2020/21 PREMIER LEAGUE
Twelve months ago - correction, thirteen months ago - the bookies had Manchester City chalked as their 8-13 favourites to defend the crown, with Liverpool 5-2. But, despite getting the prices wrong, the layers again quote City as 8-11 jollies, with defending champions Liverpool as big as 9-4. During the nineties, it was Manchester United and Arsenal who regularly traded blows at the top of the table, but Manchester City and Liverpool are now setting a new benchmark in terms of rivalry, with the number of wins and points recorded in recent seasons going through the roof.
Past Premier League winners
|2017/18||Man City||32||106||100||Man Utd||25||68|
|2012/13||Man Utd||28||86||89||Man City||23||66|
|2011/12||Man City||28||93||89||Man Utd||28||89|
As stated, the number of points recorded rose from the 80’s to the 90’s of late. But, when it comes to the real matter of who might actually wi n the title, then it helps to look back at what teams did leading up to their title triumph, and more specifically how they finished the previous season.
|Season||Winners||Prev season finish||Prev goals scored||Prev games lost||Last 10 games|
|2019-20||Liverpool||2nd||89||1||W9 D1 L0 28pts|
|2018-19||Man City||1st||95||4||W10 D0 L0 30pts|
|2017-18||Man City||3rd||80||6||W6 D2 L1 21pts|
|2016-17||Chelsea||10th||59||12||W2 D4 L3 10pts|
|2015-16||Leicester||14th||46||19||W7 D1 L2 22pts|
|2014-15||Chelsea||3rd||71||6||W7 D1 L3 22pts|
|2013-14||Man City||2nd||66||6||W6 D1 L3 19pts|
|2012-13||Man Utd||2nd||89||5||W7 1D L2 22pts|
|2011-12||Man City||3rd||60||9||W8 D0 L2 24pts|
|2010-11||Man Utd||2nd||86||7||W8 D1 L1 25pts|
A glance at the above list shows the manner in which past champions finished the previous seasons, and whether there were signs of what was to come - in the same way a horse can be nearest at the finish before running well next time. And, looking at last season shows how the leading sides fared…
Last 10 games of 2019-20 season
|Team||Last 10 games of 2019/20|
|Man City||W8 D0 L2 = 24pts|
|Man Utd||W7 D3 L0 = 24pts|
|Chelsea||W7 D0 L3 = 21pts|
|Liverpool||W6 D2 L2 = 20pts|
|Tottenham||W5 D4 L1 = 19pts|
|Wolves||W5 D2 L3 = 17pts|
|Arsenal||W5 D1 L4 = 16pts|
|Leicester||W3 D3 L4 = 12pts|
While both Liverpool and Manchester City recorded the necessary 20pts plus, it is Manchester United who catch the eye.
Much has been said about the validity of post-lockdown form with some strange results and teams not at their best, but facts are facts, and United won seven and drew three of their last 10 games, recording 24 points from 30 - a red-herring or Red Devils back to their best? In past seasons, such a finish would have proved very noteworthy regarding the following season, but this is an era of very high standards.
Still, United appear back on track and “if” they have a full strength side to pick from, with Paul Pogba at his best, then they look very exciting on paper with a progressive forward line featuring Marcus Rashwood - more on him later - Mason Greenwood and Anthony Martial, at respective ages of 22, 18 and 24. They key is whether the talented trio can do it week in, week out? If so, and with Harry Maguire controlling the defence along with new signing Donny van de Beek brought in, United could prove very menacing throughout the 2020/21 season. But, can they win the title?…probably not, but they can finish in the top three.
As for the big two, namely Liverpool and Manchester City, then much has to come down to their odds. Again, there isn't much to split them. Neither suffered much damage to their squads during the summer, though City arguably have more depth should injuries strike, though there remains a doubt as to whether Pep wants to win the Champions League more than the league, especially as he hasn’t got his hands on the former trophy for nine years, and will want to remind everyone in Europe of what he can still do.
LIVERPOOL meanwhile, are simply an incredibly consistent team, not one with a flash of good results for 18 months, but a real winning machine, just like in the eighties. Their record also backs this up, as since the start of 2018, the Reds played 93 games, winning 72, drawing 14 and losing just seven. And, with such a record, it may be a case of Liverpool fans “waiting ages for a red bus and then two turning up” - in terms of back-to-back titles. It’s also worth remembering that when Jurgen Klopp won his first Bundesliga title with Borussia Dortmund in 2011, they defended the crown in 2012, so there shouldn't be any loss of appetite.
With both Liverpool and City weighing-in pound-for-pound very much the same, then on a price basis, there is no reason to think the Liverpool machine is about to breakdown, and odds of 9-4 make much more appeal than City’s 4-5.
Elsewhere, there isn’t a real threat to Liverpool or City, bar the aforementioned rise of United, with Chelsea making the right noises in the market but needing time for new players to embed down, while Arsenal should have a good season but won’t have enough consistency for the long haul. As for Tottenham, their best chance went two seasons ago when the majority of their current crop were at their peak, while the possibility of an outsider coming along to do a “Leicester” isn’t likely. if you were expecting one, then sorry, not this season.
However, WOLVES do appear as a club climbing the ladder, and their previous two finishes of seventh could be bettered this time around, as their fixture-list won’t be clogged up with European games - they played an astonishing extra 17 games in the Europa League last time. They have only lost Matt Doherty during the summer, but more importantly still have main scorer Raul Jimenez. And, if club record signing Fabio Silva is the real deal, then they stand a good chance of breaking into the top six, which the bookies rate a 5-2 chance.
Jamie Vardy received ample compensation for a number of consistent finishes to land the Top Scorer accolade, courtesy of 23 goals - one less than he notched five seasons ago when pipped by Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero.
Last five seasons
23 Jamie Vardy
22 Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
20 Raheem Sterling
19 Mohammed Salah
18 Harry Kane
22 Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
21 Sergio Aguero
18 Jamie Vardy
32 Mohamed Salah
30 Harry Kane
21 Sergio Aguero
20 Jamie Vardy
29 Harry Kane
25 Romelu Lukaku
24 Alexis Sanchez
20 Diego Costa, Sergio Aguero
25 Harry Kane
24 Sergio Aguero
24 Jamie Vardy
18 Romelu Lukaku
Augero was an absentee from the top finishes last season, though Raheem Sterling’s numbers remain on the up, and he could throw down a big challenge this time around at fair odds of 12-1.
Player/Odds/Last five totals
Another relevant factor involves the teams past winners of the Golden Boot represented, as of the 20 winners since 2000-01, the teams were as follows:
Golden Boot clubs
Man Utd (4)
Man City (2)
Arsenal lead the way having produced six winners of the Top Scorer accolade, and almost made it a seventh when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed out to Jamie Vardy last term. Aubameyang looks sure to go close again as he is still improving and looked sharp in pre-season, but there is still the risk he could leave the Emirates. Vardy is surprisingly one of the bigger priced strikers of the above main contenders at 18-1, which is a touch disrespectful as he’s twice previously hit the 20+ mark. Elsewhere, Harry Kane was once a “shoe-in” for this award, but injuries are getting in the way these days, while Chelsea's new boy Tino Werner has been backed during the summer having bagged 28 for RB Leipzig last season, and will need to emulate Mohammed Salah by winning this title in his first full season.
But, as for who might actually walk away with the esteemed trophy come the end of 2020/21, then there are a few names available at big prices in Manchester United’s improving pair, MARCUS RASHFORD and ANTHONY MARTIAL.
It’s easy to take Rashford for granted as he seems to have been around for ages, yet is still only 22, and it’s worth noting his goal tallies are on the rise each season - his breakthrough season in 2015-16 saw a return of five goals in 11 games (5-11), before the following seasonal returns: 5-32, 7-35, 10-33 and finally a career-best of 17-31 last term. That’s clear progression, and should the hitman step up again - or find another half-a-stone in racing terms - then he could hit the magic 20+, which is historically enough to finish in the top-four scorers, and thus handy for each-way purposes.
Martial has a similar profile with a career best tally of 17 last time, the same as Rashford. The key is whether United enjoy a good season, and the manner in which they finished last season suggests that is a reality. The duo will also get plenty of assistance from the quality around them in Mason Greenwood, Donny van de Beek and Paul Pogba, to name several.
Inevitably, the main suspects for relegation each year are centred around the sides promoted from the Championship, which this season thrusts Leeds United (4-1 to be relegated), West Brom (11-10) and Fulham (11-10) into the limelight. Indeed, both Albion and Fulham are the bookies’ favourites to fall straight back down he trap door, though Leeds are spared such misery.
With that theory put to punters before making their minds up as to who may face the drop, then it could first be worth looking at how promoted Championship clubs fared in their first season back in the top flight during recent times. Well, the results aren’t too bad, especially of late, as during the last three seasons only three of the nine Championship clubs went back down in Cardiff, Fulham and Norwich - leaving Newcastle, Brighton, Huddersfield, Wolves, Sheffield United and Aston Villa as the six teams who stayed up, in other words a 67% survival rate. But, compare that to the three seasons beforehand from 2014-15 to 2016-17, when of the nine clubs to come up, six went back down and only three stayed up - a 33% survival rate. Clearly, promoted clubs have coped much better since 2017, whether it be better financing or coaching, but they are not the pushovers as labelled. Of the trio to regain top-flight status in 2020/21, then Leeds should have enough to see another second season at least, while West Brom could leave their disappointing end-of-season form behind when they were carrying injuries, while their solid away form will put them in good stead. Therefore, it is FULHAM who appear the most vulnerable, having squeezed through via the play-offs.
Should the light shine more on the established Premier League clubs, then it’s possible both NEWCASTLE (5-2) and West Ham (5-1) could enter the frame, while CRYSTAL PALACE are beginning to slip with finishes of 11th, 12th and then 14th last term. Brighton are also hovering dangerously with three finishes of 15th, 17th and 15th, but were boosted by captain Lewis Dunk staying and should stay up once more.
With everything taken into account, it could be worth risking big odds of 40-1 for three of the aforementioned clubs going down in a big-priced treble, namely Crystal Palace, Fulham and Newcastle.
If we rewind to the start of last season, the favourite to be sacked first was Manchester United’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at 4-1, with Newcastle’s Steve Bruce on 5’s. Solskjaer avoided the chop last year and is a 20-1 chance this time around, unlike Bruce who is 7's. As for who rewarded punters when dismissed last season, then it was Watford’s Javi Gracia in September - for the record, he was the third manager during the last 10 years to go during the same month as when the season started (traditionally August, but September this year).
As for the bookies’ leading contenders in walking the tightrope this September, then good old Roy Hodgson tops the list. There is plenty of merit in Hodgson being the first to go too, as the Eagles face a tricky opening list of fixtures, while the possibility of Zaha going may cause further damage. There is also history with backers hitting the Sack Race bullseye via two previous Palace managers in Tony Pulis (2015) and Frank De Boer in (2018).
Then there is Fulham’s Scott Parker at around 10-1, as the Cottagers sacked two managers on their last visit a couple of seasons ago when things weren't going well - Slavisa Jovanovic was the first in November 2018, rewarding Sack Race punters.
David Moyes is another whose name usually figures, and the West Ham man is 6-1, though the Hammers don’t have a history of making early-season dismissals, while Aston Vila’s Dean Smith is available at around 10-1, though it would be harsh of the board to push him having kept them up.
At the other end of the safety scale, the likes of Pep Guardiola shouldn’t be overlooked, as he’s now been at City longer then at both Barcelona and Bayern Munich, and a wobbly start may cause pressure, while Chelsea’s Frank Lampard wasn’t allowed to spend last term but has this summer, and will feel the heat if the millionaires don’t fire.
PFA PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Liverpool’s, Virgil van Dijk, was 20-1 to join an exclusive club in winning back-to-back awards last term, but instead gained the Premier League trophy! Taking the PFA award away from the Dutchman as a form of compensation for losing the league title was City’s Kevin de Bruyne, who was an 11-1 chance. That accolade was also the first time a Citizen player got their hands on it, and KVB is the 11-2 favourite to defend the crown this time around, with teammate Raheem Sterling around 10-1. It may well be that now City have broken their duck in producing a much long-awaited winner of this award, they could have two, though historically some of the other big clubs returned a better record.
Past winners’ clubs
Man Utd (7)
Man City (1)
With 20 of the last 23 winners coming via the above clubs, the likes of Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford wouldn’t be a shock winner, yet is available at 20-1, while he's also 15-2 to land the Young Player of the Year. As for van Dijk regaining the crown, then that rates a 16-1 chance with the layers, who also quote the same price for the Liverpool's Sadio Mane, with Trent Alexander-Arnold - who won last season’s Young Player - a tempting 25-1 shot, with 6-1 for him defending the junior version. For the record, the last player to win the Young Player and then land the Player the following season was Eden Hazard in 2015 - prior to that it was Cristiano Ronaldo in 2007-08, both of whom attackers. And, on the subject of attackers, Harry Kane would have a chance of winning this for a second time at 12-1, though on the other side of north London, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is an eyecatching 25-1 - the risk would be whether he stays at Arsenal.
HIGHEST SCORING TEAM
The bookies were spot-on last season when pricing up Pep Guardiola’s frontline at Manchester City to notch the most goals during the campaign, making them a 4-9 chance, and they duly delivered via a scorching 102 goals.
Punters looking to steam into City once more will have to take 1-3 to be paid out next year, though interestingly Liverpool were clipped into around 5-2 (11-4 in places) having been 3-1 at this time last year. Also given respect by the bookies are Manchester United, who were around 50-1 to score the most goals last season, but the formation of Rashford, Martial and Greenwood sees them as 12-1 shots for the new season.
For anyone looking to be paid out on a team they fancy doing well in the new Premier League season but remain unlikely to win it, then the handicap market may provide an opportunity.
The way it works is that the handicap is based on the number of league points a team gets, along with an assistance of handicap points. So for instance, last season’s winners on the handicap were Sheffield United, who before the first game received given a +52 handicap by bet365. Therefore, when the season finished and United had 54 points in the league standings, adding their +52 assistance gave them a total score +106 on the handicap. Runners-up were Burnley on 103 (54 in the league added to +49 assistance), with Leicester third (62 +34). And, if you’re wondering about the bigger clubs, then like in golf, they receive less of a handicap, so Manchester City play off scratch (0) this season, with Liverpool allowed +4. Each team are also available at the same odds with the that bookie, so the aforementioned bet365 offer 15-1 the field. So yes, if City enjoy a record-breaking season and clock say, 105 points in the league, that could be good enough, and odds of 15-1 would be paid out!
So, with the rules out the way, who might land this season’s handicap? Well, the points total for victory appear to be at least 100, so may be looking for a club who can either record around 40 points in the league with a +60, or vice-versa a team with 60 points in the table receiving a +40 is the way to go - you get the picture. With that in mind, last season’s runners-up BURNLEY have to enter the equation having notched 54 points, but look capable of improving to record around 60 points in 2020/21. The bookies also allow them a generous +47, which could see them over the 100+ mark. At rather strange, but nice odds of 15-1, they look worth an interest. Others considered include Wolves with +31, and Southampton with +40.
2020/21 PREMIER LEAGUE BEST BETS (scale 1-5 points):
5pts win LIVERPOOL (9-4, bet365, BetVictor, Betfred, 2-1 general)
3pts win WOLVES (5-2 Betfred, Boylesports, 2-1 general)
2pts win BURNLEY +47 (15-1 bet365, Betfred)
1pt each-way MARCUS RASHFORD (20-1 bet365, W Hill, Betfred, Boylesports, 18-1 general)
1pt each-way ANTHONY MARTIAL (20-1 Skybet, BetVictor, Betfred, 18-1 general)
1pt win NEWCASTLE/CRYSTAL PALCE/FULHAM (40-1 bet365, 33-1 Skybet)