The Title Race
The Premiership season is now in full swing and heavyweights Man City, Man Utd and Chelsea have all got off to a flying start, making them the three favourites to lift the famous trophy in May. The betting odds on all three have drifted in after each won both their opening games, while the odds on rivals like Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool and Leicester have grown longer after less assured starts.
The 2016/17 season promised to showcase the most open and fascinating title in recent memory. Last season’s top three – surprise champions Leicester, Arsenal and Tottenham – were set to challenge once more. Man City, Man Utd and Chelsea had all slipped down the table and invested heavily in highly coveted new managers and some of the best players from across Europe, while Liverpool were tipped as a force under Jurgen Klopp and the likes of West Ham were even seen as being in with a chance.
That fabulous open race with eight teams vying for the title might still happen. But the early signs are ominous for all but City, Utd and Chelsea. Arsenal started as third favourites at 6/1 in the betting odds behind Man City and Man Utd. But a disastrous transfer window followed by a 4-3 defeat at the hands of Liverpool and a 0-0 draw with Leicester has seen them five points off the pace and drift out to 11/1 fourth favourites. Liverpool followed up that win with a miserable defeat by newly promoted Burnley and are 12/1 themselves. Tottenham have taken four points from their first two games, but they are out at 14/1 having not spent a great deal of money themselves in the summer.
Last season Leicester were 5000/1 to win the league but they pulled off a miracle and bet their big-spending rivals to the title. Nobody expected them to repeat the feat, especially after losing N’Golo Kante to Chelsea and having to cope with the added pressures of playing Champions League football. They started the season with odds of 33/1 and a crushing opening day defeat at the hands of crisis club Hull and that 0-0 bore draw with Arsenal has seen them drift out to 66/1 with Bet365, Sky Bet and various other bookmakers.
While it is early days it seems like those teams may find themselves vying for fourth place if Man City, Man Utd and Chelsea keep up the good work. City have been a revelation under Pep Guardiola, who has won six titles in seven seasons with Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Striker Sergio Aguero is in red hot form – and a good bet at 5/2 with 888 Sport for the Golden Boot if he can stay fit – and the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva seem to enjoy playing Guardiola’s brand of possession football. They started the season with betting odds of 5/2 and were favourites to win it, despite only finishing fourth last season, and that is a reflection of the esteem in which Guardiola is held among the footballing community. They have since gone into 7/4 with Betfred, Bet Victor and Paddy Power after winning both their opening games and steam rollering Steaua Bucharest in the Champions League.
The betting odds on them would probably be even shorter were it not for the resurgence taking place at local rivals Man Utd. In Jose Mourinho they have another born winner with a fantastic track record, and they have broken the world record transfer fee to sign Paul Pogba for their midfield, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a force to be reckoned with up front and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will be a much needed source of creativity. They have gone in to 9/4 with some bookmakers, but you can still get 3/1 at Betway.
Finally Chelsea, who have also started with a 100% record, although they have looked the least comfortable in doing so as they have twice had to rely on last ditch Diego Costa strikes to win 2-1 at the death, and many have suggested he shouldn’t have even been on the pitch to score their last winner due to his persistent fouling. They are now 11/2 and third favourites in the betting odds chart, and of the three they look the one most likely to be sucked back into the battle with Tottenham, Arsenal, Liverpool et al.
It should still prove to be a thrilling battle, but right now it is hard to look past City and Utd, and if pushed you would have to say City have enough about them to finish top of the pile come May.