Intelligent punter's guide to the Premier League 2014/15
They're off – and the wise money goes not on the likely winners, but on who'll be relegated
The new Premier League season is here and for the intelligent punter one thing is as clear as ever: it's very unlikely the winner will be any team outside the top seven: Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton, Spurs and Manchester United.
There's also a very good chance that the bookies' favourite – Chelsea - will win the league or at least come second. The favourite has won in five of the last nine seasons and you‘ve got to go back to 2003/4 for the last time the favourite didn't finish either first or second.
So, it's the relegation market that provides the better value for punters - and even here strong trends can be identified.
Just twice in the Premier League era have all three promoted sides stayed up - and four times in the past ten years two promoted sides have gone down. So it's highly probable that at least one out of Leicester, Burnley and QPR will be heading straight back down to the Championship next May.
Also at risk are teams that had a bad second half of last season and who finished either twelfth or lower. Very often teams that haven’t had a major influx of new players, or a new manager, continue their slide into the following season – like Fulham last year.
Then there's the 17th spot jinx: statistics tell us that the team that finishes 17th in the Premier League (one place before the drop zone) is in grave danger the following year. (Sunderland, who finished 17th in 2012/13, only escaped the drop the next year thanks to a miraculous recovery in the final couple of weeks of the season.)
So when it comes to putting together your relegation portfolio, it’s a good idea to include at least one newly promoted team, one Premier League team that had a poor second half of the 2013/4 season and the team which finished 17th last year - ie West Brom.
Now let's take a closer look at the 20 Premier League teams' chances, in alphabetical order:
ARSENAL. Best odds to win: 13-2. To be relegated: 1,000-1. Third, fourth and fourth in the last three seasons, Arsene Wenger’s men may make a more prolonged title bid this year now they’ve got back into the trophy-winning habit and strengthened the squad in the summer. Don’t forget they were well in contention last year, before injuries to Walcott and Ramsey derailed their challenge, and even then they finished only seven points behind champions Manchester City. They probably won’t have quite enough to win their first title since 2004, but they should give each-way backers a very good run for their money.
ASTON VILLA. To win: 4,000-1. To be relegated: 3-1. Villa finished 16th, 15th and 15th in the last three seasons and are genuine candidates for relegation, having lost 15 of their last 24 matches. The absence of striker Christian Benteke for the first couple of months of the season is a blow, and unless a new owner can be found to put in the kind of investment that this sleeping giant clearly requires, it looks like a long, hard season of struggle.
BURNLEY. To win: 10,000-1. To be relegated: 8-13. Manager Sean Dyche worked wonders to get the 50-1 shots promoted from the Championship last season, but it’ll be an even bigger achievement to keep the team with the Premier League's lowest wage bill in the top flight. They’re sure to cause a few surprises in the first half of the campaign - as newly promoted teams often do - but their squad lacks depth and if there are injuries to key personnel, they’ll really struggle.
CHELSEA. To win: 2-1. To be relegated: 5,000-1. They're the favourites and it's justified. They only just came up short last year, when the squad had obvious limitations in attack, but there’s been significant strengthening in the summer with Fabregas, Costa, Filipe Luis and Drogba coming in. Furthermore, manager Jose Mourinho’s record in his second season at a club is usually excellent - he has won a domestic title every time. The defence - with Cahill and Terry at its heart - will be as strong as ever, but this time there’ll be more menace going forward, and that should make all the difference.
CRYSTAL PALACE To win: 7,500-1. To be relegated: 2-1. The shock departure of manager Tony Pulis is a huge blow to the Eagles' chances of further progression this season: last year the wily Welshman transformed Palace from bottom-of-the-table whipping-boys into a hard-to-beat, well organised team that eventually finished eleventh. With Pulis at the helm, their Premier League status looked assured; now that he's gone, Palace are likely to struggle again and their relegation odds have been cut accordingly.
EVERTON. To win: 150-1. To be relegated: 200-1. Roberto Martinez had a great first season in charge last year, guiding the Toffees to fifth, but seeing how other teams in the leading septet have strengthened their squads, it’s going to be a challenge to stay in that position - especially as this year there’s the added distraction of Europa League football. Sure to remain in the top seven, their chances of progressing further will depend on turning away-draws (they had six last season, the highest in the league) into wins.
HULL. To win: 5,000-1. To be relegated: 7-2. Steve Bruce did a really good job last season, not only keeping Hull up in their first season back in the top flight, but taking them to their first ever FA Cup final, when they were heroic 3-2 losers to Arsenal. This season could be tougher: they have the ‘poisoned chalice’ of the Europa League to deal with and the last time they enjoyed a spell in the Premier League they went down in their second season. That said, they have strengthened their squad, bringing in Robert Snodgrass and Tom Ince among others, who could just make the difference between staying up and going down.
LEICESTER. To win: 5,000-1. To be relegated: 11-4. The last two teams to win the Championship and be promoted to the Premier League have been relegated the following season. But here's a more encouraging statistic: all four previously promoted teams who have obtained more than 100 points in the Championship - as Leicester did last season - have stayed up. Nigel Pearson’s side probably didn't get the plaudits they deserved for running away with the Championship last season, and with the squad strengthened in the summer, the Foxes look good enough to stay up.
LIVERPOOL. To win: 12-1. To be relegated: 1,500-1. They were the surprise package of last season when they finished second at odds of 33-1, but it’s hard not to agree they lost a golden opportunity to win their first title since 1990. Now their rivals have strengthened their squads, while Liverpool have lost Suarez. Yes, they’ve bought lots of new players - but as Spurs found out when they sold Bale, some players really are irreplaceable. They’ve also got a Champions League campaign to focus on - which they didn’t have last year. All things considered, Brendan Rodgers will do well to keep his side in the top four.
MANCHESTER CITY. To win: 13-5. To be relegated: 5,000-1. They won the title thanks to a strong finish last season, but while they’ve been relatively quiet in the transfer market over the summer, their rivals have spent more, and in recent seasons sides have found it hard to win back-to-back titles. That said, they probably would have won it more easily last year if Kompany, Toure, Silva and Aguero had started more than five games together and with the talent at the club it’s very hard to see them not putting in a bold bid to retain their title.
MANCHESTER UNITED. To win: 5-1. To be relegated: 1,000-1. There’s a fresh buzz at Old Trafford with the arrival of new manager Louis Van Gaal and pre-season form has been encouraging. They’re very likely to improve on last season’s seventh place, especially as they don’t have European football to distract them, and they’ve got a kind set of early fixtures which should help to see them off to a good start and get some momentum going. While a return to the top four definitely looks achievable, putting in a prolonged title bid will require further strengthening of the squad, and you’ve got to go back 30 years for the last time a team (Everton) went from seventh to first in one year.
NEWCASTLE. To win: 1,000-1. To be relegated: 11-1. On the fringes of the title race last Christmas, the Magpies faded rapidly after they sold Yohan Cabaye in January. Fourteen defeats in their last 20 matches is relegation form, but they have signed some good players in the summer and while a season fighting the drop can’t be entirely ruled out, a season hovering in/around mid-table looks the likeliest scenario.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS. To win: 7,500-1. To be relegated: 21-10. Back in the top flight after a year’s absence, Harry Redknapp’s men, without further signings in midfield and attack, are likely to struggle for goals again as they have done in the past few seasons. But their defence - boosted with the signings of Rio Ferdinand and Steven Caulker - looks strong and they’ll probably have enough know-how to avoid going straight back down.
SOUTHAMPTON. To win: 1,500-1. To be relegated: 6-1. The Saints defied all expectations to finish eighth last season - and that doesn't really tell the whole story of how well they played at times. But their manager, Mauricio Pochettino, and key players have gone, and although they should just about have enough to stay up, a season of struggle looks on the cards.
STOKE. To win: 3,000-1. To be relegated: 11-1. Mark Hughes answered the doubters by guiding his new team to their highest ever Premier League position - 9th - and having strengthened the squad in the summer another mid–table season looks on the cards. Rock solid at the Britannia, Stoke look very likely to finish the season as the top Midlands side again.
SUNDERLAND. To win: 5,000-1. To be relegated: 6-1. Manager Gus Poyet pulled off one of the greatest relegation escapes of all times last season when Sunderland manager to stay up by winning in April at Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford and getting a draw at the Etihad. The Black Cats have added Wigan’s Jordi Gomez to their squad this summer and given their strong finish and the confidence derived from it, they should be in for a better overall campaign than last year, with a mid/lower-mid-table berth looking achievable.
SWANSEA. To win: 4,000-1. To be relegated: 11-2. It all went a bit flat for the Swans last season after the euphoria of winning the League Cup - their first major trophy - in 2013. The pressures of playing Europa League football stretched them and they spent most of the campaign anxiously looking over their shoulder. They don’t have the Europa distraction this year which is a positive, but they still look to be a team in decline. Could easily be sucked into the relegation dogfight and the 11-2 about them going down looks quite tempting, especially if they sell last season’s top scorer, Wilfried Bony, who is being pursued by Liverpool.
TOTTENHAM. To win: 66-1. To be relegated: 500-1. Ex-Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettino is the latest man in the White Hart Lane hot-seat but with other teams in the Top Seven strengthening significantly in the summer, it won’t be easy for him to improve on last year’s sixth. If they are to put in a real challenge for the top four they need to improve their record against the other top teams, against whom they generally fared poorly again last year. But at least they start the season with a more attack-minded manager than they did 12 months ago.
WEST BROM. To win: 5,000-1. To be relegated: 13-5. They took their poor form from the second part of the 2012/13 campaign into last season, and only survived relegation by the skin of their teeth, finishing one place above the drop zone. They’re a team in decline with a manager - Alan Irvine - unproven at Premier League level and look a good bet for relegation.
WEST HAM. To win: 5,000-1. To be relegated: 5-2. The board kept faith in manager Sam Allardyce in mid-season when the Hammers were in the relegation zone and their faith was repaid as Big Sam guided his team to safety. His style of football may not be liked by many Hammers supporters, but Allardyce knows how to win points. Provided he stays, the Hammers should safely negotiate another season in the top flight, though it's hard to see them finishing higher than mid-table.