I was going to do a post on the top 10 market, and then another on the relegation market, but I appear to be running out of time before the big kick off! Luckily, the guys at Sports Trading Life have covered the relegation markets, and their analysis pretty much resembles my thoughts. You can read their post here to save me a job: http://sportstradinglife.com/2012/08/premier-league-relegation-markets-preview/
There are however, some bits which I'd like to add my thoughts to, as well as a couple of mid-table battles I’d like to mention. So, here goes.
The Top 10 market:
This is a team which I feel really has the potential to push on and cement their place in the top 10 teams, particularly after making smart signings over the summer. They finished in 9th place last season (joint with Liverpool in 8th, and 5 points clear of 10th) and Martin Jol really looks like he is getting a hold of the Cottagers now, bringing in the exciting Petric and Rodallega which is sure to provide a necessary boost to the Fulham attack. They have, so far, been able to hold together the core of their team, though I wonder if they can hold on for Dempsey for too much longer. Even without him though I think they should be able to make their way into the top ten quite comfortably, with the impressive Dembele, Ruiz and Diarra forming the heart of their midfield. My only worry is the loss of Murphy and how much that will affect them. Although he was aging, he still made 33 appearances last year and undoubtedly provided a calm experienced head in the middle of the park. The team has enough to step up to the plate though, and should Dempsey leave we could see another signing before the end of the window. The defence which kept 11 clean sheets last season remains the same, with the addition of right back Reither on loan. As with the top 4 market, expect much chopping and changing. But for now, 2.62 on Fulham to finish in the top 10 looks like a steal. Especially when you consider that since 08/09 they have finished 7th, 12th, 8th, 9th. Those bolder might fancy taking on them for the top six at 12 for a back to lay option, but my concern would be the better teams could push away from the middle pack early doors. If we look at the graph of Fulham’s positions last year, we can see that although the general trend is upwards, the middle of the table is so tight that any run of losses will drop you down a number of places.
On the other side of things we have Sunderland, who look like a struggling team to me. They came 13th last season and appeared to be slipping back into their frail ways toward the end of the season, despite the burst around New Year after the appointment of Martin O’Neil. They have failed to really strengthen during the summer, and up until last week had only swapped centre back Turner for Carlos Cuellar. This week has seen a flurry, and a desperate looking one at that, of transfers, bringing in Steven Fletcher for silly money and the hapless Louis Saha earlier today. Fletcher is a good striker and proven finisher, but will only really fill the big hole which Bendtner left when he returned to Arsenal. Saha is another good striker, but only when he is fit, which he rarely is, sadly. He has only managed over 25 appearances once in the last 10 seasons, and I seriously question his ability to carry the Sunderland front line.
Depressed Sunderland fan and Betfair blogger Jonathan Wilson has been lamenting the Mackem squad this week, which I was (a tiny bit) annoyed about because his (apparently large) influence has caused a drift on the Sunderland price for top 10, as well as shortening for relegation. I don’t think they will be in the relegation mix, as he tipped, mainly due to the quality of players such as Sessegnon and Larsson, but I cannot see them finishing in the top 10. The competition is too high this year and there is no room for Sunderland. If they buy a few more players in the next few weeks I may reconsider, but for now, 2.26 for the lay of top 10 looks great to me.
Reading are currently second favourites for the drop, but I will be surprised if they remain at their current price for long. They were the best team in the Championship last season after a remarkable second half of the season, and have strengthened considerably in a bit to cement their place in the top flight. Pogrebnyak is an excellent signing for free, after we all saw his potential at Fulham last year. Elsewhere they have brought in some experienced and talented faces, and I think there are quite a few teams worse than them this time round. They can be layed for the drop at 2.52, and backed at 7.2 for a back to lay trade if you are feeling more confident. They don’t have the easiest of starts however, so waiting a couple of months for their price to rise might get you better value.
These are my biggest tip for relegation this year. They surprised everyone last year by having an exceptional season and producing performances a lot higher than the quality of their squad, but I cannot see them keeping that up this year. They have lost their very influential manager and replaced him with Chris Hughton. I have nothing against Hughton but I question his ability to keep a very average squad in the Premier League, especially so soon after Lambert's departure. Last year, they relied on Holt and Morison for goals, two strikers who ordinarily would not have provided such a tally, but were riding on adrenaline which I would be surprised if they kept up this year. I think it is telling that Holt was not picked for the England squad, I for one was not wishing for him to play for us vs the likes of Italy or France. Not that I hate the guy by the way, I like him and hope he does well this season, but I just think last year was a small fluke. But anyway, they haven't strengthened quite as much as I think they need to - Turner is a good buy and much needed as their defence was awful last year.
Towards the end of last year they began to lose their form and I expect them to continue that into the new season. And baring in mind their tough start (Spurs, Newcastle, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal) in the first couple of months, 2.58 for the drop looks tasty. You might even want to take a bit of the 6.8 for rock bottom.
Just a word on Stoke. I'm not sure what to think about Stoke. I've heard quite a few people now say that they think Stoke might struggle in the league this year, and I think there's a chance they might be right. I think they have too much firepower (and too good a home crowd) to actually go down, but I think they will struggle. The graph for last season shows how their results waned towards the end, and I think maybe their small squad is being found out. The biggest thing though is that their start consists of playing Arsenal, Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Man United before the end of October, so backing them for relegation at 6.6 with a view to laying it off looks good.