Hello there and welcome back. I have not blogged for a while as there has been no betting activity on my part, but mainly because I have been busy being caught up in the Olympic spirit. I watched the majority of the events and loved every second of it, but that being said I am now pleased it is over and normal service can resume. It was like a nice holiday, but you're always pleased to go back home. The post-appocolympics has left the nation riding on a crest of optimism, and football sadly seems to be the thing which is suffering in a number of ways. The debate on 'Olympians vs footballers' is utterly ridiculous, but we will soon see how the current darlings of the nation fare with cameras constantly shoved in their faces or up their skirts. I won't go on about it, we might be here all night. The more pressing issue is the lack of betting activity in the exchanges and bookies due to the Olympic and Euros distractions. I have no doubt that the love of football will resume once the big boys get going again this weekend, but for now it is a bit of a pain. Over a million has been matched on Betfair's PL winner market, but other markets have considerably less, particularly in markets such as PL relegation, where only £57,000 has been matched. The pointless markets in Scotland, as well as the odds on favourites of PSG, Juventus, Bayern and Real Madrid have not helped rouse excitement.
So anyway, this week I shall be doing a number of betting previews of the upcoming season, featuring the different markets of England's top league. I'll conclude with my own bets and trades for the coming season before Saturday's kick off. Today I'll be looking at the Premier League outright winner market. Enjoy.
Clearly counting the pennies now that the Fifa Fair Play rules are coming into motion, the defending champions have been one of the quietest teams this transfer window. Despite Mancini's complaining however, I wouldn't be too concerned if I was a City fan (and I certainly wouldn't trust Mancini's press conferences, after he brought a whole new dimension to the phrase 'mind games' last season). Despite only winning on goal difference last term, they will undoubtedly come back a stronger team, buoyed by their psychological breakthrough and confident they can repeat the feat. The only position in the squad which City really needed to strengthen was cover in defensive midfield, and the excellent acquisition of Jack Rodwell should provide sufficient assistance for De Jong, Barry and Yaya Toure, particularly with Toure likely to attend the African Cup of Nations in January. They could do with another centre back to cover for their outstanding leader, Kompany, but other than that their squad is by far the strongest in the league. The return of Tevez, barring further fall-outs, should bolster an already blistering attack and he looks set to get a fair few goals along the way. The 17 on him for top goalscorer looks large considering his records when he has played a full season, and that is probably because he is likely to play behind his equally prolific Argentine pal, Aguero. Aguero might just pip Tevez to the golden boot but Tevez is likely to bag a lot, especially as Aguero will probably be given the nod in Europe over him, so the 4.3 on him to come in the top four goalscorers looks very attractive.
Overall, City look strong, very strong. They will have no problem making the top 4 or 3, reflected in the prices 1.06 and 1.14 respectively, and will most likely challenge for the title the whole way, if not win it. They should have greater commitments in Europe this time, but they should have a big enough squad to cope with the demand. 2.3 for them to take the title offers little value, so it might be worth waiting for them to slip up instead before backing.
Another who hasn't strengthened a great deal this Summer, but having only missed out by a matter of goals last season, they look set to be in the thick of it once again. Unlike City, United do have weaknesses in places, particularly centre midfield and full back, but will benefit from a number of players returning from injury. Anderson, Cleverley and Fletcher all return for United in the middle of the park, whilst exciting new signing Kagawa will give Ferguson greater options in attack, and could even be used as the often missing playmaker behind the striker. The biggest plus for United however, is the return of their star centre back and captain Nemanja Vidic, whose absence last season proved the difference between 1st and 2nd. The return of their captain should sure up the defence and improve their European record from last time, but make no mistake about it: Ferguson will be putting all his efforts into taking his Premier League title back. The attacking options could still be boosted by the arrival of Robin Van Persie, which would give United a strike force to rival their neighbours. Again, the odds of 3.45 represent little value, particularly with a difficult start for Ferguson's men. If United trade any higher than this in the first half of the season however, it will definitely be worth taking as they will be in the mix by May. They have not finished outside of the top 3 in their Premier League history, and they will not be starting this season.
Chelsea are a gamble this year, and that is definitely reflected in their starting price (6.4). There are some that will see the big money signings of Hazard, Oscar and Marin as a sign that the European champions really mean business this year, while others will question the ability of a team who finished 6th last time around. The biggest concern for me is the striker area where Torres is their only recognised front man, and if he continues in the same form as last year the team could find themselves lacking goals. For the record, I think Torres will finally step up to the mark this year, especially having such creative talent around him, but having no real cover for him remains a worry. The loss of Drogba is big, though perhaps it will affect them more in cup competitions. Boylesports have gone 16/1 that Juan Mata records the most assists this year, and that looks huge to me. Mata, in his debut season in England, recorded the joint second most assists last year (with Antonio Valencia who is also a huge 18/1), and looks set to benefit further from Torres actually scoring this year. At very least it looks good for an each way punt. Elsewhere they still remain an aging team in places. Terry's performances dipped last season and if he continues in such a way it will be a big blow for the team reliant upon the leadership skills of their captain. Questions still surround the manager, though I personally like him a great deal, and a poor run could see the irrational Abramovic hand out another P45.
Due to their unpredictability, bettors are warned to take caution with the large price quoted for Chelsea. City were a similar price at the start of last season, and those who took that price look inspired come the end of the season, but I don't think it is quite as clear cut this year. I don't think it is likely that they will go from 6th to 1st, whether they are European Champions or not. This said, they should emerge decent contenders for a short while at least, and taking the 1.93 on Chelsea to win without the big 2 looks a lot better value.
Let's get one thing straight, I am pretty sure that this year's winner will come from Manchester, but I am extremely sure that it will come from one of the above. So much so that I consider the 1.14 odds, achieved by dutching the three above, an extremely good investment. If I had more money to spend I would go for it, but being a student I am somewhat lacking in capital. Those with oodles of cash however might want to consider this proposition of 14% interest on a 10 month investment as they scramble around the banks comparing their measly 4% interest offers. I cannot see a way any club other than City, United or Chelsea will win the league, and the Premier League is so grueling that shocks are rarely produced at the very top, as only the very best squads will be named champions.
Arsenal were typically inconsistent last year, but have made some decent signings over the Summer. The loss of Van Persie however, which seems increasingly likely, will be an enormous blow as he carried them to third place last time out. It will leave new signing Giroud as their main front man, and he is so far untested in the Arsenal red. Should they lose Song as well, it will effectively be game over for them in my eyes, as I rate him as one of the best midfielders in the league. Tottenham look weaker than last year, especially if they lose Modric, and there is still a degree of uncertainty over their manager's ability in England. The signings they have made are decent enough, but they desperately need a striker and even then will struggle to make the top three. Liverpool will be stronger and better drilled than last year, but they have no hope in hell of winning the title this year.
Next up I will review the Top 4 markets. Enjoy your night.