Back Manchester United (+2) in the Premier League Racing Post Season H’cap (EW) @16-1
Back Manchester City (0) in the Premier League Racing Post Season H’cap (EW) @16-1
Analysis of this market has to start with the assumption that 87 points will be the total accrued by the league winners. This is an arbitrary number but allows for a bias against the author’s original feelings about how the season will pan out. There is a very close correlation between the goals a team scores and the number of points they finish the season with. As a result, in some cases, the degree to which a team needs to improve to cover their handicap is considered in terms of both points and goals scored.
West Ham (+42) need to win 45 points in their first campaign back in the top flight, 2 more than Southampton (+44) and 2 less than Reading (+40). The Hammers are 2-1 to be relegated and are probably slightly odds against to finish in 14th place which is where the lowest placed team with 45 points finished last term. Southampton will have to prove themselves as good a team as Wigan were last season, a feat which could well stretch them. Reading look overrated seeing as a team with 47 points last season was good enough to finish 10th in the division.
Wigan (+42) need to improve by 2 points and or around 3 goals to feature. Victor Moses is a very likely near term departure from the club. For all his activity his output last season was not efficient and the new signings will not have to over perform to fill the goal deficit. Norwich (+42) and Swansea (+42) are both reckoned to be regressive this coming term following the departure of their respective managers. Both teams will only need to gain 2 less points to become unlikely winners of this handicap race. Their goal scoring profiles contrast in the manner that Norwich can allow themselves to score less goals this time around and still have the expectation of finishing in the same spot in the table. Swansea probably need to find a goal to maintain their position in the standings.
Stoke (+37) got away with one last season had goals directly equated to points. They only scored 36 times yet somehow managed to gain 45 points. It isn’t evident that their goal scoring problems are likely to be remedied and they probably need another 10 goals this time around not to be involved in a relegation battle. West Brom (+38) were another outfit to lose their manager at the end of last season and to compound the situation it looks as if they will have to find a few goals and points in order not to take a step backwards. QPR (+37) are another side that will have to improve on all fronts if they are to live up to expectations. A 13 point improvement in a season would test any team greatly let alone a side that barely finished outside of the relegation zone.
Fulham (+34) on the face of it have been fairly treated in this market but it is clear that Dempsey is likely to be playing elsewhere before long. The American contributed 17 goals to Fulham’s total of 48. A handful less goals this time around could see the club tumble down the standings. Aston Villa (+30) patently didn’t reach expectations last season and they suffered badly due to the absences of the likes of Darren Bent and Richard Dunne. Paul Lambert will have to extract the better part of an extra 20 points from his side to see them finish in the top half. Bent still managed to score 9 goals in his 22 appearances so it was only ever likely that he would have found the net another 10 times. Other players will have to step up. It is clear why Martin O’Neill and Sunderland (+32) are so keen to sign Steven Fletcher. An additional 7 goals this term would give the North East outfit real prospects of finishing in the top 10. Bendtner’s contribution of 8 goals will also need to be compensated for but 15 goals from a principle striker isn’t asking too much.
Everton (+24) have received a fair mark to start the season with and an improvement of 7 points will see them competitive. It was in front of goal where they fell short last season but a settled-in Jelavic could go to some lengths to solving that problem. He managed to score an impressive 9 goals in only 13 appearances. Another half a dozen scores would virtually ensure that Everton finish in the top 7. Newcastle (+20) have a team at the peak of their powers with a good proportion of the side in their mid-twenties. While they secured a very useful 65 points, it was a great feat to manage this total while scoring 56 goals. If Ba and Cisse can hit the ground running a top five finish again is not impossible.
Liverpool (+17) have again embarked on a rebuilding plan and despite being finalists in 2 cup competitions, last season was a disappointment as a total of only 47 league goals testifies. They probably need close to a 20 goal improvement to be viable top 6 contenders. A greater contribution from the midfield could be forthcoming but another striker needs to be introduced to share the burden with Suarez. Liverpool don’t have the semblance of a top 3 team and they would have to win 70 points in order to make the frame in this market. In contrast, Tottenham (+15) will probably look to consolidate the progress they made last season. Modric’s departure is a set back and it is hard to see how Van der Vaart and Sigurdsson are going to fit into the same unit. The two later named will assist in the quest for goals but the failure to secure Adebayor’s signature on a permanent basis could prove costly. It is very probable that under Villas-Boas Spurs will continue with a very attacking style. The defence is likely to be under increased pressure so the attack simply has to function if the side is to make headway.
Arsenal (+12) have again been at the centre of a high profile case involving a departure from their ranks. On the face of it Wenger has bought well in trying to replace Van Persie, in the aggregate. The 3 replacements are all internationals at the peak of their powers. More concerning would be the loss of Song but we will see how much faith there is in Diaby to hold the middle. This still leaves the Gunners looking for improvement if they are to defy their mark. Chelsea (+5) will look to build on their european exploits of last season but the reality was that over the whole season they were some way adrift of where they wanted to be. They still have the look of a team in transition where there are a good proportion of players in their 30′s and those in their early 20′s. On their day they will be a match for anyone, but over a season it has to be doubtful whether they can show the consistency required in order to challenge for the title. A resurgence Torres delivering a 20 goal season would probably see them into the top 4.
In truth there are only 2 sides equipped to win the championship. Manchester City (0) and Manchester United (+2) finished well clear of the rest in their epic struggle last season. It is more likely that these sides will improve rather than take a step back. Both teams need to score around 90 goals in order to maintain their stranglehold on the division. Going forward United look stronger than ever and Van Persie is an excellent fit, particularly in games against stronger opposition. Ferguson has held to the belief that playing a 5 man midfield has represented his best chance in the big games. Rooney has looked uncomfortable in the lone striker role but it is a position that Van Persie relishes. Playing in combination they could prove a potent force. City looked sharp in their Community Shield fixture and Tevez back in train gives them further options in the forward line. Only Gareth Barry of the regular starters is in his 30′s and as a team, with the belief of having won the league, they could be ready to break records.
From a betting prospective both sides are available to back at 16-1 on this handicap market and it makes sense to back them each way. The place return, minus the win stake, on City equates to the price that they are to win the league outright and of course there is the distinct possibility of them covering the handicap. The positive surrounding United is the 2 points that they receive from the off at a time when their price is as low as 2-1 in the outright market.