Pochettino will have have to enjoy an outstanding season to replicate last year's placing, especially since they are playing their home games at Wembley due to their stadium redevelopment and could potentially be expected to drop a greater number of points at home this term.
This has to be a worry for a team who compensated for their performances on the road (record of W9 D6 L4) with a rock solid record at White Hart Lane (W17 D2 L0) last season.
Arsenal finished 18 points off the pace in fifth last season and although the £43m signing of Lyon's Lacazette is a welcome addition to their frontline, it was the 44 goals Arsenal conceded last season which cost them ground.
The excellent scatter graphics Ben Mayhew provides on his Experimental 3-6-1 blog suggest as much - defensively the Gunners performed to a similar level to Everton and Southampton and perhaps it will take more than the free transfer signing of Kolasinac from Schalke to suddenly sure up their defence enough for them to be considered genuine title contenders this year.
The doubts surrounding the future of the talismanic Sanchez is also an unwanted attacking distraction for Arsene Wenger's men, clouding their preparations.
Liverpool have the potential to make some headway from fourth spot this season, probably at the expense of Spurs, if they manage to keep hold of Coutinho, and the potential arrival of Van Dijk from Southampton would be a further boost. However, with those doubts over Coutinho's future, they are unappealing as betting propositions - even on the handicap in receipt of +9 pts.
Man Utd fans are hoping that the arrival of Lukaku can help them improve their attacking efficiency - United were strong at the back last season and good at restricting the opposition's chances, though, going forward, they were only the eighth highest scorers in the division and those Experimental 3-6-1 stats suggest they averaged almost 11 chances before scoring - considerably higher than Chelsea, who averaged under seven, and Arsenal, Man City and Spurs, all of whom averaged under eight.
All things considered, there are several views I want to take in the Premier League this season;
Top London Club
I think Chelsea will outperform Spurs again and also fend off Arsenal. That said, I am wary of the threat the two Manchester sides pose this season.
I think I would rather take both Manchester sides, and Liverpool, out of the equation completely and back Chelsea to be top London club at evens (Bet 365, Sky Bet), rather than taking 7/2 for them in the outright title market against the northern clubs.
Getting a bet down to exploit the potential for improvement at Man Utd is rather more difficult as they have already been backed into 7/2 with the big firms to win the title, so it thus follows they are odds on for a top four finish and receive only +2 and +3 pts on the handicap (paltry when you consider Chelsea receive +3 in places, with Man City off scratch).
I wouldn't be confident enough in Man Utd to get the better of their city neighbours and win the 'top north west club' market, in which Liverpool also provide a threat, though if Man Utd do live up to the hype this season, considering they already have a strong defence - typical of a Mourinho side - it is likely to be due to one man - Romelu Lukaku.
United drew 10 of their home games last season, which is just far too much for a side with title aspirations, but Lukaku, scorer of 25 goals for seventh-placed Everton last season, could thrive on the level of service he'll likely receive at Old Trafford (only Man City, Spurs and Liverpool registered a higher number of shots on goal than Man Utd last season) and, even allowing for the possibility of squad rotation due to his side's involvement in the Champions League, you'd be disappointed if he couldn't give his supporters a good run for their money at 4/1, especially since the each-way terms in this market are 1/4 odds on four places.
Harry Kane is bidding to finish top scorer for the third season in succession but if his goal output at home is hindered by the temporary switch to Wembley, he could be beatable in this market.
Aguero is no longer a certain starter for Man City, while Jesus needs to prove himself over the course of a full season for a manager who likes to rotate.
The 4/1 for Lukaku looks fair to me and if he gets on penalties, with Rooney and Ibrahimovic no longer around, you'd be disappointed if he didn't finish in the top four and at least land a place return.
In terms of the relegation market, although it isn't the most imaginative of picks, I've gone with Burnley at 6/5.
The Clarets finished 16th last season, six points clear of the drop zone, but there were some bad sides in the division last year and two of the newly promoted sides - Brighton and Newcastle - have realistic chances of avoiding the trap door.
Burnley struggled to create chances last season - only relegated Sunderland and Middlesbrough created fewer - and they struggled to prevent teams from creating chances at the other end - only Sunderland's defence faced more shots than them per match.
The fact Burnley faced just over 12 shots per goal conceded suggested they were rather resilient, but if injury were to strike to England international 'keeper Tom Heaton (or indeed any of their other key defensive figures) they could find themselves in deep trouble as it wouldn't take much for their defence to capitulate, given the number of chances they are allowing the opposition.
The loss of fellow England international centre half Michael Keane to Everton is unlikely to aid their cause, either, while Sean Dyche's side have a horrendous run of fixtures away from home in the early part of the season which is going to place a strong emphasis on them picking up maximum points in their home games.
After travelling to Stamford Bridge to face champions Chelsea on the opening Saturday of the season, Burnley's next four away fixtures are Spurs, Liverpool, Everton (big summer spenders) and Man City - a tougher start you could not wish for.
Stoke also have a horrendous run to start the season - in their home fixtures they host Arsenal, Man Utd, Chelsea and Southampton and, in between, travel to Everton and Man City before the end of October.
For that reason, in the 'bottom at Xmas' market, I've also thrown a few darts at both Burnley at 7/1 (Bet 365) and Stoke at 20/1 (Betfred), albeit to very small stakes!
Stoke have lost their best player - Marko Arnautovic - to West Ham, but don't seem to have adequately replaced him - with no notable attacking arrivals coming the other way.
The 36-year-old Peter Crouch was their top scorer with a meagre seven goals last season and again they look like they could struggle for goals.
The Experimental 3-6-1 attacking efficiency plots had Stoke performing little better than the relegated teams last year and it was only their strong defence which prevented them finishing lower.
If a losing mentality sets in after that tricky start, however, it isn't beyond the realms of possibility The Potters could be drawn into a relegation dog fight.
While Burnley, as a club, are probably bracing themselves for a relegation battle, providing Sean Dyche with some form of a buffer in the sack race, likewise newly promoted Wagner at Huddersfield and Hughton at Brighton, Stoke, who have not finished outside of ninth to 14th since their promotion to the top tier in 2008, are probably more likely to pull the trigger on Mark Hughes if they suffer a slow start and he's appealing at 4/1 (Paddypower) in the 'first manager to leave post' market.