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Two weeks ago
Aug 8, 2017

What do bettors learn from pre-season soccer matches?

The positive impact of pre-season success

What did we learn from pre-season in 2016/17?

Pre-season form and regular season betting

What do bettors learn from pre-season soccer matches?

Pre-season soccer matches, be it friendlies or more competitive tournaments, have become increasingly important to teams in recent years. However, many people still question whether teams are more concerned with the financial reward for these matches rather than the actual result. Can bettors use pre-season results to inform their betting ahead of a new campaign? Continue reading to find out.

Many fans may dismiss the importance of their club’s pre-season results. Lots of teams travel the world in the pursuit of new fans and valuable income and are more concerned with improving the fitness levels of the players, rather than the results themselves. The risk of injury before the season starts also brings into question just how competitive pre-season matches are.

We have seen that how a team performs in their first six matches can often have a huge bearing on how their whole campaign unfolds. There’s also some evidence that how well a team does in pre-season can in turn affect their form in the season proper too. But how can bettors use this kind of information to their advantage?

The positive impact of pre-season success

Consider this. In the summer of 2015, Leicester City won four and drew one of their five warm-up matches, whilst Chelsea failed to win any of their four friendlies (Leicester finished 1st and Chelsea 10th that season). Nobody is suggesting that these results directly lead to the Foxes unexpected league triumph whilst champions Chelsea had a terrible season and sacked their manager before Christmas.

There are countless variables to consider, such as the quality of opposition faced, the distances that clubs travel and the team experimentation that comes from bedding in new players

After all, Leicester didn’t face any teams of Premier League standard whilst Jose Mourinho’s men faced the likes of Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona. But confidence in the minds of a squad is an invaluable asset, and the easiest method for a team to gain confidence is to win soccer matches; whatever the standard of opposition.

Interestingly, last summer Leicester took part in the same International Champions Cup competition that Chelsea had the previous year, and they lost to Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain before making a poor start to the season - bettors may well be able to use Leicester’s pre-season form this year as part of a predictive model for performance in 2017/18.

What did we learn from pre-season in 2016/17?

In 2016/17, there were nine teams who amassed more points in the Premier League than they had the previous season. Seven of those nine clubs also secured more points per game from their pre-season fixtures in the summer of 2016 than they had in the 2015/16 campaign; was this a sign that their form might be heading in the right direction? Collectively their performance went up by an average of 0.54 points per game when comparing their pre-season form with the season that had recently ended.

Confidence in the minds of a squad is an invaluable asset, and the easiest way for a team to gain confidence is to win soccer matches; whatever the standard of opposition.

Another interesting example is Crystal Palace. Although they ultimately spent most of 2016/17 in a relegation battle, they started the season strongly. After six matches, they were seventh in the table having amassed 1.67 points per game (PPG).

The total of 1.67 PPG was considerably better than Palace’s 1.11 points average in the previous campaign but before then, they had shown excellent form during the summer between the two Premier League seasons. Five wins and only one defeat from their eight pre-season encounters appeared to send them into the 2016/17 campaign in fine fettle.

The two teams (from the nine who picked up more points in 2016/17 than they had the year before) who had worse pre-seasons in the summer of 2016 than league campaigns that preceded them were Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur - both teams finished higher up the table in 2016/17 than the year before.

Leicester City won four and drew one of their five warm-up matches, whilst Chelsea failed to win any of their four friendlies (Leicester finished 1st and Chelsea 10th that season).

We shouldn’t ignore these poor records, but it was highly unlikely that their identical summer form of one point per game was going to continue into the new campaign.

At the opposite end of the league table, Sunderland picked up four wins and two draws in the summer of 2016, yet sunk without a trace once the season actually began. This highlights that it’s not just the top teams whose pre-season form is not representative of how their season will pan out.

Pre-season form and regular season betting

The examples above certainly illustrate the issues with using pre-season form as a guide for betting. There are countless variables to consider, such as the quality of opposition faced, the distances that clubs travel to take part in lucrative pre-season matches, and the team experimentation that comes from bedding in new players and often new managers too. It would not be wise to rely entirely on pre-season form to make your betting selections, but it would also seem foolish to dismiss it entirely.

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Andrew's career may have mysteriously taken him from earning a degree in Media to working for a bank, but his true passion has always been soccer. After observing how data has proliferated the sport in recent years, Andrew was quick to see what numbers could tell bettors about "the beautiful game". He is now pursuing a career in analysing football stats and has a keen interest in predicting match outcomes.
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