Debate will always rage over which league in Europe is the best. There are many ways you can try to measure it if you’re so inclined: record of their teams in Europe, goals per game and average attendance to name but three.
One factor people tend to focus on is how competitive a league is. With Juventus on track to win their eighth Serie A crown in a row in May, PSG heading for their sixth in seven seasons and Bayern having won the last six in Germany, the fact no side has retained the Premier League since 2009 suggests England might have the most competitive top division.
But you can assume one of the big six clubs will probably win it. Since Leicester City upset the applecart in spectacular style in 2015/16, the top six spots in the table have been taken by Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.
It would take a miracle for that not to happen again in 2018/19. Luckily for bettors, BetVictor run a market on who will be best of the rest, essentially betting on who will win the race beyond the top sides.
And based on their odds, it’s getting harder to predict. In mid-August, they had four teams priced at under 9/1: Crystal Palace were 8/1, Wolves 6/1, Leicester City 5/1 and Everton the 3/1 favourites.
They now have six teams in that bracket, and the Eagles aren’t one of them.
Watford, West Ham (who are both 6/1) and Bournemouth (7/1) are now in the running, but it’s Wolves and Everton, at 3/1, who are the current joint-favourites. A look at the league table explains why there’s several teams in contention, but shouldn’t Leicester (4/1) be the shortest price as they have a two-point lead?
Before we get to that, we need to establish what it takes to (most likely) finish seventh in the Premier League. In the last three seasons the average points won by the team finishing seventh is 59, or 1.55 per game.
At the time of writing, no side is currently averaging that, with Leicester having picked up 1.48 to be best of the rest so far.
There is an interesting trend though. In 2015/16, West Ham finished seventh (ahead of both Liverpool and Chelsea, as crazy as that sounds) with 62 points. Everton took their slot with 61 points in 2016/17, before Burnley took that berth with 54 points last season.
To be fair, they're still probably 'best of the rest' which is the point of the article. Nothing like a home defeat to undermine that somewhat though.— Andrew Beasley (@BassTunedToRed) January 2, 2019
In other words, as the big six have reasserted their dominance in the last few years, the points won by the best of the rest has shrunk year on year, and it’s currently on track to only rise slightly to 56 in 2018/19. This goes a long way to explaining why the betting field is fairly wide open in this market, as the bar to win it isn’t set that high.
With the top teams so far ahead of the rest, our pick in this field would benefit from facing them the least amount of times between now and the end of the season.
Of the three most likely contenders (in BetVictor’s eyes), Wolves - who surprisingly lost to Palace on Wednesday - have five more matches to play, while Leicester and Everton have six.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s team have actually been the best of the rest against the big guns, earning nine of the 37 points the bottom 14 teams have collectively taken from the top six so far.
However, the Toffees and the Foxes have done better in games among the bottom 14 teams than Wolves have so far, which may play in their favour. But they’ve only taken six and five more points respectively, so it may not make so much difference.
Leicester also have an extra remaining home game than Everton or Wolves, but one extra match in front of their own fans is unlikely to have too much impact.
If in doubt, check the underlying statistics. Doing so using FiveThirtyEight’s expected goal data rules Everton out of the running. Based on their stats, Marco Silva’s side should only have won four games so far this season and have 24 points.
The numbers imply Leicester should have 31, which is exactly what they have, suggesting their tally is entirely merited. This is one more point than Arsenal have theoretically deserved, which is credit to Claude Puel’s men.
But Wolves are ahead of the aforementioned teams on expected goals, and level with Manchester United for good measure too.
With better finishing they’d have won at Arsenal and were well worth their point at Old Trafford. Their recent win against Tottenham was no fluke, and in light of their stats they are deservedly favourites (3/1) to finish best of the rest.
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