In Review

The intelligent punter's guide to the Premier League 2015-16

The new season kicks off on Saturday, are Man United and Man City a better bet than Arsenal and Chelsea?


By Neil Clark

The Premier League may be one of the most entertaining football competitions in the world, but it has been won by just three different teams in the last 11 years, and is nowhere near as competitive as the Championship (won by a 25-1 shot last year) but that doesn't mean there aren't some value bets to be had. 

We can improve our chances of beating the bookies if we bear in mind some key statistics.

Favourites have a good record

The market leader has won in six of the last ten seasons- including last year when Chelsea obliged. It's now 11 years since the favourite did not finish in the first two, so if you do back Chelsea, who are the favourites once again, then at the very least you're likely to get a good run for your money.

Money talks

Remember the old adage, 'money can't buy success'? Well, that does not apply in the Premier League. As Kevin Pullein highlighted in this week's Racing Post, you've got to go back to 1995 for the last time the title was won by a team not having one of the top three wage bills.

The teams with the three highest wage bills this year are Man City, Man United and Chelsea. By the same measure the team with the lowest wage bill usually goes down. Last year that was Burnley, and they were relegated. 

Pay close attention to last year's finishing order

The best guide to what is likely to happen in this year's Premier League is last year's table. The Premier League has become a very static league, particularly the further up the table you go. Manchester City and Chelsea have finished in the top three in the last three seasons. City have been in the top three every year since 2010-11. In fact since 2003, only five teams - Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Man City and Man Utd - have made the top three, showing that we can discount each-way bets on any other teams. 

At least one newly promoted team usually gets relegated.

In the history of the Premier League there have only been two occasions when all three promoted sides escaped the drop. Last year we lost two promoted teams, Burnley and QPR, the third time that has happened since 2006. So if you are having a bet in the relegation markets it makes sense to include at least one of Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich in your portfolio.

'Second-season syndrome' is also worth bearing in mind when backing in the relegation markets. In the last seven years five teams playing in their second season in the Premier League have gone down a fate which befell Hull City in May.

Now let's take a closer team- by team look at the 20 Premier League teams in alphabetic order and their prospects

ARSENAL Best odds to win title: 4-1. To be relegated: 5,000-1.

Last year we predicted that Arsenal would give each-way backers a good run for their money at 13-2 and so it proved, with the Gunners finishing third. This time though they're shorter in the betting, with their price contracting further after the Charity Shield win against Chelsea. They're nailed on for another top four finish but winning their first title since 2004 may just be beyond them bearing in mind the stat about teams' budgets, discussed above.

ASTON VILLA . Best odds: 5,000-1. Relegation: 3-1.

They've finished 16th, 15th, 15th and 17th the last four seasons, and with Benteke, Delph and Vlaar all gone, its hard to see anything else but another season battling against relegation. Teams that finish 17th in the Premier League nearly always struggle the following year, and often go down, and that may well be Villa's fate. 

BOURNEMOUTH. Best odds: 7,500-1. Relegation: 7-5.

They're playing their first-ever season in the Premier League but how will last season's 25-1 Championship winners get on? The trends tell us that at least one newly-promoted side goes down and although the Cherries will pose a threat in attack (they scored 98 goals last season) they'll need to tighten up in defence if they're not to make their stay in the top flight a short one. It's likely to be a close-run thing, but Eddie Howe's team do play good football and might just be able to defy the odds and stay up.    

CHELSEA. Best odds: 15-8. Relegation: 7,500-1.

The reigning champions are favourites to retain their title, but while favourites have a good record it's worth noting that since 2009 no reigning champions have won back-to-back titles, and Chelsea's main rivals all look to be stronger than they were 12 months ago. They'll obviously be contenders, but at current odds, better value could lie elsewhere.

CRYSTAL PALACE. Best odds: 3,000-1. Relegation: 8-1. 

Alan Pardew did a terrific job after taking over in January, guiding the Eagles from the relegation zone to a top ten finish. In fact in the second half of the season Palace only picked up two fewer points than Manchester United. That momentum is likely to be maintained especially as Pardew has strengthened his squad with the signing of Yohan Cabaye and the loan signing of striker Patrick Bamford. A top eight finish is not out of the question. 

EVERTON. Best odds: 350-1. Relegation: 50-1.

After finishing fifth in 2013-4 the Toffees were a big disappointment last year and at one point even looked like relegation contenders. They rallied to finish 11th, but even so it was a very poor campaign. They're without the distraction of Europa League football this time which will help, but they haven't bought in major reinforcements, and a return to the top five looks unlikely.

LEICESTER. Best odds: 5,000-1. Relegation: 3-1.

Having engineered the great escape to end all great escapes last season, manager Nigel Pearson was rewarded with the sack this summer for events which took place off the pitch. New boss Claudio Ranieri has something to prove after flopping in his last job as manager of Greece but the Foxes will also be hit by the departure of midfielder Esteban Cambiasso who played so well for them last year. Teams in their second season in the Premier League are often vulnerable, and the 3-1 for Leicester being relegated looks tempting.

LIVERPOOL. Best odds: 28-1. Relegation: 500-1.

Brendan Rogers's team were always going to lose their bite in attack without Luis Suarez and so it proved as they went from second in 2013-14 to sixth last year. New signings have come in and they should at least score more goals with Benteke, Ings and Milner in the squad. But defensive concerns remain and while the Reds are likely to improve their league position, the cups remain their best chance of silverware 

MAN CITY. Best odds: 3-1. Relegation: 7,500-1.

Champions in 2012 and 2014, they could be the best value bet to maintain the sequence in 2016. They finished strongly last year, winning their last six games and have strengthened their squad with the acquisitions of £44m Raheem Stirling and £8m Fabian Delph. Defensively there are some concerns, but City's fire power will be awesome and most teams will find it very hard to contain them.  

MAN UTD. Best odds: 11-2. Relegation: 4,000-1.

Louis van Gaal did OK in his first season in charge, collecting six more points than David Moyes did the year before, which helped lift United up to fourth place from seventh in the table. The squad has been significantly strengthened in the summer, with the likes of Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin, Depay and Romero coming in and United should improve yet again. Unlike last year they are likely to be involved in the title race, and could even be the main threat to local rivals Man City. Whether they do mount a serious, sustained challenge will depend on whether they can turn the many draws they had last year (especially away from home) into wins, but at 11-2 they're a tempting each-way proposition.

NEWCASTLE. Best odds: 5,000-1. Relegation: 11-2. 

Their form nosedived after Alan Pardew left in January and in the end they only escaped relegation with a win in their final game. Owner Mike Ashley has got out his cheque book in the summer, spending nearly £40m on new players, and the out-of-his-depth John Carver has been replaced by ex-England manager Steve McClaren who did a good job at Middlesbrough the last time he was in the Premier League. All things considered, the Magpies should do better this year though pushing up higher than mid-table will be difficult.

NORWICH. Best odds: 7,500-1. Relegation: 5-4.

The Canaries weren't disgraced when relegated in 2013-14 and have bounced back at the first time of asking under Alex Neil. Although things won't be easy supporters will take heart from the fact that the last time they went up they had a very good first season and managed to maintain their status for three years. So while they're obvious relegation candidates, and have to go on our shortlist, the current odds about them going down don't make huge appeal as they're no bankers for the drop.

STOKE. Best odds: 3,000-1. Relegation: 14-1.

Mark Hughes has done an excellent job building on the great work Tony Pulis did at the Britannia and guided his team to ninth for the second successive year. You could say he has taken the club as high as they can go given the way money power dominates English football and it will be difficult to climb any higher. Even so, some interesting new signings have been made and Stoke look set for another good season.

SOUTHAMPTON. Best odds: 300-1. Relegation: 50-1.

They were 1,500-1 shots 12 months ago, but defied the odds by staying in the top three for a large part of the campaign, but they couldn't maintain it and eventually finished seventh. This year is likely to be harder. Selling Clyne and Schneiderlin will affect them more than the departures of the players who left the previous year and they've got the added distraction of Europa League football. Manager Ronald Koeman will do well to keep them in the top half of the table and the 11-4 about them finishing in the bottom half looks tempting.

SUNDERLAND. Best odds: 5,000-1. Relegation: 9-4.

Having flirted with relegation for the past three seasons (and failing to reach the 40 point mark), this could be the year when the Black Cats' luck finally runs out and they fall through the trap door. Lack of goals is likely to be a big problem and not enough additions have been made in the close season to give fans hope that they can do any better this time. 

SWANSEA. Best odds: 3,000-1. Relegation: 11-1.

Garry Monk did brilliantly to guide the Swans to their highest Premier League finishing position of eighth in May but the feeling is that they've reached their ceiling and that it will be difficult to maintain a top eight position in their first full season without their 2014-15 top scorer Wilfried Bony. A drop to mid-table looks likely, but they should still have too much quality to avoid being sucked into the relegation battle. 

TOTTENHAM. Best odds: 150-1. Relegation: 250-1.

For six years running Spurs have finished between fourth and sixth, and it should be a similar story again for the White Hart Lane faithful. Mauricio Pochettino has wisely brought in some defensive reinforcements, but going forward they are heavily dependent on Harry Kane who bagged 21 league goals last term. If Kane stays fit they would have a chance of challenging for the top four, but with Man Utd, Arsenal and Liverpool all looking much stronger than twelve months ago, the probability is that they'll just fall short of Champions League qualification again.

WATFORD. Best odds: 10,000-1. Relegation: 4-5.

The Hornets have only lasted one season in their previous two Premier League campaigns, and so on that historical trend they're have to be put on our relegation shortlist. They have, though, made significant signings of some quality players in the summer and the key factor is likely to be how quickly these new signings will bed down. 

WEST BROM. Best odds: 5,000-1. Relegation: 5-1.

They were looking in real danger of relegation at Christmas but the ever-reliable Tony Pulis came in and guided the Baggies to 13th. They kept clean sheets in four of the last six games and victories over Man Utd and Chelsea gives grounds for optimism that they can progress further, especially as the squad has been strengthened with the addition of James Chester from Hull and Ricky Lambert, who should fit in well with Pulis's direct style of play. Pulis has never been relegated as a manager and he should keep the Baggies well away from trouble.

WEST HAM. Best odds; 3,000-1.   Relegation: 7-1.

Fourth at Christmas, the Hammers slumped to 12th in May and although Big Sam Allardyce has been replaced by former player and ex-Croatia boss Slaven Bilic in the dug-out, their form doesn't look to have improved too much judging from some poor Europa League performances in July. Further involvement in the Europa League certainly won't help their chances in the Premier League and whether they have that distraction could be the key factor to weighing up their chances. While it wouldn't surprise to see them struggling and getting involved in a relegation scrap, a mid-table berth looks the likeliest scenario. 


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