Manchester City, Arsenal, and Chelsea would be expected to perform better than the likes of Sunderland, Swansea and West Bromwich Albion throughout the season. Interestingly, many believe the disparity between such clubs is even greater over the three games played between December 26 and January 3.
Those looking to gain an edge in Premier League betting will analyse the subjective opinions of ‘experts’ and try to find any truth, and ultimately value, in them. We’ve looked into the reasoning behind why elite soccer teams might be undervalued during the festive period and tried to ascertain if there is any truth in this claim.
Factoring in fatigue
With three games being played in such close proximity, one of the main worries for managers is the impact fatigue might have on their players. As well as the risk of injury being increased, players’ level of performance might suffer if they have to play too many matches in a short period of time.
So teams who don’t play in additional competitions like the Champions League and Europa League must have an advantage over those that do? Not necessarily. In fact, European competitions allow teams to rotate more and keep a bigger selection of players sharp and “match fit”, ready to play whenever they are needed.
Successful squad rotation
While elite clubs have more fixtures to keep their players playing at a competitive level, the quality of the players they have at their disposal is also much higher than teams lower down the league.
Over the last four seasons, Man City, Arsenal and Chelsea have all improved their PPG average in the festive fixtures they have played.
This means that when certain players need a rest as the fixtures pile up, the calibre of players that teams like Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea can call upon won’t detract from the quality of their usual starting eleven.
Conversely, smaller clubs have a big difference in quality between their regular players and rotation options. With fewer games to keep their second choice players fit and match ready, these players will struggle to reach the performance levels of those they are replacing.
A difference in performance
The three games during the Christmas and New Year period is too small a sample size to analyse any impact on Premier League betting. However, there is a clear difference in levels of performance from the teams previously mentioned that cannot be ignored.
Over the last four seasons, Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea - teams most consistently in the top four - have improved their points per game (PPG) average in the festive fixtures they have played.
Each club has a positive PPG differential when comparing the three games between December 26 and January 3 to the rest of the season. Collectively, these teams produce on average 0.29 PPG more in this period compared to their entire season record - averaging 1.96 PPG for the season and 2.25 PPG over Christmas.
When looking at Sunderland, Swansea and WBA - teams who have been in the Premier League for the last four years and most consistently finish in the bottom half of the table - the opposite effect is apparent. The three clubs average 0.02 PPG less during Christmas and New Year compared to their season total PPG - averaging 1.12 PPG for the season and 1.10 PPG during the festive period.
Beating Premier League betting odds
A PPG differential from a three-game window isn’t reliable when analysing any potential impact. However, looking at implied probability and a team’s ability to outperform their odds is certainly something that can help find value in Premier League betting.
Using a larger sample of a 15-year period from 2000-2015 and more teams - the previous top three clubs with the addition of Manchester United and Liverpool - a more accurate judgement can be made by analysing if these teams match or better the implied probability of projected wins over Christmas.
Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea average 1.96 PPG for the season and 2.25 PPG over Christmas.
Within the aforementioned 15-year period, these teams have played a total of 49 matches against other Premier League teams twice within 48 hours over Christmas. The odds available would suggest an average of 30 wins out of those 49 matches. Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool actually won 37 of the 49 matches in that period.
If the odds given were a true representation of their chances, these teams would be expected to win 37 or more matches out of 49 only 3% of the time. This shows that bookmakers have in fact underestimated the level of success of elite clubs during the festive fixture period.
Will the trend continue?
Anyone who has enjoyed success in Premier League betting will know that past outcomes do not guarantee future events. Although bookmakers have undervalued certain teams during a specific period before, it doesn’t mean it will happen again.
Adjustments will be made to odds to account for such patterns as they develop, but bettors might still be able to find value in these odds. For the time being at least, it could pay to side with the teams who have more strength-in-depth during Christmas and New Year.
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