April a crazy month in the EPL title race
The 2013/14 Premiership title race is proving to be a most engrossing spectacle. Brendan Rodgers’ risk loving approach has elevated Liverpool to the heights of credible title contenders, filling the gap left by Manchester United’s more risk-averse demise.
The Reds were top of the table on Christmas night and their odds then of 6.00 partly reflected doubts surrounding their ability to stay the distance and an acknowledgement of the closeness of their three immediate chasers, Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea.
The title winning ambitions of Manchester City and Chelsea are less surprising and the three way scrap at the top has been further enhanced by a fixture list that has sent these two contenders to Anfield in the penultimate month of the season. Head-to-heads are often considered as “six pointers” and as such can result in large alterations in the relative title odds should one side claim the win.
The relegation contest has been equally compelling and recently it has been when relegation struggle has met title ambitions that the odds at either ends of the table, have been volatile.
Mid April saw Sunderland faced with consecutive visits to the Etihad and Stamford Bridge while propping up the table. Therefore, it would take at least one exceptional performance to exchange their matches in hand for valuable points. In the event they managed two.
Both Chelsea and Manchester City were each in excess of having an 80% chance of beating Sunderland on their respective home turf, but neither did. It had been around a 68% chance that Sunderland would fail to gain a single point from their two tough matches and barely a 1.5% chance that they would achieve at least the four they did gain.
Events, such as Sunderland’s impressive double can arise, even if they are unlikely, but the more expected outcomes will already be factored into the title odds. Therefore, when upsets do occur, especially when few games remain, the correction in the odds to lift the crown may be dramatic.
Winning streaks – Don’t underestimate the luck factor
Also, winning streaks, such as Liverpool’s nine game unbeaten run they took into the Manchester City game, shouldn’t blind you to the prospect of defeat for Liverpool or convince that a sequence ending defeat is imminent.
A side that records an impressive streak is undoubtedly talented, but they have almost certainly experienced unusually good fortune as well. So should you chose to upgrade their rating, it should be tempered with caution. It is talent that is repeatable, but the luck aspect will remain random.
Television coverage has also played a subtle role in the 2013/14 title run in. The desire to cover each game, along with midweek UCL commitments for Chelsea has often led to staggered kick off times. Therefore, a side is often aware of the result, good or bad posted by their rivals.
Title could hinge on the Everton result
This is the case at the weekend. Manchester City visit Everton for their most difficult match of the run in on Saturday evening, Chelsea entertain near relegation certainties Norwich on Sunday and Liverpool visit Palace on Monday evening.
Should their Merseyside rivals deliver a mighty favour to Liverpool on Saturday, the temptation, in view of Chelsea’s inferior goal difference and the knowledge of their Sunday result, may be for the Reds to take a slightly more pragmatic approach to Palace than they had at home to Chelsea. A draw should enable the title to be won with a victory at home to Newcastle on the final Sunday.
One benefit of staggered kick off times is it allows for updating title odds as the sequence of matches progress. Although Chelsea and Liverpool each have two remaining games and City have three, the possible permutation of results is still large. The current top two can play out their final two matches each in nine different ways and City’s extra match extends their number of permutations to 27.
As Sunderland proved, upsets aren’t precluded, but the outcome most favoured by the likely match odds will be for each side to win all of their remaining games, almost certainly allowing Manchester City to reclaim their title on goal difference. But this outcome won’t be an overwhelming favourite among the many possible.
End of season matches are also often priced up in terms of need rather than perceived ability and in this respect, Liverpool’s two final opponents have little need and limited ability. City face a side in Everton with faint hopes of a UCL spot and then two sides with relegation still a threat, but an unlikely one. Chelsea alone, meet two teams which are in desperate need of points, although final day opponents, Cardiff may already be down by May 11th.
An example of this possibly skewed approach to individual match pricing where perception may understate ability is Everton, who are available at prices around 5.170 at home to City, compared to the 3.4, 3.0 and 2.4 when entertaining the comparable likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal, respectively earlier in the campaign. Everton’s price may reflect the need of their opponents.
Title chances prior to weekend fixtures
If we price the Everton Manchester City game with odds normally offered on 3rd vs. 5th and simulate the remainder of the season, City still emerge narrowly as the current title favourites.
How the title odds may change after the Everton/ Manchester City match
|Everton Result||Man City||Liverpool||Chelsea|
|Man City Win||79.3%||19.1%||1.6%|
But the pivotal nature of the clash at Goodison Park becomes apparent if we simulate the respective chances of the three sides under the three possible outcomes of the Saturday game on Merseyside.
A win for City would push them to nearly 80% to lift the title, having safely negotiated their most difficult remaining fixture. A draw allows Liverpool to regain favouritism, but acknowledges a potentially tricky visit to a much improved, Tony Pulis led Crystal Palace. An Everton win is the best result for Chelsea, but still leaves the Red half of Merseyside as by far the most likely side to be celebrating on May 11th.