Punters of all persuasions are always looking for an ‘edge’ and ways in which they can maximise the chances of their wagers being successful, and this season we will be running a series looking at the predictability of English football’s top five divisions.
For the Premier League, we will be taking an in-depth look at how predictable the outcome of matches is, and if punters can gain an edge by religiously backing the favourites week in, week out. For the Championship down to the National League, we have collated data in a handy Excel spreadsheet to make the job of analysing predictability that bit easier.
So without further ado, let’s begin our examination of English football’s most predictable divisions.
The opening weekend of any division has a habit of throwing up ‘odd’ results, and that is exactly what we got straight off the bat when Hull City, they of 13 fit first team players, a caretaker manager and a chairman who has admitted he wants nothing to do with the club, overcame reigning champions Leicester City 2-1. It was as unexpected as it gets, and is indicative of the job facing Claudio Ranieri this term.
Take that result out of the equation, however, and you can make a case that Saturday’s results were wholly expected. The matches between Burnley-Swansea, Crystal Palace-West Brom and Middlesbrough-Stoke had the feel of ‘50/50’ encounters, while Southampton – usually expected to beat Watford at home – have a new manager and some new faces to bed in, so perhaps a draw was to be expected. Man City’s win over Sunderland was predictable even if its closeness wasn’t, and Everton took a point from Spurs and in the process looked like the free-flowing Toffees of a couple of seasons ago. So far, so anticipated.
On Sunday Jose Mourinho marked his first league outing as Manchester United boss with a 3-1 win at Bournemouth, while Arsenal and Liverpool served up a seven-goal thriller in which the Merseysiders prevailed 4-3. This latter result may have seemed unpredictable on the face of it – the bookmakers had Arsenal pegged as favourites, anyway, but anybody who waited for the teamsheets to be announced will have seen a Gunners side lacking familiarity in defensive areas and wagered on Liverpool accordingly. Indeed, Arsenal lengthened from 6/5 to 19/10 in the space of 30 minutes prior to kick off!
We will produce a spreadsheet for the Premier League when the data set grows, but for now we can suggest that it is a case of the teams feeling each other out, so betting caution is still advised at this early stage.
We have published the first of our spreadsheets for the Championship now that it is two weeks old, and this has been reproduced below:
So what does it show? Up and down the vertical axis we have the home side listed, and along the horizontal we have the away team. The coloured blocks indicate the ‘expectedness’, if that’s a word, of the final result according to the bookmakers’ odds. A green block indicates the fixture ended in an expected result, a red that a ‘shock’ occurred, and yellow represents a draw.
At this point, The Championship’s ratio is shaping up as follows:
- Expected Results – 58%
- Unexpected Results – 25%
- Draws – 17%
So far in 2016/17, it is League One that looks the most schizophrenic as far as the predictability of its results are concerned:
It’s numbers are shaping up as follows:
- Expected Results – 38%
- Unexpected Results – 24%
- Draws – 38%
The early signs suggest that if you enjoy a ‘sure bet’, or want to maximise your chances of winning, then backing League Two teams in your singles, doubles and accas is perhaps not the way to go:
- Expected Results – 29%
- Unexpected Results – 33%
- Draws – 38%
The National League Premier has witnessed three gameweeks already, and the reason we have added it to our study is that we wanted to see how a lack of money – and thus a greater sense of financial proximity between the clubs involved – would impact upon the predictability of results. So far, we have been surprised by what we have found:
- Expected Results – 56%
- Unexpected Results – 22%
- Draws – 22%
Clearly, the first thing we need to note is that our data set is so small, what with the season being so young, that there is ample opportunity for anomalies and such to disrupt our numbers.
That said, a pretty clear pattern is emerging already: The Championship and National League are currently the better options for punters who prefer backing teams to win outright, while Leagues One and Two provide bettors with opportunities for long-priced outsiders to win, or even value in draw betting. League Two in particular is one to keep an eye on given its lack of predictability thus far.